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How To Get a Car Repair Estimate

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Some of the most common car repairs could cost you anywhere from $164 to $1,226. Make sure you’re getting the most bang for your buck by calling auto shops or mechanics in your area for an estimate and reading online reviews. Car repair costs can add up quickly, so if you don’t have an emergency savings account, you might need to use a credit card or apply for a loan to cover the cost.

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How much do car repairs cost?

Like homes, cars need regular maintenance, including repairs and part replacement. The amount of car maintenance required partly depends on the condition your vehicle is in when you buy it. If you’re not buying a new car, get a used car inspection before buying.

Here are some of the most common car repairs and the potential cost for each, according to Kelley Blue Book (KBB):

  • Tire alignment: $164.35 to $192.73
  • Alternator replacement: $746.63 to $842.18
  • Brake pads and rotors replacement: $532.91 to $612.01
  • Fuel injector replacement: $1,103.18 to $1,226.21
  • Fuel pump replacement: $1,093 to $1,211.87
  • Power steering pump replacement: $836.81 to $935.65
  • Spark plug replacement: $355.77 to $417.07
  • Starter replacement: $727.98 to $820.04

If you’re worried about the cost of replacing parts in the future and your car’s warranty is about to expire, you might want to look into getting an extended car warranty.

How to get a car repair estimate

Getting a car repair estimate is a straightforward process, but you’ll likely need to do a bit of research before you can get your vehicle fixed.

Compare trustworthy car repair shops

Before asking around for a car repair estimate, be sure to look into various shops in your area and read customer reviews. This can help you get an idea of the experience other car owners have had with the shop. Pay particular attention to trustworthiness, transparency, affordability and customer service.

Make sure you know what market rate costs are before you decide on a shop to avoid getting overcharged.

Ask around for at least three estimates

It’s important to track down estimates from at least three shops in your area so you can compare pricing and service. When calling around for estimates, you’ll need to provide the repair shop with your car’s make, model, year and vehicle identification number (VIN).

You’ll also need to provide details about the issues you’re having with your car. In some cases, the mechanic or body shop may need to inspect the car before they can provide you with an estimate. For example, if your car won’t start, a shop may need to take a look at it to see if there’s a problem with the car’s electrical system.

Don’t wait on the insurance adjuster

If you’re able to get an auto insurance company to pay for your car repairs, you can take matters into your own hands instead of waiting for an insurance adjuster — the person responsible for investigating the repairs and how much they’ll cost — to gather estimates. You may be able to get a repair estimate before the insurance adjuster does.

Keep in mind that you should establish an agreement with the insurance company before getting the repairs done. If you don’t, the insurance company may not fully reimburse you. Although insurance companies aren’t allowed to restrict you to certain repair shops, they may have reimbursement caps.

Consider factors other than price

When it comes to shopping around for car repair estimates, be sure to consider factors other than the overall price tag. Do a line-by-line comparison of each estimate to see what kind of repairs the mechanic or body shop is proposing. In some cases, the shop may offer to do a more exhaustive repair than competitors, which can make it worth a slightly higher price tag. You can also get an idea of which shops may be nickel-and-diming you.

It’s also a good idea to pay attention to the shop’s reputation, transparency and how they treat their customers. A trustworthy shop will be transparent about your repairs and avoid overcharging you with fixes you don’t actually need.

Move forward with your car repairs

Once you’ve landed on a shop, you’ll have to take your car there to get it fixed. If you can’t afford to pay the full amount in cash upfront, you can ask your mechanic if they offer an auto repair payment plan. If the shop doesn’t offer financing options or payment plans, you may have to find another way to cover repair costs.

Where to get an estimate for car repair

If your car repair costs can be covered by insurance, you’ll want to check with your insurance company before you start calling repair shops in your area. Some car insurance companies may have specific body shops or mechanics that they recommend. However, if you choose to go with a different shop, you’ll likely have to provide information about the business as well as itemized receipts.

After you get some car repair estimates, you might find that the repairs might cost more than the vehicle. In this case, your insurance company may declare your car a total loss and pay you the actual value of the car.

How to pay for car repairs

Cash is the cheapest way to cover car repairs, since you get to avoid interest and fees. However, you might not always have the money to cover these costs. In that case, consider these financing options:

 Take out a personal loan

After you get your estimate, you can apply for a personal loan and use the funds to cover the expense with a single lump sum. Personal loans are typically unsecured and come with fixed interest rates and repayment terms so you’ll know exactly when you’ll be done paying it off.

 Apply for a low-interest credit card

You could also use a credit card with a low interest rate to cover the repairs. If you can qualify for one, the most affordable route would be to get a 0% intro APR credit card — you could potentially avoid paying interest for a year or more. If you don’t pay off the card before the intro period is finished, you’ll have to pay interest on the remaining balance.

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