Last updated: October 2023
You feel stranded and powerless. The mechanic is quoting you an expensive price to fix your car, and you don't feel like you have a choice. You can't get to work or do life without your car! But if you pay for the repairs, you'll have to pull back elsewhere. What do you do? You haggle! Here’s how to negotiate car repairs to get a better deal and some tips to avoid overpaying for repairs when bargaining isn’t an option.
1. Understand the issue.
There’s a difference between feeling like the mechanic’s estimate is too high and knowing so. But it’s hard to tell if you’re overpaying for car repairs when you don’t understand what those car repairs are.
When a problem with your car arises, take note of everything. Write down when it happens, how you were driving, which lights come on, what it sounds or feels like, and anything else you notice. Then, do some online research before heading into the auto shop. Narrow down a list of possible causes and get a range of possible repair prices for these issues. A quick search can give you an idea of how labor-intensive the possible repairs are, what the average costs are, and how much time they take.
Once you’re armed with these facts, it’ll be easier for you to understand which expensive car repair services are justified and which quotes you should negotiate. Informed and confident customers are less likely to get upsold.
2. Leverage the facts.
Once you get a better understanding of the car repairs you need, it’ll be easier to glean whether the estimate you got is fair or too high! If the estimate is fair and the repairs are vital to the health and performance of your car, it’s important to get them done as soon as possible.
If you find out that the quote is excessive, it’s time to haggle! Politely tell the auto technician about your findings and explain why you think their estimate is too high. If they don’t lower the price, let them know you’ll be shopping around with other mechanics. Still no? Have one of the women in your life ask for a discount. According to the Motley Fool, women are generally more successful at getting car repair discounts than men! If the shop STILL won’t budge after you tell them that, go ahead and move onto the next shop.
3. Get quotes from the competition.
When it comes to getting car repair quotes, a little competition can go a long way. After all, you don’t want to be stuck paying the first price you’re given if you can save elsewhere. Search the internet for “Mechanics in (your city)” and make a list of a few car care shops with good reviews near you and set some time aside to call or visit each one.
Each time you visit or call one of the car care shops on your list, make a point to introduce yourself, showcase your new knowledge of the issue, and tell them you’re shopping around for a new car care shop to give your business to.
By flexing your car repair knowledge, you can discourage any attempts to quote you more than is fair. And by offering your business, you encourage them to give you their best price in exchange for your ongoing loyalty.
Once you’ve called or visited each shop on your list, you’ll be able to compare each one of their estimates. At this point, you can decide on the cheapest car repair shop or go for the one that strikes a good balance between affordability and trustworthiness. If you still feel like all the estimates are too high, check out the next step.
4. Offer to provide the parts yourself.
Usually, car repair estimates can be broken down into two components — parts and labor. Parts are the actual materials and equipment that go in your car, such as the radiator, brake pads, or even the front bumper. Labor represents the time and effort of the technicians working on your car. If you’re able to supply the parts yourself, you may be able to shave off a chunk of change from your car repair bill.
Ask the mechanic if they are willing to work with the parts you provide. If they agree, find pricing for the parts you need on the manufacturer’s website and with authorized parts dealers. If you find prices lower than your mechanic’s parts estimate (including taxes and shipping), go ahead and buy them — you can even have them shipped straight to your car care shop! Once you’ve supplied the parts, you can let the mechanic take care of the labor while you relish in your thriftiness.
Keep in mind that many auto care shops get wholesale prices on parts, so you may not be able to get a better deal than they can. But it is worth a try!
5. Get car repair financing.
You need money to fix your car, but you need your car to make that money — what do you do? You’ve haggled, you’ve been unable to find less expensive parts, and the auto care shops in town are all just as pricey! There’s only one option left — and it’s not biking to work — it is financing!
Call each contact on your list of local mechanics and inquire about financing options. Chances are, at least one of them will offer payment plans that allow you to spread out your repair costs over time, often with a little bit of interest. Reach out to major auto repair chains as well. Many of them offer established financing options and provide certain car services for free!
Lastly, if you and your car are in dire straits, you can reach out to a local organization in your area that helps with car repairs. Depending on your situation, you may be able to secure a loan, a grant, or even a donated car.
How to Avoid Overpaying for Car Repairs
Repair price negotiations are a good way to save, but here are some other general tips to help you avoid overpaying for maintenance and repairs.
Read your owner’s manual.
When it comes to your car, knowledge is power. The owner’s manual is a free resource where you can learn all about the needs of your specific vehicle. Flip through it with a highlighter and mark anything that seems important. How to check fluids, read warning lights, and troubleshoot common problems all fall into the “important” category. Take special note of when specific maintenance is due so that you don’t sign up for unnecessary services before you need them. If you can’t locate your manual, you might be able to find a free version online.
Stay on top of your car’s maintenance needs.
On that note, it’s crucial to stay on top of your car’s routine maintenance schedule. Make sure you’re changing the oil and the air filters at the appropriate times and keeping track of when the tires need to be rotated. By keeping your car up to date with routine maintenance, you’ll reduce your risk of running into preventable problems and hurting the car’s resale value down the road. Plus, neglecting routine maintenance can make your car unsafe to drive.
Ask for your old parts back in the box of the new parts.
Most mechanics are honest. However, there are some that will replace parts in your car that aren’t in need of replacement or give you a used part and charge you for a new one. To reduce the chance of this happening to you, request that they give your old part back in the box your new part came in. You’ll get to examine the condition of your old part and get the packaging of the new part to assure you that it’s new. If the shop can’t accommodate this request, it might be a red flag.
Pick your mechanic based on ratings, reviews, and referrals.
When you’re searching for a mechanic you can trust, look at the mechanics your friends, neighbors, and family trust. Find out where other people in your town go and ask about their experiences. Check out online ratings and reviews of auto mechanics in your area before deciding.
Slash your insurance costs.
Did your latest car repair bill put a dent in your wallet? Don’t let that get you down! Now you know how to negotiate car repairs for next time. And for even more savings, talk to your local Direct Auto Insurance about lower car insurance premiums.