Four Ways to Pay for an Emergency Auto Repair

The longer you own your vehicle, the more likely it will need auto repairs. 

Often, these repairs are unexpected, happen after your free maintenance period is over, and are more expensive than you realize. 

To better understand how to handle these costs, we’ve compiled a list of the average vehicle repair costs and how you (or your insurance) can pay for these emergency repairs.

How Much Do Car Parts & Repairs Cost? 

Because of the need for additional repairs, the cost of car ownership rises over time, especially at the five and ten-year marks. Here are some estimates on how much some of the most common auto repairs cost (as of early 2022).

  • Replace Brake Pads – Estimated $300 per axle

Your vehicle’s brakes get a lot of use. All that wear and tear will eventually add up to needing new brake pads. 

  • Transmission Replacement – Estimated $5,000+

Replacing your transmission can be expensive, but your car can’t function without it.

  • Catalytic Converter Replacement – Estimated $1,800

This converter cleans harmful gases from your car’s exhaust emissions. It doesn’t break often, but replacing it isn’t cheap when it does.

  • Fuel Tank Replacement – Estimated $1,500

If your fuel tank is damaged, it could develop a leak, so it’s wise to get it replaced. 

  • Cabin Heater Replacement – Estimated $1,100

This vital feature heats the temperature inside your car - essential for those living in cold temperatures.

  • Wheel Alignment – Estimated $200

Driving with improper wheel alignment can cause uneven, premature wear and tear on tires, creating unsafe driving conditions. 

  • Alternator Replacement – Estimated $800

The alternator charges your vehicle’s battery, keeping it running. If yours dies, you’ll need to get it replaced immediately. 

  • Heater Core Replacement - Estimated $1,000

This module controls your car’s fuel and emissions system. If it isn’t functioning properly, your vehicle could fail its emissions test or emit smoke.

  • Battery Replacement – Estimated $350

Your car’s battery provides the vehicle’s energy supply, keeping it running. Without it, you won’t be driving anywhere. 

  • Suspension Shock or Strut Replacement Cost - Estimated $900

Shocks and struts stabilize your vehicle, absorb impact from the road, and ensure you have a smooth drive. Both should be replaced at the same time, around every 50,000 miles. 

  • AC Recharge - Estimated $150

Your car’s air conditioning system requires refrigerant to function correctly. Adding it recharges the system so that it can work properly again. 

  • Fuel Injector Replacement – Estimated $750

This car part regulates the amount of pressurized fuel used for each engine cycle. Issues with this part can cause the car to stall or even fail to start. 

  • Radiator Replacement - Estimated $677-$839

The radiator cools the engine, keeping your car from overheating, which can damage the engine or disable the motor. 

  • New Tires – Estimated $100-$300 per tire

Patching up a tire may not cost much but replacing tires can get expensive. This is a common issue, so be prepared for this expense. 

  • Windshield Replacement - Estimated $550

To protect yourself and other drivers, you’ll need to replace your windshield when it’s badly cracked or chipped.

  • Window Motor Replacement – Estimated $276-$378 per window

If one of your window motors is broken, you will lose the ability to roll that window up and down.

  • AC Condenser Replacement – Estimated $444-$603

When the AC Condenser fails, so will your air conditioning. Get it replaced to keep cool in the car!

Does Auto Insurance Cover Auto Repairs?

Auto insurance is here to cover you, right? Well, despite what many people believe, insurance will only cover some of your expenses.

Liability insurance is the essential, no-frills insurance required by most states. This insurance helps cover the cost of any damage you may cause (like somebody else’s car you hit) while driving.

In addition to liability insurance, you can also purchase collision (coverage for your car in the event of a collision) or comprehensive (non-collision coverage such as extreme weather, fire, theft, vandalism, or animal damage) insurance. 

The bottom line: In certain situations, collision and comprehensive insurance will cover your auto repairs, but your vehicle’s routine maintenance and inevitable wear and tear will most likely be on your own dime. 

Read more about your policy to know exactly what your auto insurance covers. Because when the need for repairs arises, you’ll want to be prepared.

How to Pay for Emergency Repairs

Cars are the second most expensive thing most Americans own. On average, Americans spend 5% of their income on a car and another 5% on maintenance and insurance. 

Emergency auto repairs are undeniably expensive, so if you find yourself in a situation where you can’t afford them, here are additional options for how to pay.

Ask for a Payment Plan 

When unexpected, expensive auto repairs that require immediate attention arise, many auto repair shops are sympathetic when people struggle to pay upfront. 

Auto repair shops may offer payment plans to help ease the financial burden of customers, spreading the payment out over time. 

If you are struggling to pay for your auto repairs, ask your repair shop if they offer a payment plan. 

Negotiate the Cost

Many people don’t realize that it’s perfectly acceptable to negotiate auto repair work prices. Although some parts will be at a fixed price, many auto repair shops mark up the price of parts to cover operations. 

Next time you get auto repair work done, do yourself a favor and negotiate your costs down to a more manageable sum. 

Dealer Maintenance Plan

When you purchase a car, you will often be presented with the choice to acquire a dealer maintenance plan, which covers the cost of regular vehicle maintenance like oil changes and tire rotations. 

The benefit of this plan is that you know exactly what price to expect when you take your car in for maintenance. The downside is that many vehicles won’t require much maintenance, so you may end up overpaying. Also, you’re limited to only getting your car repaired at the dealership from where you purchased it.

Apply for a Personal Loan

If you find yourself in a situation where you can’t afford your emergency auto repairs, a personal loan may be a good option for you. 

Taking out a personal loan is a responsibility. Making your payments on time is the best way to ensure you don’t incur more fees. 

Bottom Line

Vehicle maintenance is often the last thing on anyone’s mind, but with their high cost, the need for repairs can present significant logistical challenges and financial roadblocks. 

The need for repairs will pop up eventually, so it’s best to be prepared now.