KRISTIN ARNOLD: Wondering if you really need that oil pump replaced or think you can get a better deal on a timing belt? Instead of driving your car to multiple mechanics for a second or third opinion, cruise the web instead.
Just type in "automotive repair estimates" into a search engine and you will find a list of websites that provide ballpark estimates for specific car repairs.
These sites provide zip code-specific estimates of almost every repair cost on virtually any car model in the last 20 years. The sites give a list of repair shops in any given area and a way to ask qualified mechanics a specific question about your car.
Vincent David, Service Writer, Bob Davis Auto Repair
VINCENT DAVIS: "They do update their page; they make sure all their hours are right and the address is good and have customer reviews. It does keep them honest because they are on the Internet, they know what's out there and we're not just a fly-by-night repair facility and this is 2011 and we need to know what's going on."
KRISTIN ARNOLD: Some individual websites, like RepairPal.com, will give you a range of estimated car-repair costs, factoring in the difference in the cost of original manufacturer parts and less expensive aftermarket parts. The estimate also reflects how much the repair would cost at a dealership versus an independent shop.
AutoMD.com gives an estimated lowest do-it-yourself price, along with the lowest shop price.
The sluggish economy, coupled with greater access to online repair information is making car owners feel smarter about auto repairs and more likely to attempt vehicle repairs themselves.
To learn more, just log onto Bankrate.com ... and click on the auto tab. I'm Kristin Arnold.
Copyright 2011, Bankrate Inc.