Each year, over one-fourth of Americans report being dissatisfied with their repairs from a mechanic, with costs being the biggest source of satisfaction, followed by improper repairs. In fact, unnecessary car repair is consistently ranked among of highest causes of consumer complaints in the United States, and repair costs have been estimated to be in the tens of billions- even as high as $40 billion.
These expenses pile up on top of all the other costs of owning a car. Owning a car can cost an average of $9,122 for sedans (which comes out to 60.8 cents per mile over the vehicle’s lifespan) to $9,795 for a minivan (65.3 cents per mile) to $11,599 for an SUV (77.3 cents per mile). Maintenance costs increase the cost of owning a car even more; upkeep cost Americans an average of 4.97 cents per mile in 2013, equivalent to about $750 per year.
Interestingly, these hundreds of dollars of repairs stem from the same few areas of your car. Your engine, for example, is the most important part of your car, meaning it needs to be fixed more often (nearly 65,000 cases of engine repair have been reported in the U.S. since 1996). Your tires, similarly, last around 2-4 years, sometimes less if you drive on low-quality roads that damage your tires and dent your rims. Brakes also don’t last long and need regular changes, and newer cars with tire pressure monitoring systems may need constant checkups thanks to bugs in the technology.
Although these repairs are common, they aren’t typically the most expensive. For example, a blown motor can cost from $1,000 to $4,000 to fix, while a transmission replacement can cost between $1,800 and $3,500. Your car’s head gasket, a small but important part of your engine, can cost between $1,200 and $1,600, and your air conditioning compressor can cost between $200 and $600 to replace, not including any extra services that could be required.
While you can’t avoid enlisting the services of a mechanic for many crucial repairs, you can protect yourself from unnecessary repair costs. Keep an eye out for common scams, like a verbal estimate, using inferior parts, or charging for repairs covered by a warranty. You can avoid scams by getting mechanic recommendations from your trusted friends and family and checking out your mechanic with the local Better Business Bureau. Ask questions to get more information on parts, repairs, and costs, and ask for a written invoice that notes exactly what repairs were done and what parts were replaced. Pay after the repairs are completed for the agreed-upon repairs.
Remember, however, most mechanics are trustworthy, hard-working individuals. Pay it forward by recommending a mechanic you’ve had a positive experience with to others so that they receive more business than any disreputable mechanics.