Local News

Save money on car maintenance

Posted March 3, 2009 5:07 p.m. EST
Updated March 9, 2009 5:13 p.m. EDT

— 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.

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.