The average car repair bill costs around $550—an amount that would have many Americans reaching for their credit card.
A survey from Morning Consult found that 35% of Americans would need to go into debt to pay for an unexpected expense and an additional 17% would be unable to afford it at all. That translates to 111 million drivers without enough savings to cover a routine car expense.
How can you avoid being one of them? Begin by putting $20-$50 a month in a car-care savings account to cover the inevitable expenses of routine maintenance and repair.
Here are a few more suggestions to help you avoid a car repair crisis:
- When buying a new or used car, look at not only the price and the monthly payment, but also how much that car is likely to cost to own over the coming years. Resources such as Kelley Blue Book’s five-year cost to own rankings can give you some reasonable estimates.
- Stick carefully to the maintenance schedule recommended by the manufacturer. Today’s cars are better made and can last longer than in the past. But to get the most out of them, keep up the maintenance.
- Find a repair shop you trust. If you are not using a dealership, a good starting point is to check the auto services listed on the Better Business Bureau website. Enter your zip code to find businesses in your area with an A+ rating.
- When you do have to go in for a repair, get a written estimate for the work. Try negotiating the estimate and ask if the shop gives any applicable discounts, such as for membership in AAA or AARP.
- Consider purchasing mechanical breakdown protection (MBP) from your credit union when financing your car purchase. MBP is available for both new and used vehicles. This coverage will protect your vehicle after your manufacturer’s warranty has expired.
No matter how new or well-made your car, some repairs are inevitable. So, save yourself the anxiety by knowing you have money saved to cover it.