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Published: Apr 25, 2024 8 min read
Couple standing with their broken down car.
Money; Getty Images

The cost of car repairs has always been a headache for drivers, especially because it’s often a surprise expense. To make matters worse, prices are soaring.

The latest government inflation data shows that motor vehicle repair prices are up 11.6% in the past year, which is one of the highest inflation rates for any spending category. (Another auto expense, car insurance, has experienced the very highest rate of inflation lately.) Given this trend, it's increasingly important to make sure you get a fair price when your car needs to be fixed.

It’s easy to get ripped off on car repairs if you’re not knowledgeable about vehicles and don’t do your homework. Drivers may not know what repairs are necessary or what the costs should be for the repairs they do need. Opportunistic mechanics will take advantage of that if you're not careful. Here are some tips to help you navigate this tricky territory.

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Get a free (or cheap) car repair diagnosis

The first step of getting your car fixed is figuring out what’s wrong. This can actually get costly with some auto repair shops charging $100 or more for diagnostic work before performing any repairs.

Auto parts stores can be a great resource because they typically offer free code readings and battery tests. If you can figure out why your engine light is on at a store like AutoZone, you may be able to avoid paying a repair shop for diagnostic services.

For more complicated issues, you can try a few mechanics in your area and see if anyone will take a look under the hood without a payment agreement. Someone may be happy to do this at no cost to hopefully acquire a new customer.