Although the general focus of this web site is on the buying process, the car ownership period can have its own set of pitfalls. The money you save by getting a great deal on the purchase and financing erodes quickly when you find that you are overpaying for necessities such as auto insurance, maintenance and repairs. And, since these expenses are ongoing, their total cost can often approach the initial purchase price of the vehicle! Here are some hints on getting the best value for those items associated with vehicle ownership.
One of the easiest ways of helping to avoid major repair costs is through a regular program of general vehicle maintenance. An early diagnosis of a problem is almost always less expensive than waiting until it is too late. For example, replacing brake pads is a lot cheaper than having to replace both pads and rotors because the low pads have torn into the rotors. Beware, though. As expensive as it may be to under-maintain a car ("pay me now or pay me later"), it can be just as expensive to over-maintain a car. For dealerships and repair shops alike, "maintenance programs" are a BIG profit generator. A $300 maintenance service may have a cost to the service facility of well under half that amount.
One of the largest sources of complaints received by consumer protection agencies involves auto repair. Due to a large degree to vulnerability (you often can't drive a broken vehicle) consumers are exposed to all manners of rip-offs, scams and blatant overcharges. Many news organizations have done exposes of dishonest repair shops and schemes, and a fairly common recommendation is to educate yourself on the types of scams that can befall you. These can include adding repairs that are really not needed, the use of shoddy or substandard parts or simply padding the bill with unnecessary charges.
Even after the initial cost of a vehicle is absorbed, the cost for auto insurance goes on and on. Many car owners simply stick with their current insurance carrier, not realizing that there may be $100, $200, $300 or more in savings to be realized simply by doing a quick comparison.
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