Tuesday, July 9

It Pays to Shop Around for Auto Repairs

$110.00, $162.41, or $178.00?

It was time to replace my spark plugs and spark plug wires.  I prefer to do things myself when I can, but after watching half a dozen Youtube videos and visually inspecting my Chevy S-10, I did not want to take on this project.  With many vehicles all you have to do is pop open the hood, untwist the old wires, unscrew the plugs, and screw in the new ones.  But the S-10's spark plugs were located behind the wheel well, beneath a rubbery flap and around a number of other wires and tubes.  One look at it and I just knew I was going to screw something up if I did this myself.

When I had the catalytic converter replaced on my truck last month, the big chain shop that did the job offered to replace my plugs and wires for $300.  Their labor charge was $162; parts were $138.  Starting with this as my baseline, I looked online for my parts.  Since I had a 50% off coupon for Advance Auto Parts, along with 5.5% cash back by clicking the link at Ebates.com, I did not have to shop around for my parts.  Instead of the $138 that Tires Plus wanted, I managed to secure what I needed for just $39 with tax.  I bought the highest rated exact-fit parts (including AC Delco spark plugs).  This alone saved me $99.

Then I called around for labor estimates.  I don't know why it has taken me so long to realize that small independent repair shops are 1) almost always less expensive and 2) more trustworthy.  In addition to the $162 quote from Tires Plus, I received three other quotes:  $110.00, $162.41, and $178.00.  The $110.00 quote happened to be from the shop closest to my house (less than a mile) and was the only independent shop I called.  The owner/mechanic answered the phone when I called and said he could take care of it the next day.  Low overhead should mean lower prices and in this case that was quite the case.

As an aside, I checked out online reviews for the independent guy before I brought the S-10 in.  Every one of the reviews cited the mechanic's honesty and his low prices.  One example was from a guy who had received a quote of $1,500 for a repair at a national chain.  The same repair was just $700 at the independent shop.

If you are like me, you hate it when something breaks.  Often I can figure out how to fix something myself, but when I can't, it is nice to know I don't have to be ripped off.

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