What to Do If You Can’t Afford a Car Repair Bill

by Lynnette Khalfani-Cox, The Money Coach on December 28, 2011

in Family Finances

Car repair


Dealing with car repairs can be frustrating and stressful and you might find that you can’t even afford to pay the full cost of that repair bill.

According to the results of a recent AAA Survey, one quarter of American drivers neglected car repairs because of the economy and could not realistically afford to pay $2,000 to pay their repair bill. One in eight Americans wouldn’t be able to afford a car repair bill of $1,000.

While most people don’t budget for car repairs, it’s still a good idea to set up an emergency savings account that would cover the costs of car-related problems in the near future.

But what do you do when you don’t have that savings account to cover you when the car breaks down?

Here are some options for repairing your car when you can’t actually afford it:

  1. Negotiate with the mechanic.

    Talk to the repair shop about any discounts that might be available, or any payment plans that for which you could apply. Some repair shops also accept credit cards and might be able to set you up on an affordable monthly payment plan instead of expecting a lump sum payment. Do your best to negotiate with the mechanic to create a win-win situation for both parties.

  2. Shop around.

    Unless your car was towed to a repair shop immediately and you had to authorize to get the work done right away, you have some time to shop around for the best rates. Some mechanics will charge by the hour while others will give you an estimate of the work based on the extent of repairs that need to be done. Take some time to request quotes from at least three to four different places and let them know that you’re shopping around. You can make a better decision when you have several options available to you.

    Our new customers report average savings of $522 on car insurance! Click Here!

  3. Barter with someone who’s handy.

    If you couldn’t work out a deal with a car repair shop or find any affordable professional mechanics, maybe you can find someone in your neighborhood who is mechanically inclined and handy with cars. That person may even be a family member or friend. But don’t just ask them to spend a few hours fixing your car for free. Offer instead to provide them with something of value in return for their labor. It should be something you own or a much-needed service you could provide them. In essence, you bartering to get your car fixed.

  4. Get a personal loan from a family member or friend.

    If you have a good relationship with a close family member or friend, consider approaching them for a personal loan and set up a realistic payment plan. This can be a tricky and even uncomfortable situation for many, so make sure you create a doable payoff plan that doesn’t end up hurting the relationship.

  5. Use a credit card.

    If you have available credit, use a low-interest credit card and charge the repair bill right on the card. Just make sure you can keep making payments towards that card so you don’t end up paying much more in interest charges for that single bill over time.

  6. Sell personal items for quick cash.

    If you need some money quickly, list some items for sale on eBay or Craigslist, or have a garage sale over the weekend to raise money. Selling stuff you don’t want, need or use is one of the simplest ways to generate money fast and pay those outstanding bills before they overwhelm you. Think of all household, electronic or clothing items you really can do without for now so that paying this repair bill becomes a priority.

If all else fails and you can’t pay or barter to get your car fixed, consider taking public transportation or carpooling temporarily until you can save up the necessary money to repair your vehicle.

Taking the bus or train, or catching a ride to work with someone else isn’t necessarily an optimal solution. But it may be your best bet if you’re in a real cash crunch and have no other ways to pay a mechanic or car repair shop.

Need help? Get one-on-one financial coaching.


This Article Answered The Following Money Questions:

  • car repair payment plan
  • cant afford to fix my car
  • car repair shops that take payments
  • auto repair shops that take payments
  • auto repair payment plan
  • cant afford car repairs

Teri B

Im disabled,and want to go back to school. I have a vehicle that needs repairs but I cannot afford them. Does anyone know of any services that offer financial aid? I live in California

Clara Mason

My car didn’t pass inspection i think i have17days but don’t have the money my husband lost his job


Taking the bus for a 40 minute commute would take two hours each way, and I couldn’t even get to work on time.
I would have to ask to come in later.


I was told that my 1994 lincoln continental executive needs a different engine put in it because of knocking.my spouse and I are in our fiftys and on disability permanently.Is there anybody in edmonton that has payment plans for car repairs?

Mary Howard

I need help with getting my car repaired. Is there any help out here available?

Jared Brew

Car repairs can really be costly so always take good care of your car to avoid costly repairs in the future. Proper maintennance is essential when dealing with automotive stuffs.

Previous post:

Next post: