Picture this: you’ve embarked on the Great American Road Trip. You’ve got your GPS charged, your can’t-miss landmarks picked out, and you’ve fully stocked up on gas station snacks. Suddenly, your engine makes a funny sputtering noise that you’ve never heard before, and you realize that you need a mechanic- and fast. How do you know that the mechanic you’ve found isn’t going to scam you on your road trip?
While exact estimates vary, most people agree that the amount of money lost on unnecessary car repairs is in the tens of billions, with some estimates as high as $40 billion. In addition, unnecessary auto repair is regularly ranked among the causes of consumer complaints in the U.S. annually. In 2013, Americans spent an average of $750 annually on car maintenance.
If you’re on a road trip, chances are that you run into some car issues during your time on the road. The most common auto repairs that you’re most likely to face are engine problems, tire and rim problems, and timing belt problems. Your engine is the most important part of your car, meaning that problems and repairs are inevitable. Your tires may have a 2-4 year lifespan on average, but if your road trip is largely on poor-quality roads, that lifespan can be shortened. While inexpensive, timing belts can be complicated to replace, making labor expensive.
Your gas money may take a bigger hit if you run into an expensive repair, such as a blown motor, which can cost up to $4,000 to repair. A transmission replacement is also costly, running anywhere from $1,800-$3,500. If your car breaks down in North Carolina, expect an expensive car repair bill from the state that has the most expensive car repair bills, while breathe a sigh of relief if your car breaks in Nebraska, which has the lowest car repair bills.
If you do run into trouble on the road, avoid common scams (such as charging for repairs covered by a warranty or charging for services advertised as free) by looking for shops and mechanics endorsed by AAA and without any complaints lodged with the Better Business Bureau. Ask questions to clarify the repairs and replacements, and get a written estimate for the cost. Pay in full only after the agreed-upon repairs are completed, and ask that all replaced parts be returned to you upon completion of the repairs. Drive safe!