When DIY Car Repair Costs More
There are two reasons people take on do-it-yourself projects: 1) The person is crafty, handy, or otherwise skilled, and/or 2) The person is looking to save money.
If you fall exclusively into the "saving money" category, you probably realized long ago that DIY anything often takes a lot more time and effort than it is sometimes worth. But did you also know that DIY sometimes actually costs more money? (See also: Like DIY? Avoid These 10 Costly Mistakes)
For instance, consider basic car repair. Dealnews recently wrote Save on Car Maintenance With These 5 DIY Tips. Specifically, the article advises that you repair and replace your own windshield wiper blades, fuses, air filter, car battery, oil, and oil filter. But if the only reason you are doing these things yourself is to save money, you may be spending more money than you otherwise would.
Recently, my cousin who is a mechanic, performed some maintenance on my car and I got the chance to help with a few of these "DIY" tasks. I can attest that these tasks may actually cost you more than if you had had the work performed by a professional. (My cousin also did a lot of much more skilled work, which, on the whole, saved us roughly $800.) Check out my three cost comparisons below.
Several of my local car repair shops either have daily specials (if you come in between certain hours) or they frequently mail coupons for $19.99 oil changes. If you want synthetic oil you'll pay about $20 more. So how much does it cost if you do it yourself? At our local Target store the cost is about $5.50 per quart of regular oil and about $7.50 per quart of synthetic oil. My Mitsubishi Galant (a standard 4-door sedan) takes 5 quarts of oil. Add an additional $5-8 for an oil filter and suddenly the cost is over $30 — nearly $10 more than I would have paid had I brought it to a shop.
I paid $10.99/windshield wiper for a total of $20 (plus tax) for my Galant. Unfortunately, one of the wipers was faulty which will require an extra trip back to the store — where they will hopefully exchange my wiper. (I've already trashed the packaging.) If not, I'll have paid $30. Yet, last month on our other car (an Accord), we used a Groupon for a tire rotation, oil change, new wiper blades, and system check for only $34. Had I purchased two of the Groupons, I would have spent $6 less than I did doing the car repair myself.
I didn't need a new battery this maintenance-go-round, but my cousin quoted me the price and it was only $15 cheaper than the price of the battery I had installed last winter. Call around and get price quotes as some of the companies can buy in bulk at a much better rate than you will ever get yourself. And if you do the battery replacement yourself, you risk temporarily losing access to your radio until you place a 30-minute call to the dealer to find out your radio code (I speak from experience about the radio code issue).
Big Caveat: There will always be DIY car repair that will save you money. For example, the handle to my glove compartment recently broke. The repair shop was going to have to order a $256 new part and also charge $40 in labor; but they advised me of a site called car-parts.com where I could likely find the part for cheaper. For $32, including shipping, I got an entire used glove box and installed it myself in less than 20 minutes.
There are times when DIY saves you money, but, like all projects, ensure that you actually run the cost comparisons instead of assuming DIY always means cheaper services.
Have you ever done car repair yourself? Did you actually save money?