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Cutting Car Costs

Tips for Spending Less When Caring for Your Vehicle

The cost of vehicles and their related repairs are expensive. Although the tips provided in this article will not eliminate such expenses, they will help you to take control of vehicle repairs and thus lower their costs.

Dealers vs. Garages

We have all seen commercials on TV touting the "great vehicle service" provided by dealer service departments. They know your vehicle better than anyone else, they use original replacement parts, etc., etc. But at what cost is such great service available? Well, usually at about $75 to $95 per hour.

In many instances, vehicle repairs can be completed for substantially lower hourly rates. Many independent garages employ ASE certified and licensed mechanics. These garages generally charge about $40 to $50 per hour.

Finding the Right Garage

If you are unfamiliar with independent garages in your area, it can be useful to talk with your friends about which garages and mechanics have repaired their vehicles. Be on the lookout for the names of garages that are recommended over and over by numerous people.

Next, visit a few of the garages, talk with the owner and ask about the hourly rate charged for vehicle repairs. Be sure to inquire if the rate charged for the repairs is a "straight hourly rate" or a "book rate."

Getting Straight on Rates

A straight hourly rate involves the amount of time that it actually takes a mechanic to do a vehicle repair. On the other hand, a book rate involves the customer being charged an amount of time the book specifies a repair should take.

For example, installing new front and rear brake pads on a vehicle could take one hour. Using a straight rate of $50 per hour, the repair would cost $50 for labor, plus the cost of the brake pads. The book rate might specify that it "should" take the mechanic one and a half hours to do the work. Thus, the customer would be charged $75 for the labor, plus the cost of the brake pads.

When using the book rate method, even if the brake job takes the mechanic only 55 minutes to complete, the customer is still charged for one and a half hours of time. The book rate method of doing vehicle repairs generally benefits the garage and not the customer.

If the garage owner seems to squirm when you ask about the billing method used for vehicle repairs, it is best to visit other garages. Mechanic ASE certification, licensure and the garage owner's response to billing practices will go a long way in your identifying the garage that is right for you.

Other Considerations

Last, but not least, observe how neat and orderly the repair shop looks. This is a straightforward indication of how the garage is run.

In most instances, garages "mark-up" the price of parts used for vehicle repairs. Garages purchase parts at wholesale prices and then mark up the parts used for repairs. Although it is becoming rarer and rarer today, some garages will allow a customer to purchase the parts that will be used to repair their vehicle. Such garages will quote the customer on just the cost of labor to install the parts.

It can be to a customer's advantage to get a quote on both the parts and labor prior to having a vehicle repaired. If the customer is so inclined, he or she can check on the cost of parts at retail parts stores such as Auto Zone or Advance Auto. In many instances, you can obtain even better prices on parts by getting on the Internet and visiting sites such as www.autoparts.com or www.automotivecenter.com.

When it comes to vehicle repairs, taking the time to ask some questions and establish a good relationship with an independent garage can really help to lower vehicle repair costs. Identifying a garage and a mechanic with whom you are comfortable makes all the difference in the world!

Gas Guzzling

When gas prices creep up, consumers want to do everything possible to get the best gas mileage and performance out of their vehicle. Additech and Joe Gibbs Racing champion crew chief Greg Zipadelli has some expert tips to help consumers improve fuel efficiency:

  1. Check tire pressure and inspect tires for uneven tread wear. Driving with under inflated tires is like driving with the parking brake on and can cause a loss in fuel efficiency up to two miles per gallon.
  2. Change air filter regularly. An air filter that is clogged wastes gas and causes the engine to lose power causing a decrease in fuel efficiency of up to two miles per gallon.
  3. Replace worn spark plugs as recommended by the vehicle manufacturer. Dirty spark plugs cause misfiring, which wastes fuel.
  4. Use quality fuel and oil and change your oil and oil filter every 3,000 miles. Dirty or substandard engine oil increases internal engine friction.
  5. Remember to tighten gas cap with each refueling. Loose or missing gas caps allow fuel to evaporate causing a loss in fuel efficiency of up to two miles per gallon.
  6. Check your vehicles emissions system. Worn oxygen sensors may be unable to detect and adjust the air/fuel mixture, which can cause a loss in fuel efficiency of up to three miles per gallon.
  7. Keep your fuel system clean. Carbon deposits can build up on essential engine parts like fuel injectors, intake valves, piston heads and combustion chambers, robbing your engine of power, acceleration and gas mileage. Regular use of a specially formulated fuel additive to clean the engine will maximize fuel efficiency.
  8. Don't be an aggressive driver. Aggressive driving can lower gas mileage by as much as 33 percent on the highway and 5 percent on city streets.
  9. Observe the speed limit. Gas mileage decreases rapidly at speeds above 60 mph.
  10. Avoid excessive idling. Sitting idle gets zero miles per gallon.

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