Monday, January 11, 2010

How to Make Sure Your Car Mechanic Isn't Taking You for a Ride

January is a great month for resolutions and what better resolution could you have than to find new ways to save money for travel? This month's articles will focus on ways to help you conserve cash for that trip you'd like to take when the weather warms up.

Saving money is not the least bit painful; there's no discomfort because you will not have to make any sacrifices. Conserving your dollars involves spending intelligently, rather than haphazardly, so you can live below your means and bank the rest of your income for travel. You won't scrimp. It is possible to live well, even luxuriously, on far less than you might think.


Over twenty years ago, I bought a seven-year-old Audi that had electrical problems. It was a beautiful car with leather upholstery and a Blaupunkt stereo system so it was a pleasure to sit in—as long as I didn't want to drive anywhere. That luxurious but temperamental car stranded me all over the state of North Carolina. I met a lot of kind strangers as a consequence, but since meeting people was not my objective in car ownership, I finally sold the Audi, at a considerable loss, a couple years later.

I often wonder if I'd still be driving that car if I had found a competent mechanic who could have solved the electrical issue.

I've continued to buy used cars—my current one is eleven years old and will last another ten or fifteen years, I'm sure—but I now know how to locate a good mechanic. These days the Internet makes that easy.

To locate a good mechanic, get some advice from Click and Clack, two guys who have an extremely popular radio show on NPR. The brothers, Tom and Ray Magliozzi are both graduates of MIT and have owned a garage since 1973. You don't have to call in to the show to find a mechanic, though, as you can consult the Car Talk h website. Go the bottom right-hand corner, “Mechanics Files,” and enter your zip code. Another page will open listing all the mechanics who have been recommended by customers in your area.

Once you have a mechanic, you will probably want to make sure you're charged a fair price for the work. The Internet will help you with this, too. Go to Repair Pal and enter your car make in the box on the right. That will generate a new page requesting your model, year, type of service needed and zip code. You will receive a price range for the repair with the lowest price offered at an independent shop and the highest at a dealership. The site will also tell you why your car problem occurred and what other car parts might be affected as a consequence. If you know little about cars and repair prices, this site is invaluable. It educates you so you are much better informed when you approach your mechanic.

I hope never to buy another car with an electrical problem, but if I do, I'll certainly know what to do about it. And no matter what car I drive, as a smarter car-repair consumer, I'll be banking the money I save on repairs in my travel fund.

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