The team at CarMD.com Corporation says it’s possible to keep your car healthy for less. Try these suggestions and strategies the next time you need to have your car, truck or minivan serviced, or repaired.
(1) Use coupons, ideally when you actually need the service performed
- Ask your favorite repair shop about frequent customer discounts (I recently pre-paid for oil changes and tire rotations for the entire year and saved more than 30%).
- Do they honor competitors’ coupons?
- Can you sign up at your local repair shop or automotive dealership to receive coupons by email or mail?
- Make sure to schedule your service before the coupon expires.
- Beware of premium coupons that throw in a lot of extras. If you don’t need the work done, even the best discount package is not worth it.
- Take advantage of “courtesy checks” and free car care clinics in your neighborhood.
(2) Have service done when necessary, not just because they tell you to
- Check your vehicle’s service manual for recommended regular maintenance intervals and schedule work accordingly.
- It used to be that manufacturers recommended having the oil changed every 3,000 miles; however many newer vehicles can go 5,000 or even as high as 15,000 miles before an oil change. There may even be two recommendations for oil change intervals – one for regular driving and one for hard use. Know what kind of driver you are and what’s best for your vehicle.
- Remember the service reminder sticker in the window is a guideline that your mechanic or dealership uses to get business. Don’t ignore it, but don’t worry if you drive a few hundred extra miles to stretch a little until that coupon arrives.
- Even though it may cost a little more than you want to spend, be sure to have the major interval work performed to help ensure your vehicle’s longevity. Paying for that 30,000-mile service now may just help you get to 130,000 miles later.
- Keep your car properly tuned. A poorly tuned car uses between 25% and 33% more gasoline each year. At today’s gas prices it's often cheaper to pay for the cost of a tune-up.
(3) Have work done under warranty and consider purchasing one if your vehicle is not currently covered
- Car owners are keeping their vehicles longer these days, due to the economy.
- Consider purchasing an extended warranty for your vehicle, or purchasing a pre-owned vehicle with warranty.
- Not all warranties are created equal. Be sure to ask who administers the policy and if there are limitations. Also, check the fine print. Will it cover the retail labor rate at your favorite dealership or local repair shop?
- Be sure to have a complete tune-up, inspection and any major repair work done before your warranty expires. If that transmission is slipping, better to have it fixed under warranty than to shell out $2,000 a few months down the road.
(4) Know if your vehicle has any Recalls or Technical Service Bulletins
- A vehicle recall is an announcement by the manufacturer that a substantial number of vehicles in one category have an emissions- or safety-related problem that need fixing. In many instances, vehicle recall repairs can be completed at no charge to the customer.
- A technical service bulletin, or TSB, is an advisory issued by a vehicle manufacturer to its service departments detailing a fix for a known concern or difficult repair. If you have a stubborn or recurring problem with your vehicle, be sure to ask the technician if there are any TSBs related to the issue.
- There are many websites and services available to help you search for recalls and TSBs by your vehicle identification number (VIN) or year, make and model.
- Knowledge is power. Make sure you know about these TSBs and recalls before you go. In many instances you may be pleasantly surprised that the manufacturer will foot the bill.
(5) Empower yourself with information
- Do it yourself, if you can. Many websites offer demonstrations for even the most “un-mechanically” inclined persons on simple repairs such as how to replace the windshield wiper blades or air filter, which can save time and money. Don’t be penny wise and pound-foolish though – know when a job is beyond you.
- Check your tires regularly. There are many, easy to-do, self checks for tire treads and tire sidewalls that dramatically impact the safety of your vehicle.
- Check tire pressure regularly. A properly inflated tire can increase gas mileage by as much as 30%. It’s simple to do yourself and most service stations offer air for a quarter – some for free.
- Most mechanics are very reputable; however, sometimes they get a diagnosis or quote wrong. Don’t be afraid to get a second opinion.
- Be prepared to answer basic questions about how the vehicle has been running (any rough idling? Slow starts?) to help the technician pinpoint the problem. Don’t think of this as an inconvenience to you. Think of when you are talking to your doctors and how you share information with them about your symptoms. Your participation in this is a critical part of the overall diagnosis. The same is true with your mechanic. This interaction is something that is very helpful to the mechanic saving them time and you money.
- Once you know what needs to be repaired, research average national parts and labor rates to make sure you’re in the ballpark.
- Products such as CarMD (www.CarMD.com) are available to help average drivers understand what’s wrong with their car, determine the most probable fix, estimate fair prices for parts and labor, and double-check mechanic quotes. Priced under $120, this type of product costs less than a typical diagnosis, and often pays for itself in a single use.