Auto Repair Tips

What to do if you can’t afford to fix your car?

No one enjoys having to spend money on car repairs. But since they keep your car running and on the road, they are sometimes necessary.

If you aren’t saving up for unexpected repairs, the cost can seriously wreck an already tight budget. So what should you do if you simply can’t afford to fix your car?

The good news is, you do have some options. Let’s explore a few of them.

Talk to Your Mechanic

Make sure you understand what the problem is. Talk to your mechanic about the fix. Is there a less expensive option available? Through this conversation you can also learn if the repair is needed immediately, or if your car is still drivable without it. For instance, a broken oxygen sensor can trigger your check engine light to come on. But, you can still drive the car without replacing the sensor.

Of course, with the light on all the time, you might miss another problem, and you won’t pass an emissions inspection. But, this is a repair you could put off until you have some extra funds. This conversation will give you the knowledge you need to make an informed decision. You can also find out if there are any discounts available. See if your mechanic offers an AAA discount or a senior discount. Some do, so see if there are any discounts available you qualify for. This can help lower the bill and make it more manageable.

Get a Second Opinion

Sometimes a second opinion is worth investing in. If you aren’t completely confident in your mechanic’s diagnostics, or if your mechanic isn’t an expert at repairing your make of car, a second opinion can give you peace of mind. Sometimes there is a simpler, less in-depth solution to the problem. Cars are complicated, and sometimes multiple problems can result in the same symptoms. For example, a check engine light for an oxygen sensor can be triggered by a vacuum leak. In this case, replacing the oxygen sensor wouldn’t actually solve the problem and the light would come back on. Going to a different mechanic can help you get to the root of the problem. But, there is a down side. You will have to pay both mechanics for their diagnostic time. And, there’s no guarantee the advice you receive will change.

Buy Used Parts

Lowering the costs of your auto repairs makes it more affordable. If your mechanic won’t work with used car parts, find one who will. Buying used can save a significant amount and help reduce your final bill. By going to Tear-A-Part and pulling the parts yourself, you will save even more. Of course, your mechanic might not offer the same warranty on the work if you supply the parts, so make sure you discuss this option.


Check Your Warranty

Do you have any kind of warranty on your vehicle? If you paid for an extended warranty check and see if your repair is covered. Not everything is. You have to read all that little fine print. But, a phone call can help you determine if your warranty is still valid and if it will cover some or all of the costs. The worst they can tell you is no. The best is that they’ll cover the repairs. It’s worth checking.


Are you mechanically inclined? Do you have space and tools to work on your car? You might decide to do the repairs yourself. By not paying for labor, and avoiding markup on the parts, you’ll save a lot of money. There are lots of YouTube videos available with step-by-step directions, so watch a couple to see if it’s something you feel comfortable attempting.

Make Payments

Will your mechanic offer financing? For larger repair bills many do. This can help spread your payment out over a couple of months instead of requiring you to shell it out all at once. If you are running out of options, see what terms are available. Often financing through a local mechanic beats putting the repairs on a credit card.

Sell Your Car

If you’ve exhausted all the options, it’s time for an internal conversation. Is it time to get rid of your car? If it’s in good shape except for the needed repair, you can try selling it or trading it in. Just be sure you’re completely honest with the buyer. No one wants to get scammed into buying a lemon. Some cars aren’t worth much, and your best bet will be to junk it. You can get some money by selling it to a junkyard. This can be a good solution if you’re tired of putting money into a clunker and you’re ready for a fresh start on cars.


Get a personal loan from a family member or friend.

If you have a good relationship with a close family member or friend, consider approaching them for a personal loan and set up a realistic payment plan. This can be a tricky and even uncomfortable situation for many, so make sure you create a doable payoff plan that doesn’t end up hurting the relationship.

Use a credit card.

If you have available credit, use a low-interest credit card and charge the repair bill right on the card. Just make sure you can keep making payments towards that card so you don’t end up paying much more in interest charges for that single bill over time.


Sell Some Personal Items

Having your car in the shop is stressful enough without having to organize a garage sale, but sometimes this is your only option. You can quickly organize a garage sale within a week to raise the extra money you need, plus you get the added bonus of decluttering your home and purging things you don’t need. If holding a garage sale isn’t feasible, list some items on eBay or Craigslist. With any luck, you’ll earn most of the money you need to get that repair bill paid.

Trade in the Vehicle

If you’ve brought your car to a dealership service center, it may be a smart idea to head outside and see which newer models they have available. Trading in your old car and acquiring a new monthly payment isn’t an ideal situation, but it’s often easier to manage a car payment than it is to be faced with a large lump sum repair bill. In addition, a newer model will be more reliable, so you won’t have to worry about costly repairs anytime soon.


Not the end of the world

No one enjoys visits to a mechanic. It’s even worse, though, if you don’t have enough money to pay for the repairs. If you live in a big city, you should be able to manage without a car for quite some time. If public transportation is not a viable option, you need to find a way to deal with the situation at hand. Some of those options might be more difficult than others, but with enough determination, you will find a way to fix your car. Good luck!