The worst has happened. In the midst of your busy schedule – work, appointments, events, etc. – your vehicle has started making a terrible noise or may have stopped running altogether. You know what this means. Another inconvenient trip to the mechanic and an unexpected expense to match.

Most people are filled with anxiety and stress when they reach this moment. They are full of questions. Where should I take my car? Am I getting the best price? Are they really fixing what’s wrong, or will I be back here in a week? All of these questions are normal, and usually stem from the same root question: Am I getting the solution that is best for me?

Good service goes beyond simply fixing what’s wrong with your car. Good service should take into consideration the full picture – the overall condition of your vehicle, how long you plan on keeping this vehicle, and what can be done to keep you on the road and out of the repair shop. The next time you are in need of a major service on your vehicle, start by asking yourself the following questions to understand what constitutes good service for you.

How Long Do You Intend to Keep This Vehicle?

Depending on how long you plan on keeping your vehicle, a major service may not be worth paying to fix. If you were planning on keeping your vehicle for foreseeable future, then you should definitely consider investing in the repair. However, if you were planning on purchasing a newer vehicle in the next year, you should ask yourself if it is worth spending the money on a vehicle that you were already preparing to sell or trade in. In this situation, you should first consider if not having the repair with negative impact your ability to sell your vehicle. If not, then you should consider how the cost of the service compares to the amount of money you will receive for the car with or without the repair. If the cost of the service is more than the amount of money you would gain with the repair, it is probably not worth the investment.

Is Your Vehicle Worth the Investment of a Repair?

When determining the worth of your current vehicle, you have to consider both its current monetary or market value and the cost of present and future maintenance and repairs. There is an easy way to determine this. Before any major service or repair you should request to have your vehicle thoroughly inspected for other issues and maintenance that may be present or needed in the near future. Once the have completed this inspection, request a copy of the inspection report. This report can help you to compare the expected expense of your current vehicle against the cost of purchasing a replacement vehicle and to decide whether your car is worth your continued investment.

Does Your Service Estimate Include the Complete Service?

Lastly, you should review whether the service estimate you received is complete? This means the estimate should include the cost for fixing the complete service, and not just the worn or failed part. This is an important distinction because this will determine whether you are receiving an accurate cost estimate and if you will be back in the shop sooner than you hoped because one of the related components has now also failed.

A common example would be a timing belt service. Most vehicles need a timing belt service when they approach 100,000 miles (or as often as every 30,000-60,000 miles depending on the vehicle model). When it is time for a timing belt service, you may receive an estimate to replace the worn timing belt or you may receive an estimate for the complete service – including the timing belt, the belt tensioner, associated pulleys, gaskets, seals, and usually the water pump that is driven by the belt. We have seen many invoices for just the timing belt being replaced by repair facilities only to have the water pump or the belt tensioner to fail shortly after the service. When this happens, it means another costly service and the replacement of parts that were just recently removed and could have been easily replaced as minimal or no additional labor. Instead these worn parts were reinstalled only to fail shortly after.

When complete services are explained like the above example of the timing belt, it seems like common sense to only quote for the complete service. However, some shops will only quote you the cost to replace the worn or failed part in order to appear that they have the lowest price. If you are lucky, after they get the job, they will call to offer the items for the complete service – or worse, they will proceed to replace only the failed part and ignore the other components that can lead to a catastrophic failure. (For more information about the importance of timing belt replacement, give us a call.)

When choosing your repair facility, make sure the facility has an advisor that takes the time to explain in depth the services performed and to answer any questions you may have about the services and how they benefit both you and your vehicle. Finally, ensure that the facility offers a nationwide warranty to stand behind the quality of their service.