When it comes to performing regular maintenance on your car or truck, knowing a few tricks can save you hundreds of dollars.
To demonstrate, we recently priced 30,000-mile/36-month service on a staff member’s 2012 Toyota Prius Hybrid. (For many vehicles, 30,000 miles or 36 months is a common service interval. Some carmakers cover routine maintenance for a standard period, as Toyota does for the first two years or 25,000 miles, whichever comes first. But after that, the car owners pay the cost.) For the work listed in the car’s manual, a Toyota dealership quoted $249. But by the time we were done, we got the job down to just $85, a 66 percent savings. Here’s how we did it.
Never mention mileage-related service. As soon as you tell a repair shop that you want to do a standard 15,000- or 30,000-mile check, you’re asking for a big bill, even if an oil change is all you get. For 30,000-mile maintenance, the car-repair website RepairPal told us to expect to pay $169 to $247.
Narrow the work. Of the 20 procedures Toyota listed for the 30,000-mile check, most are instructions to inspect items, such as fluid levels, gas-cap gasket, and steering gearbox. Much of that a mechanic may not do anyway or you can do yourself. And you should expect shops to do routine inspections at no cost because they’re prospecting for work. Simply ask the shop to look over the vehicle and let you know whether anything needs to be done. Just make sure there’s no charge. (One Toyota dealer actually told us you could save money by forgoing the 30,000-mile check and simply bringing the vehicle in for an oil change and free 25-point inspection.) So we narrowed the maintenance to just three items: oil and oil-filter change, tire rotation, and cabin air-filter replacement.
Shop à la carte. For those three services, RepairPal gave us an expected price range of $113 to $174, much lower than the original range of $169 to $247. And our dealer’s revised price quote dropped to $174, down from $249.