Wednesday, October 04, 2006

How to Pay for Emergency Car Repairs

By Andrew Dillan

Your car has broken down, and now you need to pay for towing, and repairs. Sometimes these repairs cost unexpected hundreds or thousands of dollars. What are your options?

1. Be Prepared

The best way to avoid an emergency is to be prepared for an emergency. If you can set aside a little bit of money each month in case of any emergency (be it medical, automotive, or accident), then you will be able to manage any unexpected situations. However, if the time has come and you haven’t planned ahead, there are still some ways that you can get money.

2. Stay Calm

One of the most common mistakes that is made during emergencies is to lose your cool. If you lose your cool, you might forget to use common sense. Use your common sense to shop around. Even if you need a tow right now, consider calling a few places for quotes before having them send someone over. The ten minutes that it takes you to make some comparisons might save you twenty dollars or more. That makes the use of time well worth your money. Remember, you will be late anyway, so take your time in getting there.

When the tow truck driver arrives, be sure that you know where you want to have your car towed. You should also do some comparison shopping for this. You can even call a friend and have them make some of your phone calls for you. If you don’t know what is wrong with your car, have it taken to a mechanic or dealership that you trust. They will tell you what’s wrong, and you then be able to decide how much (it might be all) of the work you want to have done.

3. Review your Options

When you buy a car, you often get a warranty. You might be signed up for AAA or CAA. Your insurance company might cover some of the repairs needed for your car. Before you go about paying for all of the repairs out of pocket, find out what repairs are covered. Then get approval from the institution that will help you pay. It is easier to get them to pay upfront than to get them to reimburse you.

Consider keeping a membership for CAA or AAA. This means that you will have free towing if you are ever in an accident or if you ever have a breakdown. There is an annual fee, so you would have to weigh the pros and cons of membership. I, personally, find that I have gotten a lot back from my membership, including a peace of mind knowing that I am covered while I travel.

4. What NOT to do

If you need to pay for your emergency repairs, do not get a pay day loan. Pay day loans have exorbitant interest rates and will make it hard for you to get back on top of your debt.

5. Get the best interest

Find out where you will be able to get the best interest rates for the money that you will have to spend. If you take out a loan, then you will be able to pay it back in small pieces throughout the year, rather than taking an upfront loss. This also works if you cannot pay for your car.

If you put the car repairs on your credit card, remember that you will probably be paying a higher interest rate than if you got a car repair loan, or if you went to a bank or credit union. Check the interest rates that varying places offer, including at the dealership if you are having your car repaired there.

6. In the meantime

While your car is in the shop, be smart about how you get around. Don’t take taxis everywhere if you can’t afford them! Ask friends for lifts; they will understand if you are in need because of unexpected car repairs for a few days. Take the bus for a few days. Walk or bike, if possible. Set up a temporary carpool with a co-worker (this could even work for you when you get your car back!). Don’t let the expense of car repairs get larger because you don’t have your car.

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