How to Repair Your Car on a Budget

Woman repairing a car in the auto repair shop.

For most of us, taking our car in for occasional repair work is an unavoidable part of life. Unless you're a mechanic yourself, it's highly unlikely that you'll have the knowledge, experience, or tools needed to fix everything that goes wrong with your car.

On the other hand, there are many repair jobs that you can do on your own — provided you prepare for them properly. But what about the financial cost involved? How can you repair your car when you're living on a budget? Here are 5 tips that can help:

1. Start With the Smallest Repairs First

If your car has an issue, but you don't know exactly what the root cause is, it's important to start with the smallest (and cheapest) repair job first. Then, "work your way up the ladder" so to speak. For example, an emissions code that causes your "Check Engine" light to come on could be the result of a loose gas cap. So, it would make sense to replace that before making more expensive repairs. Following this basic principle is perhaps the number #1 way to save money on DIY automotive work.

2. Order Replacement Parts Online

If you need to order a replacement part for a specific job, don't just go to your local auto parts store without shopping around. A lot of times, you can find replacement parts for cheaper online, even taking shipping fees into account. True, it may take longer to get the part you need. However, going online often saves $20 or more (provided you can wait a few days for your part to arrive).

3. Watch Online "How-To" Videos to Repair Your Car

There are thousands of "how-to" videos on YouTube and other sites that demonstrate how to perform specific repairs on specific makes and models. Oftentimes, there are multiple videos that cover the same repair job — so look for the one that is most instructive, and makes the most sense to you.

If you're a visual learner, this is a great way to understand what's involved in a particular repair project, and whether you'll be able to do it on your own. You'll also know which tools you may need to obtain — and you may even learn some shortcuts that will save you a buck or two!

4. Rent or Borrow Tools to Repair Your Car

What if you need a certain tool for a repair job, but you'll probably never use it again afterward? In that situation, instead of buying the tool from your local hardware store, see if you can borrow the tool from a friend. If you and your friend are close, then you may even get some extra help when you do the work!

As an alternative, many parts stores have "loaner tools" that they allow customers to keep for the day. You'll likely have to pay the store a security deposit for the tool's use, but you'll get your money back once the job is done and the tool is returned.

5. Know Your Limits

Last but not least, be realistic about the kind of repairs that you can do. If you try to perform a repair job without the right tools, or enough experience, then you may make your car's issue even worse. If major repairs are needed, it is probably best to take it to a trustworthy mechanic.

Repair Your Car on a Budget

If you follow these 5 tips, you'll save some money, stick to your budget, and be in a better position to achieve your financial goals moving forward.


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