Making your car last longer: dealership, independent mechanic or do-it-yourself?

TORONTO — The microchip shortage facing the auto industry has lead to a spike in the price of both new and used cars and the issue may not be resolved for another year or two.

So if you already have a vehicle and you’re trying to keep it on the road a little longer, what is the best way to save money on repairs?

When your car breaks down, you have the option of going to a dealership, an independent shop or trying to tackle the problem yourself.

The experts say it really all depends on how handy you are and the kind of repair your car needs.

When it comes to keeping his classic car in top shape and road ready, Ian Karr says it’s all about proper maintenance.

“Classic cars are like classic people. The older we get the more maintenance we need. The nice thing about classic cars is that maintenance is fun. Maybe even more fun than working out and the stuff you need to do for yourself,” said Karr.

Of course, even modern vehicles need proper maintenance and the occasional repair and while many people feel married to one mechanic for the life of their car, it can be a good idea to strategize the best repair option for each job.

According to Consumer Reports, if your vehicle is still under warranty you should always take it to the dealer for a covered repair, because the dealer will have the most up-to-date tools and training.

“You should always bring your car to a dealer for recall work and any issue with the safety systems, including airbag and seatbelt repair. This is because of the ever-increasing complexity of the hardware and software,” said Ryan Pszczolkowski, auto expert with Consumer Reports.

A dealer should also tackle anything to do with the infotainment system.

However, for less complex repairs like brakes, suspension, spark plugs, and even an alternator you can save some money by going to an independent mechanic.

That’s because independent shops usually have a lower labour rate and can keep costs down by using aftermarket parts.

If you’re not afraid to roll up your sleeves you can save even more.

“Some repairs are really easy to do: changing out air filters, wiper blades, even headlights! The parts are inexpensive and readily available,” said Pszczolkowski.

“With a car, it’s basically: you got it right, or you didn’t. The headlight goes on, or it doesn’t go on. How many things in life are that black and white? And you get the bonus of saving money at the same time,” said Karr.

When it comes to getting oil changes, especially if your car is under warranty, Consumer Reports recommends going to the dealership. It might be more expensive than an oil change shop, but it can be worth it for the higher quality oil and filter specific to your vehicle.       

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