In breaking news: Cars Are Expensive! I bet you’re shocked, right? I think anyone who has owned a car for a few years knows that most vehicles are just a huge money pit that never stop sucking your wallet dry yet they are a necessity for most of us Canadians in this monster of a country we live in. A 5 hour drive that seems like just a short trip for us could feel like an eternity and a journey spanning several countries to someone in Europe.
One of the best ways to reduce your car maintenance costs is to find a quality mechanic that doesn’t work for a car dealership or big name repair shop. You do get some peace of mind and arguably higher quality service by going with the big names but most times that’s all it is, just a false sense of security.
Mechanic Labour Costs
The cost you will be charged for an hour of service is highly dependent on two things: where you live and the type of garage or mechanic you bring your car to. My experience has been that most dealerships charge north of $90 an hour for labour in my small city and that figure can rise to as much as $150 in major metropolitan areas.
If you go with an independent mechanic or a smaller no frills shop that does quality work you should be able to get that down to $40 to $50 per hour ballpark probably cutting the cost in half.
Quality Of Workmanship
The truth is, every time you bring your car into the shop you are rolling the dice that you will get quality work done on your car. It’s true that dealership mechanics are “factory trained” to the extent that they at least have to pass some sort of certification test to be able to work at the dealership.
You have to keep in mind though that these same mechanics can often be young and inexperienced, especially at dealerships with high turn-over. You also never know who is going to be working on your car so you can’t develop any sort of relationship and get up close and personal with the mechanic to ask questions and observe the work they are doing. Depth of experience may also be lacking because dealership mechanics may only have experience working on one brand of vehicles which could significantly restrict their opportunities for learning.
So honesty, there are risks going either way. You might as well go with the cheaper option if that is the case.
Bring Your Own Parts
Another advantage of going to an independent mechanic is that it is often much easier to bring your own parts. Make sure you ask the mechanic if this is a possibility before you start bringing your car there in case you start doing it in the future even if you don’t bring your own parts now.
Car parts in Canada are extremely marked up and if you know what to look for you can get parts of equal or better quality for much less so keeping this option open can be a huge potential money saver!
Related: Bring Your Own Oil For An Oil Change
What About My New Car Warranty?
It’s a fairly common myth that you need to take your car to the dealership while it is under warranty. You’ll need to check your warranty document specifically, but almost all new car warranties remain in effect as long as you keep to a regular maintenance schedule with a qualified mechanic. Most cars have a maintenance schedule that any mechanic can follow in the owner’s manual, it’s isn’t rocket science.
It is true that the dealership will follow the maintenance schedule much more religiously than most back yard mechanics, including a lot of potentially unnecessary inspections that cost you lots of extra money, However, there is no reason that you can’t present your maintenance schedule to your independent mechanic and ask them to follow it just as religiously to make sure your vehicle stays in tip top condition and you don’t miss any preventative maintenance opportunities.
Finding A Great Mechanic
Your best bet is to invest a significant effort when searching for a quality mechanic you can build a long term relationship with. Start with your friends and coworkers and ask them who they bring their car to and how they find the quality and cost of the service. Next, when driving around town look for the small garages that always have a ton of vehicles parked outside waiting to be serviced. These places often don’t take appointments, operate on a first come first served basis and may look a little run down but they provide quality service at a decent price. Finally, get to know the mechanics that will be working on your car a little bit by asking them some questions and finding out how much experience they have before entrusting your keys to them.