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Save money on car maintenance

Posted March 3, 2009
Updated March 9, 2009

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— With money tight these days, everyone is looking to cut corners, but auto experts say skimping on car maintenance is not a good idea because that can cause problems down the road.

You can cut costs by being selective about where you get your car repaired, however.

Skimp on car maintenance? Bad idea Skimp on car maintenance? Bad idea

Consumer Reports recommends shopping around among dealerships or going to an independent mechanic for routine maintenance.

It recently got quotes for routine maintenance from independent mechanics and manufacturer dealerships all across the nation. Some differed by hundreds of dollars – even within the same type of dealership.

"The dealers all set their own prices and their own menus of service items, and we found that most of them included extra items above and beyond what was in the owner's manual," said Eric Evarts with Consumer Reports.

More than half of the dealerships wanted to charge for extra work, even though when Consumer Reports called the headquarters of several automakers, testers were told maintenance beyond what was listed in the owner's manual wasn't needed.

It’s important to understand, too, that going to an independent mechanic will not void any warranty, Evarts said.

"According to the law, you can take your car anywhere you want to have regular maintenance performed," he said.

Consumer Reports found independent repair shops often charged less than the dealerships, sometimes more than $300 less.

So, when it's time to take your car in for maintenance, it can pay to get quotes from both dealerships and independent shops.

Also, Consumer Reports recommends that no matter where you get your vehicle serviced, check the work being done against your owner's manual.

When it comes to finding a good mechanic – whether at a dealership or in an independent shop – the best place to start is with friends, family and colleagues. Consumer Reports says to ask around for recommendations.

Web sites, such as cartalk.com and repairpal.com, have user reviews of local independent garages.

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  • JustAnotherPointofView Mar 9, 2009

    -Enter Screen Name-: another way to save money when it comes to brakes, ask the service place if you can bring in the parts (chances are advance and autozone will have the part cheaper then what service place will charge you. They will just charge you for the labor. If you think about it the long run, unless you got the time,the knowhow, the jacks, and the proper tools. Plus in my case its getting done while I'm at work, which frees up my weekend :)

  • 68_polara Mar 9, 2009

    Like all other mechanical work you want maintenance done by someone/or an organization you can trust thus the dealer ship is usually out of the question.

  • freddie cadetti 72 Mar 6, 2009

    GM vehicle owners...have your maintainence done at an authorized GM dealership. There, you will have records in the event of a mechanical breakdown. Also, have your vehicle maintained at the owner's manual recommendations, not the dealer's. Most dealers (and independent garages say 3 month/ 3000 miles for oil change. They're hust selling you something you do not need. Most normal oil change intervals are 6 months / 7500 miles, but with GM's enging oil life monitor system, you can go untill it tells you to change the oil...sometimes as much as 16000 miles. This is backed through the GM warranty.

  • ThisIsMyName Mar 5, 2009

    -Enter Screen Name-: When were brakes (pad/shoe replacement) included under the warranty? Brake pads are easy to change, which thankfully, most new cars are using front and rear disk brakes.

    Glad to hear you are recycling your oil.

  • -Enter Screen Name- Mar 5, 2009

    ThisIsMyName: No issues there. I have a dedicated jug for storing used oil. When I go buy new oil, I take the old oil from the previous change and drop it off.

    Only thing I need to do now is find someone that would be willing to step me through doing a brake service. I understand it's relatively easy, just not something I'm up for doing without some supervision the first time :-) Now that the car warranty is almost up, new brakes will no longer be cheap :-(

  • Snakebite Survivor Mar 4, 2009

    Your owner's manual is your best friend here. There's a list of things that need to be done, and when. I've found that the new car dealer does the best job and isn't more expensive, provided you tell them exactly what needs to be done (from the owner's manual). In writing. If you just say "Do the xxx-thousand mile service" they'll load it up with all kinds of unneeded (and expensive) things.

    And stay away from those Jiffy-Lube type places -- they aren't trained mechanics and specialize in selling you things you don't need, or that are wrong for your car. Everybody I know has a horror story: mine is being sold a new PCV valve (unneeded and not the right part for my car) just before going on a trip. The new car dealer fixed things up, and I've been going to them ever since.

  • 27615 Mar 4, 2009

    I'm in Raleigh and have taken my car to People's Tire and Auto off Hodges St. for the last 15 years and have always had great service and cheap prices especially compared with a dealership!

  • ThisIsMyName Mar 4, 2009

    kc, that would take away peoples jobs if everyone did their own car maintenance. Plus, most people don't want to mess with taking the used oil to be recycled. :-)

  • kcfoxie Mar 4, 2009

    Or here's an idea: DO IT YOURSELF!