Can I save money doing work on my own car?
It is possible to save a lot of money doing work on your own car. But, you need to work out the real cost benefit. Important considerations follow:
- Can you complete the work effectively and finish the task. (There is nothing worse than getting yourself into something you can’t complete. Finding out you need some specialised tool or knowledge half way through a job can be a real problem. Make sure you don’t take on a task that leaves you out of your depth.)
- Have I factored my own time cost and weighed that against getting a professional to do the job? (Sometimes it is easy to forget that your time is money too. Make sure that you consider this. If you are a trade person and are not earning money or attending to your business when you are repairing your vehicle, the added cost of your time may make the job marginal. The other thing is that a professional will often do the job in a fraction of the time it takes you. They have all the correct tools and facilities and may have done the job 100s of times before.)
- Will the quality of my work be acceptable? (This is particularly important in many areas of car repair. A half done job, or a botched job can be a real problem in some cases. Shoddy panel work makes a vehicle look rough and loses you resale value. A poorly fitted propellor shaft bearing is potentially deadly. Make sure only to take on the jobs that will not leave you regretting it.)
If you are handy with tools, have the equipment, facilities and have done tasks like the one you are taking on before, then there can be a great deal of satisfaction in doing some of your own vehicle repairs. The savings can also be significant especially if you know a little about how to source the parts at the right prices.
Can I buy at trade prices if I do my own vehicle repair work?
This can mean the difference between a job that saves you money and one that is a liability. If you know what you are doing buying your parts then the advantages can be on your side. There are many wholesale suppliers of parts that also sell to retail, they will be happy to sell the part to you at a good price if you know how to ask the right questions. You need to know what to expect to pay as a proportion of list price for the part category you are looking at. If you know this information you may be able to get a discount. Knowing when an OEM part is a must, when you may be likely to find a OEM Offshore or import part or when a re-useable or exchange part is perfectly acceptable is often where the discount opportunity is hiding. You can even buy lots of great parts on eBay or trading sites at excellent prices. If you are prepared to do the research and open up some contacts you may be surprised how much you can save. If you do your homework and are prepared to negotiate and ask the right questions you should do very well.
Can I BYO part/s?
This is a great question. Let’s say you are wanting to save some money on fitting a replacement engine because your work horse’s one has thrown in the towel. If you can talk to a reputable mechanic prior to giving them the job, many will be happy to fit a motor you supply. In some ways it keeps it simple for the mechanic, all they have to worry about is fitting the new power plant. You are the one that does the leg work, takes responsibility for making sure it is the right engine and is going to be a ‘good’ one. We will offer links on this site for mechanics that are happy to do BYO work. Along with suppliers that will be happy to supply you at great trade prices. When it comes to body work, there is not so much precedent. But in recent times Auto Advantage has become aware of body shops that will take BYO parts. We hope to run a case study along these lines soon, so stay tuned to the blog for an update.
What do I do if I don’t have the right facilities to do the job?
This is a really good question. Having the right facilities and tools is a big part of what it takes to do a job quickly and effectively. If you know a friend that is a mechanic, or one that does a lot of work from home, it may pay to ask. It can happen, that if you hit on the right person they are happy for the company. This tactic can also give you expert advise and an extra set of hands at the crucial time when it is difficult to impossible to complete that fiddly task on your own. Giving them some money or a gift can mean the door is open for the next job too. So the bottom line is, you never know unless you ask. Just make sure that if you use your friends or kindly mechanics tools, you put them back promptly and never treat them in a way they were not intended to be used. Respect is a big thing and if you don’t want to be shown the door or have it slammed in your face the next time do the right thing and leave everything in as good or better condition than you found them. If you catch yourself about to swing the mechanics prize socket like a hammer, give yourself a good slap.
What if I don’t have that one special tool?
This is one that can be easily solved. Let’s say you need a block and tackle or engine lift to do the job. Once again think through your friends that may do their own work or of course the mechanic again. Hiring the lift or block and tackle is straight forward these days. Make sure of a couple of things when you hire specialised equipment. Plan your task and hire time so that you minimise the how long you will have the gear for. Make sure you know how much it will cost. Having hire gear sitting around can add quite a bit to the cost of the job, making the job less than attractive for you to do yourself. Same rules apply when borrowing your friends equipment. Make sure you take it for the minimum amount of time and return it clean and packed up as it should be. One of the worst reputations you can have is for being sloppy, uncaring and a ‘user’ in this area.
Should I offer to do work for a friend?
This is a hard one. You may be pretty good on the tools and be a caring person that loves to help. But it is important to be very careful what you take on. Unless you are a professional and plan to do this for a living, you can find yourself getting in over your head. It is one thing to cause yourself some inconvenience and problems by making a few mistakes that you will learn from. But when it comes to a friend it can all go ‘pear’ shaped very quickly. The best intentions can quickly turn to tears. The main issues are knowing the scope of work needed to fix the problem. Unless you have lots of experience at carefully assessing a job and pricing it, you may find you missed something that makes the whole project much, much more expensive than you at first thought. Your friend or relative may see the estimate as a promise. Often you will also wear the pressure of getting the vehicle back on the road when the job takes more work than was planned. The other issue that can crop up is damage during repair. It can happen that with that one last little turn you snap a bolt or strip a thread. It will always be in the worst possible place.
So, if you are confident of your own ability and are cool under pressure, are great at assessing scope of work, then go for it. Word will soon spread that you have a sort after talent.
How do I avoid getting ripped off when buying my parts?
This is a really good question. Doing some research prior to negotiating the deal can be one of your greatest advantages. Knowing the right questions to ask is a very big thing. If the person you are buying from, feels like you ‘know your stuff’, then they are going to be less likely to try one on. So do your research first. Here are a few tips:
- Do your homework and check what the part is worth generally in each of the categories.
- Know if the part is rare or in over supply. (Negotiating position is on your side if you know the part is available, exchange, second hand and new in multiples.)
- Deal with reputable suppliers. If you are buying on eBay, look for the number of good reviews and products that are supplied by the vendor. If it is a shop front supplier, make sure that they have a good reputation. Understand the return and warranty terms of the product exactly. Knowing what happens when the product does not work is a big one. A reputable supplier will not leave you in the lurch if they sold you a problem part.
- Make absolutely certain the part you are buying is the right one. This is a big source for disputes in the parts industry. If you buy the wrong part, then damage it trying to fit it, you will likely be left holding the bag so to speak. Check, check and double check as a mistake here will likely lead to problems that are going to at the minimum cost you a lot of time, or even cost you the full value of your purchase leaving you with the job still not finished. You can’t really blame the supplier if you made the error and damaged the part. Remember in this case you are probably not being ripped off, you are probably learning a big lesson.
- Ask for a discount. Don’t be frightened to ask for a discount. “Can you do any better on that?” Is a great question. Many sales people will respond well if there is something they can do on price. Don’t ask in an aggressive way. Sales people that deal with a lot of ‘hard noses trade buyers or the public’ have learned to have a thick skin. So ask in the nicest way, knowing that they don’t have to give you any discount. Saying something like, “I can get the part a fair bit cheaper, but you guys are local and I heard you are a good supplier. What can you do?” can go a long way. If you can avoid giving your price, that is probably best. But if you are not skilled at this, then you might get a price match. Don’t make stuff up. Usually the sales guys know exactly what the market price is and what the competition is doing. So don’t bluff with no cards, you will likely be called out. Be genuine, polite and do the research and you will likely get some results.