About four months ago, my car started to make a very bad noise. After checking to make sure I hadn’t run over a few rubber cones or a giant stick, I took it to the shop. I left with a large repair bill. My husband also recently got walloped with a big repair bill. I wish we’d known about RepairPal.com at the time. It might have saved us a few bucks on his repair. I’m glad to know my repair was at the low end of the price range.
The Old Way to Compare Car Repair Estimates
When they first told me that I needed to replace my wheel hub bearings at a cost of $831, I was hesitant. Although it seemed like a reasonable repair — the car did have 115,000 miles on it — that was a lot of money to spend. So instead I decided to think about it. If I was being really careful, I would have followed these steps to make sure it was necessary and fairly priced:
1. Go online to research the repair. I found that this repair is fairly common with high-mileage cars.
2. Call a dealer to request a price. Toyota wanted $1260.
3. Take it to a different shop for a second opinion. Toyota wanted $100 just to look at it. I was also pressed for time, and didn’t want to spend another day at the shop. I’ve been going to my shop for years and they’ve never scammed me, so I let them do the repair.
4. Hope you got a fair price. According to RepairPal, I paid slightly less than the lowest average price.
Repair Pal: The New Way to Compare Estimates
Thanks to Consumerist.com, I now know about RepairPal.com. It’s a fast and easy way to compare estimates. You’ll still have to do some online legwork or visit another mechanic if the repair itself sounds fishy, but this new site makes it easy to see if you’re being gouged for common repairs. Prices are based on your location and they ask specific questions to make sure you’re being given accurate information for your specific car.
First, you enter your car’s make. The dropdown boxes change as you answer various questions. These are the questions it asked for my car:
To select the repair, it brings up a dialog box that lists the common repairs. Just click the one you want.
The next screen shows your car, a list of local repair centers, and a range of prices from dealers and independent mechanics. It also explains what the repair involves.
For some cars, they also list the known problems with the car. My husband’s car is newer, and didn’t have known issues listed. My car doesn’t have very many, which makes me happy.
Other RepairPal Features
I haven’t tried them yet, but the site also offers a few other cool features. You can track the repairs you’ve had on your car. No more sorting through piles of receipts trying to figure out the last time the timing belt was replaced! You can also look through an encyclopedia of car repair advice to learn more about common issues and repairs.
If you want to ask a more specific question, they charge $9 to receive an answer from a certified mechanic. I’m not sure I’d use that one because it’s hard to diagnose a car problem over email, but they could probably tell you whether a certain repair is recommended for a specific problem.
The site also helps you find local shops. Most of the shops I saw don’t currently have ratings, but it’s relatively new. In time I think you’ll be able to go by the user ratings.
I have this page bookmarked for my future car repair estimates! Even though my shop is honest and my repair was actually cheaper than the average, it never hurts to check.