What to Do If You Can’t Afford to Repair Your Car

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

in Family Finances


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 repair bill of $1,000.

While most people don’t budget for auto 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.
  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.


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Lynnette Khalfani-Cox, The Money Coach

Personal Finance Expert and Co-Founder at Ask The Money Coach.com
Lynnette Khalfani-Cox, The Money Coach is a personal finance expert, speaker, and author of numerous books on personal finance. She appears frequently as an expert commentator on television, radio and in print.

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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.

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