How to Pay for Emergency Car Repairs
Beyond typical automotive expenses like gas, insurance and monthly payments, unexpected car repairs can take a toll on your budget. According to recent data published by Consumer Reports, the average car repair and maintenance costs are roughly $205 out-of-pocket per year for a 5-year-old model and $430 out-of-pocket per year for a 10-year-old model, once free maintenance periods and warranties have ended.1
Though car insurance is a necessity for drivers, car repairs and maintenance costs typically fall outside of the covered expenses in most insurance plans. If your car requires urgent repairs, here are several ways to help cover the bill and ease the burden on your wallet.
1. Compare Quotes
When you take your car into an auto shop, a mechanic typically reviews the damage and provides an estimated report and price of any necessary repairs. Though it might not be possible in all situations, you may want to get a second opinion and/or secure additional repair quotes from other automotive shops in your area.
Not all mechanics charge the same prices for their services or parts, and some may even help you decide whether or not your car repairs are urgent. For example, cosmetic and/or superficial damage is generally not as dire as a mechanical or engine-related issue. Before you agree to use a particular car repair shop or service, shopping around for a better price may help you reduce costs and make the necessary repairs easier to afford.
2. Use Your Emergency Fund
If you have an emergency fund, using it to help pay for car expenses can be a good route. Though you may not have enough funds to cover the entire cost for your repairs, it’s often a good idea to dip into any saved funds before financing the rest of the repair bill. If necessary, you can always supplement any leftover balance with another financing option.
3. Take Out a Personal Loan
A personal loan is another option to help pay for emergency car bills if your emergency fund is low. You can apply for a personal loan at banks, credit unions and alternative sources like online lenders. Keep in mind that some creditors have a longer application and/or review process. If you need money more urgently to pay for repairs, you can access cash quickly with an online loan, if approved. However, there may be fees and/or interest associated with personal loans. Make sure that you review your loan contract before signing, and if your contract and budget allows, you may want to pay more than the minimum payment due each month on your loan to help you save money on interest and/or fees over time.
4. Consider a Credit Card
Using a credit card is another possibility to help you pay for emergency car repairs. If you have an existing credit card, you may want to plan out how long it will take to realistically repay your car repair payments each month. If it works for your budget, paying more than the minimum amount due each month can help you save money on interest over time.
5. Ask About a Payment Plan
While not all auto shops may accept a payment plan, some mechanics work with financial establishments that offer bill payment plans to help get your car back on the road. However, these expense plans usually come with a fee and/or interest rate for access to funds. Make sure that you review all the fine details of your contract before signing a car repair payment plan.
Don’t Neglect Routine Maintenance
Though it won’t help with existing damage to your car, performing routine maintenance on your car can help keep it running smoothly longer. It may even help you mitigate or avoid major damage to your vehicle down the line. For best results, follow your car manufacturer’s suggested maintenance schedule or talk with a trusted car mechanic for help and advice on maintaining your car. If you’re comfortable handling periodic routine checkups yourself, this handy car maintenance checklist can help keep your car running smoothly for less.
1Bartlett, J.S. (2021). The Cost of Car Ownership Over Time.