Finding Cheap Auto Repair in Five Simple Steps
In these trying economic times, many are looking to save money; one of the ways to accomplish this goal is to skimp on oil changes, auto repair and maintenance. This article will give an insider’s look into how to save the big money.
Oil Change Service
Stretch Those Oil Change Intervals. This is tougher than it sounds. While your owner’s manual may suggest oil change intervals of 7,500 miles or more, many professional technicians will try to talk you into more frequent intervals like 3,000 to 4,000 miles. When you think about it, this tactic doesn’t make sense to anyone. Most auto repair shops lose money on oil changes, so do them and yourself a favor by stretching those oil changes. The only reason most places do oil changes at all is to trick you into other stuff, like air filters. Don’t fall for it. A lot of time, oil gets dirty before it gets worn out. Try draining your oil after 7,500 miles and running it through a coffee filter. Throw it back in, and see how it goes. If you feel like changing the filter, do so. Otherwise, just put the old one back on. If your car lasts 50,000 miles, this method will have saved you more than $400.
If You Need a Repair, Find the Best Deal. The best way to get a great deal is to spend a lot of time looking for one. The longer you shop, the better chance that you will have of finding someone who can do your job “on the cheap.” Your best bet is neighborhood kids. Usually, they will work relatively cheaply, and you will not be expected to pay for a bunch of overhead stuff like insurance. Also, if you get a neighborhood kid to change your oil, you can probably talk him into pouring the old oil between cracks in your driveway to cut down on weeds and disposal fees. If this doesn’t work, call your cheapest friend, and find out who he uses. The next step, which should be avoided at all costs, is to find a repair shop. Here’s how you find a cheap one. This first trick works for virtually any service provider. Open the Business pages to “Christian” or “Religious.” “Affordable” and “Fair” are pretty good, but “Christian” and “Religious” are better. I’ve found that people who advertise their faith to make a living tend to be the most dependable. If you’re checking the Yellow Pages or the Internet, look for words like “low price” or “free.” I call these “the Magic Value Words.” Words like “Integrity,” “Honest,” “Dependable,” or “Experienced” are nothing but trouble. The word “Certified” is a different story. If “Certified” is used in conjunction with a professional organization, beware. If, however, the word “Certified” stands alone, you may be in good shape still. Anyone can be certified, but organizations that certify technicians get paid somehow, and you will probably be expected to somehow absorb this cost. Guys who use these words are trying to hide the fact that they expect to get paid. Sure, everyone wants to get paid, but do you really want to pay a guy just because he’s been doing the same thing for a long time?
Get Phone Quotes. This can take a little time, but the rewards can be huge. Call as many shops as possible and ask for “quotes” for as many of the permutations of the possible work needed. Some of the better shops may be reluctant to give prices over the phone, but some will give prices anyway. This step pretty much separates the wheat from the chaff. Quoting work can be time consuming, and the task is much more difficult for someone who hasn’t seen your vehicle. Invariably, someone will omit a part or an operation, or they will quote an obsolete part that is not available. Others will try to “low ball” a price figuring that they can “adjust” their price once your car is disabled. Neither of these is your problem. Make sure to write down the lowest number uttered by the lowest bidder so that you can throw this number in his face later.
Once you’ve established a baseline, try to shave the deal a little thinner. Having identified your target shop, swing by around closing. Dress down so that it looks like you are friends with one of the mechanics, then walk straight into the shop. Avoid the service counter: this is where shops try to sell you stuff. Once in the shop, find the dirtiest, poorest looking guy, and explain your situation. Something like “I don’t have a whole lot of money, but I’ve got a little cash, and I need my car fixed right now” tends to work best. If your prospective mechanic is a little slow on the uptake, it may help to actually wave a few $20s at him. This conveys the impression that you may be willing to pay the technician directly allowing you to avoid needless costs like insurance, tax, training, information systems, utilities, and rent. If your problem isn’t immediately evident, your new “friend” may try to charge you to find out what is wrong with it. Don’t fall for it, say something like, “I’ll buy the beer, and I’ll pay to have the car fixed, but I’m not going to pay you to fiddle around.” If your “buddy” objects, come back with, “Do you want me to buy the beer or not? I don’t have all night.” He’ll know what time it is.
Insist on a warranty. Don’t pay for your car until you are sure that it is fixed. This can be a problem because most mechanics doing side work in their employer’s place of business won’t want to give you a receipt. Give it a try, though, what do you have to lose? If this doesn’t work, get a card from the guy with his home phone number. Call the number before you leave. You don’t need some hilljack pulling a fast one on you. Regarding the test drive, trust may be an issue. Make sure that you don’t leave any valuables lying around while you’re testing out your car. You don’t need this guy finding out where you live and showing up for Sunday barbeque. On the flip side, the mechanic may not trust you. Only give him the amount of money that you can afford to lose, and keep your test drive short. If you’re not completely satisfied but there is some improvement, just keep on driving. The guy probably wasn’t smart enough to write down your license plate number anyway. If possible, while you are drinking beer and watching your car get fixed, turn on every light and unlock every door that you can. The mechanic will have to turn off the lights and lock all the doors before he leaves, and this will give you extra time to properly test drive your vehicle and to return if things are actually worse.
Follow these simple steps, and you’ll save all sorts of money. If this doesn’t work for you, call Sant Automotive at 314-849-2900. We specialize in complete customer satisfaction. Whether you’re just looking for an oil change or state inspection, Michelin, BF Goodrich or Uniroyal tires, (or other brand of tire for that matter),factory scheduled vehicle maintenance, or if you have major problems from alternators, starters, electrical issues either with your engine or power accessories like power windows, door lock, or an illuminated check engine light, please call Sant Automotive. We provide professional automotive and repair service every time.