If you’re a car owner, you already know that there is much more to it than just making your car and insurance payments. There are common car repairs that occur over time as a car owner. Your car does a lot for you and, in return, you have to take care of it.
This requires regular maintenance, from car washes and oil changes to tire rotations and repairs.
While some of these costs are easy to budget for, others can be more unpredictable and expensive. To help you keep your car in tip-top shape, here are the most common car repairs you should know about and ways you can finance them.
What are the most common car repairs?
Kristin Brocoff, Director of Corporate Communications at CarMD, says, “For nearly a decade, CarMD has been reporting on the average cost for car repairs with an emphasis on common issues that cause the check engine light to come on. One of the most recent reports can be found here: CarMD’s 2017 Vehicle Health Index.”
In summary, here are the 10 most common car repairs from 2016 that trigger the “check engine” light and their average cost.
The report looked at car model years ranging from 1996 to 2016. It found that 2005 models were most likely to have a check engine light on, and 11.9 years is the median age for a vehicle to have a check engine light problem.
The average car repair costs, overall, came out to $397.87. That’s up about $10.00 from the average in 2015.
The breakdown of car repair costs
Of course, costs can vary greatly depending on if you need diagnostics, what the problem is, where you live, and the shop you choose.
Here’s the breakdown of car repair costs.
When technicians aren’t sure what the problem is, they have to perform troubleshooting. You have to pay for their expertise so they can figure out the problem. In some cases, the diagnostic work ends up costing more than the repair itself.
Shops will often charge an initial diagnostic fee, which includes certain procedures and a set amount of time. If the problem isn’t found, additional charges may apply. Once you identify the problem, you will then pay for the repair costs, as well.
When the problem is known, flat-rate pricing is common. It is a rate created by a computer program that calculates the average time it takes a technician to complete a repair and multiplies it by the hourly wage for that shop or person.
This streamlines labor calculations for technicians, allowing concrete quotes to customers. Whether the repair takes the allotted amount of hours, more, or less, the customer will pay the same price. Parts will be charged on top of the labor.
AAA looked at auto repair labor rates per hour for mechanical repair shops in the AAA Approved Auto Repair network and found that they range from $47 to $215. CarMD found the average auto repair rate for labor to be $162.36. That’s the average auto repair labor rates for all repairs whether they take five minutes or five hours.
Large variances were seen in different areas of the country and even within the same cities (from urban to rural areas). To see variances across the states, check out CarMD’s index that ranks each state on the average repair costs (parts and labor) from most expensive to least expensive.
Shops may also advertise a set rate that includes the parts and labor for a specific repair or service, like an oil change or brake job. This may be a good deal, but offerings are usually limited and you’ll need to be sure to read the fine print for any exclusions or limitations.
All in all, like any financial decision, you will have to do some homework and shop around to find the best deal on the repair you need.
How to finance car repairs
When it comes to insurance of any kind, it’s important to know what the policy covers and what isn’t. This is especially true for car insurance since you have several insurance types to choose from.
But if your auto insurance doesn’t cover your car repairs and you don’t have the cash on hand to pay for them, here’s how you can finance them.
You can now apply online with dozens of lenders– such as Prosper, SoFi, and LendingClub— without hurting your credit score. Then, you can wade through the offers, comparing them against each other to find the best deal for you.
Personal loans are set up as installment loans where you get a lump sum up front and then pay it back through monthly payments. They are often unsecured and you can use them for whatever purpose you choose.
You will pay an interest rate, and sometimes fees, based on your creditworthiness and financial profile. The less risk you present, the better rate and terms you’ll get.
Credit cards are another viable option. If you have a credit card with a high enough limit, you can make the purchase and then pay it back over time. If you don’t have a credit card or don’t have one with a high enough limit, it’s time to find the right card for you.
Interest can be high when carrying a large balance on a credit card, so pay it off as quickly as you can (despite low minimum required payment amounts).
It’s best to look for a low-interest credit card or a promotional card with a no-interest period. That way, you can potentially pay the repairs off without extra costs.
However, when shopping around for 0% APR cards, be sure to read the fine print and find out what your interest rate will be when the promotional period ends.
“Of course, ideally, one should have an emergency fund to handle situations like unexpected car repairs. But if the funds aren’t available, credit is the likely solution– most commonly, a standard credit card. Other credit options could include a personal loan, refinance of one’s auto loan, a home equity loan, or a title loan,” says Rob Drury, Executive Director of the Association of Christian Financial Advisors.
Take care of your car repairs today
When it comes to car maintenance, the longer you wait, the worse the problem will get. A minor problem can quickly become a very expensive one. In the long run, you will save by being proactive and taking care of any issues right away.
When a lack of cash is the problem, consider a personal loan or credit card to cover the costs. If you’re not sure which will be better for you, here’s a helpful comparison of credit cards against personal loans.
Ready to start shopping? Compare personal loan lenders now!
Jessica Walrack is a personal finance writer at SuperMoney, The Simple Dollar, Interest.com, Commonbond, Bankrate, NextAdvisor, Guardian, Personalloans.org and many others. She specializes in taking personal finance topics like loans, credit cards, and budgeting, and making them accessible and fun.