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A Third of U.S. Drivers Can’t Afford An Unexpected Car Repair

AAA reports offers tips on preventing repair problems.

by on Apr.04, 2017

A new AAA study shows that a third of American drivers would have to go into debt in order to make a significant repair on their vehicle.

It’s the rare driver who hasn’t run into an unexpected problem, whether a blow-out or a blown engine. And while most Americans can find a way to squeeze the necessary money out of the household budget, a new AAA study warns that a full third of U.S. drivers would not be able to handle a sudden vehicle repair without going into debt.

The average repair bill is now running between $500 and $600, according to the report. But the figure can vary widely, with major engine and transmission problems pushing up into the thousands. Even without unexpected repairs, AAA noted, the average cost of owning and operating a vehicle is now up to around $8,500 annually.

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“Millions of Americans are failing to set aside a car care fund to pay for the upkeep of their cars,” said John Nielsen, AAA’s managing director of Automotive Engineering and Repair. “To avoid a surprise down the road, drivers should budget for monthly payments, insurance premiums, fuel costs and the inevitable expenses of routine maintenance and repair.” (more…)

The 12 Cheapest – & Most Expensive – States to Own a Car

It’ll cost plenty to drive in Wyoming, but Iowa is a bargain.

by on Aug.11, 2014

Repair costs vary widely by state.

They’re only hours apart – separated by a single state in-between, but when it comes to the cost of owning and operating a car, Wyoming and Iowa might as well be on different planets.

When you factor in such annual costs as gasoline, insurance and repairs, the typical Wyoming driver will spend about $2,705. In Iowa, the figure is a far more reasonable $1.942 annually, according to a new study by the financial services website

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The results of the new study might come as a surprise, particularly with relatively sparse Wyoming landing at the top of the list – above more urban states such as New York, New Jersey and California. In fact, the Golden State wound up closer to the middle of the list of 50 states and Washington, D.C. At an annual cost of $2,237, California motorists are laying out just slightly more than the $2,223 national average, according to the Bankrate study.


The Most Expensive – and Cheapest – States to Get Your Car Repaired

Don't break down in New Jersey.

by on Jun.12, 2013

How much does your mechanic charge? It can vary wildly depending upon where you live.

When that “check engine” light come on, there’s a good reason to get worried.  Even if it doesn’t leave you stranded in an unfamiliar part of town after dark it’s likely to take a bite out of your savings, especially as recent studies have indicated automotive repair costs rose by about 10% last year.

That is, of course, an average that varied significantly by region. Indeed, Vermont actually saw repair costs decline last year, according to a new study by automotive service site CarMD, making it America’s  most affordable place to take your car in.  At the other extreme was New Jersey where the typical visit to a service shop cost almost 50% more than in Vermont.

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Traditionally, the West Coast is the place where repairs have been most expensive.  But in its latest annual car-repair cost survey, CarMD found only California among the Top Five, the rest of those spots filled by states along the Eastern Seaboard, including not only NJ but North Carolina, Maryland and the District of Columbia.

Indeed, repairs in the Northeast rose 11.6% in 2012, faster than the rest of the country, according to a study of 161,000 repairs.


VW “Service Action” Meant to Keep Gas Out of Diesel Cars

A potentially costly mistake.

by on May.22, 2013

VW hopes to make it impossible to accidentally fill a TDI with gas instead of diesel.

It’s the sort of problem that can plague anyone – even President Barack Obama, whose limousine broke down during a visit to Israel earlier this year.

It turned out that someone inadvertently filled up the tank of the armored Cadillac sedan – nicknamed “The Beast” – with diesel instead of gasoline.  The two fuels don’t mix and that simply mistake can prove a costly one.

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The problem occurs frequently and all over the world. A recent study found that British police run up nearly $2 million in repair bills each year pumping the wrong fuel into their cruisers.


It’s Spring Car Maintenance Season – But Expect to Pay More This Year

Service, repair costs fast on rise, according to new survey.

by on Apr.10, 2013

Your mechanic may be smiling because he's charging more after a six-year decline in maintenance and repair costs.

If your calendar app hasn’t reminded you, it’s National Car Care Month. Now, Americans have a day, week or month to celebrate just about everything from artichokes to kazoos, but after a long winter’s abuse, this is probably something most motorists should take seriously.

A bit of preventative care can head off some much more serious repair bills later on. And the bad news is that after benefiting from an unusual, six-year reduction in automotive parts and labor costs, a new study suggests that your service and repair bills are fast on the rise again.

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They rose an average of about 10% last year, reports auto service website But the study does have a bright side – at least for the small cadre of hybrid vehicle owners. It found that the cost for fixing those vehicles actually dipped a bit as they became more commonplace.


Wyoming Has Highest Auto Repair Costs

An ounce of prevention.

by on Jun.26, 2012

Repair costs vary widely, not only by brand but also by location, according to a new study.

We all know that it can rapidly drain your wallet getting repairs done on some of the more exotic imports, but even for mainstream brands repair costs can quickly add up if you’re out of warranty.  And a new study suggests that no matter what product you own costs will vary widely depending upon where you live.

Somewhat surprisingly, though, it’s not New York or California that top the list, according to a new survey by auto repair website CarMD.  A study based on 163,000 repairs made by ASE-certified technicians found that Wyoming motorists paid the highest cost in the country for repairs triggered by that dreaded dashboard “Check Engine” warning light.

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On average, repairs averaged $389.18 for Wyoming residents, about 17% more than the national average.  By comparison, the lowest-cost shops were located in Indiana, where repairs for the same work came in at about $100 less – an average $283.95.

Curiously, nine of the 10 most expensive states were located out West, according to CarMD, the exception being tenth-ranked New Jersey.


Lexus, Mini Top Brands for Customer Satisfaction with Dealer Service

Study finds dealers ranked above independent service shops.

by on Mar.14, 2012

Lexus topped the J.D. Power Customer Service chart for a fourth consecutive year.

For the fourth year in a row, Lexus has topped the charts as the brand delivering the highest level of customer satisfaction when it comes to dealer service.  Among mainstream brands, Mini led the list for the second consecutive year, according to a new study by J.D. Power and Associates.

The annual Customer Service Index, or CSI, found that overall satisfaction with dealer service has improved substantially over the last year, perhaps reflecting efforts by automakers to build brand loyalty.  Significantly, survey respondents revealed they are generally more pleased with the service they get at the dealer than with work done by independent repair shops.

“Steady improvements in vehicle quality, longer intervals between recommended service visits and a higher mix of maintenance service events have had a positive effect on overall dealer service satisfaction,” said Chris Sutton, senior director at J.D. Power and Associates.

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“Moreover,” Sutton added, “manufacturers and their dealers have instituted broad-based customer service improvement initiatives to increase satisfaction with both the purchase experience and after-sales service, with the understanding that a substandard service occasion can and will impact their ability to make a future vehicle sale or gain repeat service business.”


12 Tips for Prepping Your Car for Summer

A few simple steps can save you fuel, reduce repairs and improve performance.

by on May.02, 2011

Some simple steps can prevent this.

If $4 gas hasn’t scared you off on plans for a summer vacation, you may already be getting out the map – or plugging your destination into the navigation computer.

But laying out a good route is only one of the steps you need to take when warm weather approaches, whether you’re planning a cross-country drive or simply expecting to continue your daily commute.

The buds and flowers are only one of the signs that summer is coming up fast.  If you’re not prepared, you could personally experience another familiar, if far less enjoyable, sign of warm weather – the cars stuck on the side of the road, fan belts busted or radiators boiling over.

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Last year, AAA recorded about 9.3 million service calls during the summer, nearly 500,000 of them just during the Memorial Day holiday.

The numbers are all the more likely to increase as the nation’s automotive fleet continues to age.  People are also holding onto the family chariot longer than ever — the average ownership of a new car now a record 64 months, according to industry data, a 14% increase since 2001, while used car ownership has risen to 52 months, also a record high.  So, even though today’s vehicles are more reliable than ever, they need to be well-maintained to run properly.


Keeping Collision Repairs as Painless as Possible

Putting a dent in America’s $40 bil annual accident repair bill.

by on Mar.22, 2011

Americans spend $40 bil annually on collision repairs.

Whether it’s the result of a parking lot ding, a freeway fender bender or something more serious, almost every driver will eventually wind up needing to find an auto collision shop.

That adds up to a nationwide bill of around $40 billion a year, according to repair industry estimates.  Yet, short of doing the work yourself there are ways to cut the cost of your personal collision work.

Five simple steps can put a dent in your bills, said President Shane Evangelist, “add(ing) up to potentially huge cost savings for car owners, whether they are DIYing or going to the repair shop.”

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First, shop around for the best repair shop and make sure to check the labor rates they’ve posted.  Evangelist noted that most service shops actually post two different rates, one for mechanical rates, like tune-ups or a brake repair, the other for collision work.  The good news is that collision repair rates are usually lower.

And once the work is done, check your bill carefully to ensure you weren’t over-charged.


Has Your Car Been Recalled?

Ignore recalls at your own peril. Remember to check for TSBs.

by on Feb.26, 2010

Don't ignore a recall notice. The fix can often be quick and easy -- while the price of ignoring a potential safety defect could be steep.

The seemingly daily coverage of Toyota’s safety problems has put a focus on the issue of recalls.  Since the beginning of the year, the Japanese maker has announced safety campaigns to handle a variety of problems, from sticky accelerator pedals to malfunctioning Prius brakes.

But while the spotlight may be shining on the world’s largest maker, it’s by no means alone.  In recent weeks, a variety of manufacturers have announced recalls designed to address vehicle flaws, some minor, some quite significant.  They can involve faulty tires, malfunctioning windshield wipers or even misfiring airbags, the latter issue involving more than 300,000 Dodge and Chrysler minivans.

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There are a variety of ways for a maker to act when it uncovers a potential problem, and while we don’t have the space to go into the arcana of federal safety regulations, it’s wise to take it seriously if a recall notice lands in your mailbox. Surprisingly, concedes Bob Carter, general manager of the Toyota brand, a “significant number” of owners will postpone repairs or skip them all together.