How Can Technology Help You Reduce Car Repair Costs?

If the thought of an unexpected car repair makes your stomach sink, you're not alone -- the prospect of having to diagnose and pay for potentially expensive vehicle repairs can keep many auto owners locked into a pricey lease or extended warranty. However, as technology (including vehicle technology) continues to advance, auto owners are presented with more options than ever before to shop around for repair costs or even perform their own diagnostics. Read on to learn more about some tech-savvy ways to keep your car repair costs as low as possible.

Electronic diagnostics

Although "code reader" devices have been available for decades, they were often so expensive that they were cost-prohibitive for anyone but dealerships and large repair shops to own. These code readers are designed to read electronic error messages put off by your vehicle's computer and can help pinpoint specific problems with your engine, transmission, or emission systems. For example, an illuminated Check Engine light (CEL) could indicate any number of problems -- but a code reader can let you know whether this is due to a faulty O2 sensor or a more serious issue. 

These devices have been greatly improved over the last few years, being made smaller, more efficient, and able to provide more information. Along with these improvements has come a reduction in price, so that many smaller dealers and auto supply stores now have one or more code readers available. In many cases, you'll be able to receive a diagnostic check at an auto supply store at no cost to you (in the hope that you'll stay at the store to purchase any parts necessary for repair). Taking advantage of this available technology can help take some of the mystery out of your vehicle's potential problem and allow you to research repair options before making a final decision.

Smartphone apps

Perhaps one of the most underrated tools in the auto repair industry is the smartphone. Because today's phones have the technology to act as a compass, GPS, and motion detector, they are uniquely suited to detect issues with your vehicle's performance, as well as to help you find the best repair options.

  • Price checking apps

If you've ever been involved in an accident, you may have been required to get multiple repair estimates before your insurance company would pay to fix your vehicle. This process can be time-consuming and frustrating, and even after getting several estimates, you may not have truly known whether the final repair cost was the best you could do.

There are now several apps that will provide you with an average local cost for all types of vehicle repairs, giving you a good frame of reference for any in-person estimates you get from a dealership or repair shop. You may even be able to use these costs as a negotiating tactic, persuading your preferred shop to lower its prices to be more competitive with your other options.

As the saying goes, "an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure" -- and this holds very true when it comes to automotive repairs. By adhering to your vehicle's recommended maintenance schedule, you'll be able to avoid issues caused by debris in your oil or transmission fluid, a clogged air filter, or badly aligned tires. An app can help you with that, by providing you with regular maintenance reminders based on your specific vehicle's make, model, and miles driven. (Thanks to your phone's built-in GPS, your phone will know exactly how many miles you've gone since your last oil change or alignment, as well as the number of miles per gallon you've averaged.)