Amy Clark

Day 10: Car Repair on a Budget

To say that the past couple of weeks for our family have been bad would not really do our past two weeks justice. A couple of weeks ago my husband went to Walgreens to pick up a prescription for me. After finding out that pharmacy was closed (this was the third pharmacy too) he went to the car to head home. When he tried to start the car though, the radio would come on, but nothing else. He called me and had me come out to help him.

My first stop was the neighbor’s to borrow some jumper cables (an investment we really should make) and I headed out there to give him a jump. We tried to jump the car, but still nothing happened. Defeated, I called our insurance company to see about getting our car towed and assistance with finding a shop in our area. Our insurance company offers 24 roadside assistance and helps you get your vehicle where it needs to be repaired. They sent out a towing company to tow our car over to the dealership.

The dealership called in the morning and said that we needed a new starter…that would cost $400. This must be a very special starter because we were floored. We asked our brother-in-law if he could help us, since he has been working in an a body shop, and he agreed for an exchange of babysitting for their anniversary night.

The part cost a little over $100 and a babysitting job. Who could beat that price?

Several days later, my husband is driving to work and loses power on his car. He is able to pull the car to the side of the road and put it in park. He tries to turn the key and nothing happens. He tries again and the same scenario repeats itself. He pulls the key out and the engine starts turning over and over and over. And the car catches on fire.

He is able to get the fire out, but what is left is a lot of melted wire and a car that doesn’t work. We look up recalls on engines and his car had been recalled for the engines catching on fire. Thinking we were smart, we sent it over to the dealership. They said that it didn’t fall under the warranty and we would need a cable replaced that went to the starter. Total price to repair a couple of melted wires and a cable…$630.

This is when I encouraged my husband to call around to places that he had heard were good. We were able to find a very honest and reliable auto repair place who said he could do the same exact thing for $280. What a difference!

I was left with the dirty work of calling the dealership in the morning to close out the account and get the car towed to the other place. The guy that I spoke to wanted to know why I was taking it out, where I was taking it, and what the quote was. I was as polite as could be and explained that it had nothing to do with them personally, but we simply could not afford the rate that he was giving us. He said he would call us back to let us know how much diagnostics cost.

When he called back, he began with, “We don’t normally do this BUT…” and then he basically matched the price of the other place.

Five minutes of calling around saved us about $300.

Here are some other resources for getting the best deal when it comes to car repair:

Finding an Automotive Repair Shop You Can Trust
Finding a Mechanic
Finding Honest Repair Shops

If you or your husband are handy, it is possible that you could fix the car yourself. Look into what resources your local library offers. For example, in our area, patrons have access to The Chilton Library just by logging into their library account. This online Automotive Repair Database provides the detailed information you need to tackle both simple and complex auto repair jobs. Do-it-yourselfers can count on reliable auto repair answers to topics such as, general information and maintenance, troubleshooting, engine performance & tune-up, brakes, emission control, chassis, electrical and more.

While I wouldn’t recommend going to the cheapest shop, I would recommend going through good referrals from your family and friends and then comparing those rates. The dealerships will usually not have the best price on auto repair, but they might be willing to match quotes from their competitors.

Potential Monthly Savings: $100 or more

Sound Off: Any tips you would like to share on car repair and maintenance that have helped save your family money?

Published August 11, 2007 by:

Amy Clark

Amy Allen Clark is the founder of You can read all about her here.

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