Find a Mechanic You Can Trust
First things first, find a mechanic you can trust. This means ones that won't try and get you to buy things when you don't need them, that know your car well and can do the best work, and that are understanding and helpful when it comes to large expenses. The best way you can find one is on Yelp.
The #1 thing you need to do is do your research! The internet is great. One of the most helpful aspects is being able to read reviews. Your best bet in finding a good mechanic is to see what others have to say about them and the experiences they have had there! Not only was I able to find a mechanic who only works on Toyotas (so I know they know what they are doing on my car) but that have great reviews! People have nothing but good things to say about their work, their customer service, and most important their prices!
Do Your Research
Yeah I already said that. But even after you have a mechanic, when they hit you with a huge repair that's needed. Stop, take a moment, and go to the internet. There are so many sites out there dedicated to every car that go into details and give helpful information about what to do.
- Mechanics may not know all the specifics about your car, they work on many different kinds of cars so they might not know the best route to take (especially when it comes to hybrids or electrics which are so different and still relatively new)
- You can often get parts cheaper yourself or brands that are better suited for your needs (see my posts How I Save a Lot of Money on Some Huge Car Repairs and The Prius Auxiliary Battery Saver)
- If you want to, there are instructionals on how to do repairs yourself which save a ton in labor costs. (There are many little things you can do that are easy like changing filters)
Go With Used Parts
When you can, get a used part. Again, do your research to know if it's a good idea first. But a used part doesn't mean they're taking it from an old run down car. Often times, you can get parts off newer versions of your car. A brand new car can get in an accident and be deemed too expensive to fix but still have very usable parts on them untouched by the accident. Why let them go to waste?!
How do you find the parts? Well ask your mechanic, they can probably find it for you. But sometimes it can be even cheaper if you do it. Just type your part in online and there should be many options that come up. You can also check ebay. Many private individuals sell parts or companies with a large stock. Many give warranties as well which is always a good sign. (Make sure you read reviews to see that their a trusted seller!)
If It's Routine, Go With a Chain
If it's a routine replacement like brakes or tires, check online for discounts through major chains like Meineke and Midas. Because they are so large, they can offer huge promotional discounts like buy 3 tires get the 4th free and they also have credit cards which can give you a discount plus some time to pay things off. I don't trust them for anything other than these routine and simple replacements like I do a local mechanic, but it's worth it for these things. Just make sure they don't try and get you to replace other things that aren't needed!
Ask For a Discount
If this is your only mode of transportation, make sure the mechanics know that. Often they will offer to get a rental car for you, a discount on rental cars, or a deduction off your costs (I got $200 off my bill!).
Is it taking much longer than expected? Ask for a discount.
There could be many reasons.
I hope these help. They can save you thousands, trust me!