Car maintenance is expensive. There’s the price of the parts, the cost of labor, and not to mention the fact that you often have to take precious time out of your day to take the car into the garage and have the repairs done. According to Canstar Blue, in 2015 the average car service costs around $380 dollars. Mind you, that’s everything from a simple oil change to a serious and often wildly expensive engine overhaul. Still, even menial repairs can add up. Those jobs can end up costing you a lot of money.

One way to pay less in car maintenance costs is to do the work yourself. However, there’s a lot of issues that come with DIY car maintenance. First off, you have to know what you’re doing. Secondly, you have to have the tools to do it. Finally, you still have to buy parts. Also, you have to make time in the day to do it. With all that in mind, we found ourselves asking if doing your own car maintenance was really worth it. Here’s a detailed look at this issue.

You Can Save a Lot of Money

car repair

When you take your car into the mechanic’s shop you’re going to pay the price of the parts and the cost of labor. In most cases, if you really shop around, you can find the parts cheaper than what the shop is going to charge you for them. While most mechanic shops aren’t going to upcharge you much, they do have to order the parts and deal with them, so they’re going to add some extra money to the price that they paid. This means you could save money on parts if you order them and do the work yourself.

While parts can be expensive, when you pay a mechanic to do your car’s maintenance, what you really end up paying for is labor. Mechanics make their money on charging high labor fees. You’re paying them because they have the tools and know-how to get the job done quickly, efficiently, and correctly. Still, many car repairs and maintenance tasks require little actual car knowledge and only a few simple tools. This means you can do them yourself and save a ton by not paying for labor.

According to AAA, automotive mechanic labor fees vary greatly depending on state and facility. Some charge as low as $47 and others as high as $215. This is often calculated on the shop’s cost of doing business. When you do the work yourself, don’t pay this money. That means you can save a lot. To determine how much, simply call a mechanic and get a quote for the repair job. If he says it’ll take him three hours of work at $65 dollars an hour, you know you’re going to save $195 by doing it yourself. That’s just on one job, too.

You Have to Think About the Cost of Your Time

car diy

While it might sound great to save a couple hundred bucks every time there’s something wrong with your car, you also have to think about your own time. It might only take a mechanic three hours to do a job, but that mechanic is a qualified professional. You, on the other hand, are likely a novice at best. This means that three-hour job could take you six hours.

Do you have six hours to burn? Can you spend a few hours one day and then get to work without your car and finish up the job the next? That’s likely what would happen. In many cases, after people factor in the amount of time it would take them to get the job done, they decide it’s worth it to pay the professional. There’s no shame in this, but there’s something to be said for taking the time to do the work yourself. You just have to ask yourself how much your time is worth, and if you have better things to do.

You Have to Know What You’re Doing

car maintenance

Even if you want to do the job yourself, you have to know how to do it. There are detailed books out there that show you everything you need to know about specific jobs. If you’re unsure and committed to the idea of doing the work yourself, we highly recommend getting one. Chilton has made automotive repair manuals for decades, and if you plan on doing much car repair on your own getting a manual for your specific car is worth it.

Also, there are plenty of DIY videos and resources online. However, before you jump on the web, you need to make sure that the car being worked on in the video is the same as yours. The last thing you want to do is start working on a car while using a video as a guide and then realize that the car in the video is different than yours.

If you can’t find a resource to walk you through the process step by step, we suggest taking your car to a mechanic, especially if it’s a big job. If you get your car apart and can’t get it back together you’re going to be in big trouble. At that point, you’ll be kicking yourself that you didn’t just take it to a mechanic in the first place.

You Must Have the Right Tools

car repair

Tools are expensive. Mechanics have all the tools to get the job done. You probably don’t. While buying a socket wrench set is a good investment, buying an expensive tool that you’re going to use once or twice isn’t. If the job calls for a special tool that comes with a high price tag, take your car to a mechanic. They will have to tool already and know how to use it properly. 

With a good set of socket wrenches, clamps, pliers, and screwdrivers, you can do most basic maintenance tasks on your car. For this reason, we suggest getting a small toolbox with at least these items. This will enable you to do things like oil changes, battery changes, fuse changes, install new brake pads and put in new spark plugs. Additional tools may be needed for some jobs, but you can buy automotive toolbox kits already put together online. These should give you everything you need for basic maintenance tasks. 


car maintenance diy

The bottom line is that doing maintenance yourself can save you a lot of money, especially over the long haul. However, you have to invest in some tools and the proper informational material in order to be able to do that maintenance yourself. If that doesn’t sound like something you want to do, then you should just take your car into the shop.

The mechanic shop will charge you a lot of money, but with that higher price should come the peace of mind that a qualified mechanic completed the job and your car will be able to roll on for many more miles to come.