Dear Driving for Dollars, My car broke down, and the dealership is estimating $2,200 in car repairs. I need my car, but I can't afford that. What can I do? -- Maria
Dear Maria, It's hard to be faced with an unexpected car repair bill and even harder if you have to put it on a high-interest credit card that will take ages to pay off. No matter what your financial situation is, postponing car maintenance is a costly error that you just learned the hard way. Regardless, you need your car and you need it repaired, so your best bet is to get it repaired correctly -- but as cheaply as possible. Unfortunately, the dealership may not be your best choice.
Start by asking the dealership for a detailed estimate on the repairs that need to be done. Then, use a car repair cost estimating site such as AutoMD or RepairPal to see what the car repairs should cost. Next, use the sites or ask local friends for recommendations for independent mechanics whose labor rates should be cheaper to do the job. You also may be able to save money on car repairs by using aftermarket parts, depending on the type of parts you need.
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