How to Save Money on Car Repairs

Use a shop approved by AAA. Members of AAA can choose from a list of approved repair facilities, which are required to have certified technicians. Furthermore, AAA offers a 10 percent discount on labor (capped at $75 in some areas).

Use CR’s Car Repair Assistant. Whether you’re getting your car repaired or just keeping up with scheduled maintenance, the Car Repair Assistant (in partnership with RepairPal) gives you access to a nationwide network of more than 2,000 repair shops that guarantee high-quality auto repair service at a fair price.

Do easy maintenance yourself. Engine air filters and cabin air filters are usually pretty straightforward to replace, and there’s probably a YouTube video that will show you how to do it. You can also save time by doing your own fluid-level checks. (Low levels in a closed system like brakes or cooling indicate a problem that should be checked by a tech.) See our article on DIY maintenance.

Go to an auto parts store. If you need, say, a new battery, many auto parts stores will test the old one to see whether it actually needs replacing, and they may even install the new one free of charge. Repair shop labor rates are $165 per hour, on average, according to RepairPal, so even 15 minutes of a mechanic’s time can add plenty to a bill.

Be proactive. “The squeaky wheel gets the grease, or it should, anyway,” Crossen says. “If your car is leaking fluids or making an abnormal noise, get it checked out pronto. Timely action could save you a lot of money.” For example, if your car has an oil leak, ignoring it could cause the engine to run low on oil, which can lead to catastrophic engine damage.

All prices above are based on CR survey data and/or and RepairPal estimates.