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How to Navigate Expensive Car Repair Bills
(StatePoint) If you’re like many Americans, your car is your lifeline. When it’s in need of repair, being able to cough up the cash to keep it running is critical.
A new survey finds that U.S. consumers spent an average of nearly $2,000 on vehicle repairs and maintenance in the last five years, with millennials and generation Z being hardest hit by the costs. The 2019 Ally Financial survey, conducted online by The Harris Poll, found that while adults 55 and older spent $1,654 on average for vehicle maintenance and repairs in the past five years, millennials and generation Z paid an average of $2,334 during the same timeframe.
Ally’s survey results come on the heels of research from the Federal Reserve, which found that nearly four in 10 adults would not be able to cover unexpected expenses of $400 without selling something or going into debt.
If you’re concerned about the cost of a surprise car repair leaving you running on empty, consider these tips from Ally Financial.
An emergency savings fund can prepare you for unexpected car repair bills. Another recent Ally survey found that two-thirds of 18- to 24-year-olds haven’t established any type of emergency savings fund, compared to approximately half of all other adults. Over time, setting aside even $10 each month can potentially protect you against having to borrow or incur debt.
A vehicle service contract (VSC), similar to an extended warranty, is a protection plan that covers vehicle repairs costs outside of the manufacturer’s warranty, and may be easier to budget for than a large unexpected bill from the mechanic’s shop. Unfortunately, many people aren’t taking advantage of VSCs. The Ally survey found that only 21 percent of Americans have purchased one in the last five years.
Before committing to a particular service contract, shop around to ensure that you’re working with a reputable company that offers services at locations convenient for you. Also look into additional benefits. For example, Ally’s FlexCoverage includes 24/7 roadside assistance, towing, trip interruption protection, (e.g. reimbursement for room and board if your car troubles require an overnight stay) or rental car reimbursement. While these reimbursements are usually capped at a certain dollar amount, they can alleviate some of the burden
Maintenance issues that go unattended can lead to heftier repair bills down the road. Schedule timely oil changes, brake pad replacements and tire rotation, and mark your calendar to check fluid levels like coolant and windshield washer fluid. If flashing lights appear on your dashboard, check your owner’s manual and contact your dealer or mechanic to see what the problem could be.
“Unfortunately, too many Americans are just one repair bill away from being forced to make tough financial decisions,” says Mark Manzo, president of Insurance at Ally Financial. “But proactive strategies can offer peace of mind and protect your wallet.”
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