Tools and Tips to Help You Manage Car Repairs

By planning ahead and opting for protection plans, you can afford the occasional breakdown

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by NEA Member Benefits

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Key takeaways

  • Vehicle protection plans can cover the cost of nearly anything that needs fixing.
  • The NEA Vehicle Protection Program, in particular, provides discounts for plans to lower your costs even more.
  • Vehicle history reports will reveal to you how a used car has performed in the past.
  • Following a regular maintenance schedule makes for a great, preventative strategy.

While often unexpected, car repairs are inevitable. And according to AAA, the average car repair cost is between $500 and $600. Fortunately, by considering the expert advice presented here, you can easily prepare for what’s ahead:

Buying peace of mind

For starters, check into a vehicle protection plan. “It’s a way to plan and budget for unexpected auto repairs with a manageable monthly payment,” says Joe Campanella, executive vice president of business development at CARCHEX, which provides vehicle protection plans for cars.

Vehicle protection plans kick in after the factory warranty expires and pays for repairs, according to the level of coverage you choose. The most comprehensive vehicle protection plans are exclusionary, commonly referred to as “bumper to bumper,” and cover everything except a small list of items that are excluded, such as brake pads, belts, hoses and other maintenance items.

Exclusionary coverage, which is called “Titanium” in CARCHEX’s lineup, averages $125 to $150 a month, or $3,500 over the life of the vehicle protection plan, although the actual rate depends on the year, make, model and mileage on the car. Another option, the CARCHEX’s Platinum plan, is an inclusionary vehicle protection plan—that is, it specifically lists the repairs that are covered.

This coverage is nearly as good, Campanella says, and most of the vehicle protection plans sold by CARCHEX are in the Titanium or Platinum category. Other options are Gold, Silver and Bronze. This last one is the least expensive and covers the power train—engine and transmission—and may be the best for an older car. Many of the programs include additional benefits such as 24/7 roadside assistance, car rental coverage and lodging coverage, if needed.

Even better, as an NEA member, you’ll get a special discount on any policy through the NEA Vehicle Protection Program, backed by CARCHEX.

While not all customers use their vehicle protection plans, having one protects you from a surprise repair. Ultimately, a vehicle protection plan, like any insurance, is about managing risk. Pooling risk through insurance, by its very nature, means that some people will use it and others won’t. But by reducing risk to manageable proportions, you’ll probably sleep better at night.

Additional ways to keep your ride running

Beyond the vehicle protection plans, there are steps you can take to reduce the risk of a major repair and otherwise keep your car in tip-top shape:

  1. Research before you buy. Read up on the various makes and models for historical data on repairs. Check out Consumer Reports or Edmunds.com, among others. If you’re buying a used car, get a vehicle history report from sites such as CARFAXAutocheck and the National Insurance Crime Bureau (NICB). The NEA Auto Buying Program also gives you access to useful research through TRUECar.
  2. Understand the coverage you already have. Some factory warranties run beyond the standard three to five years, even to seven years.
  3. Follow your car’s maintenance schedule. Break out that book in your glove compartment. Scheduled maintenance often can prevent, or catch, problems before they become huge repairs.
  4. Fix the small stuff early. Temperature or oil light on? Engine running rough? Spots on your driveway? Take your car in for service early on to prevent expensive repairs later.
  5. Start a car emergency fund. Instead of (or even in addition to) purchasing a vehicle protection plan, contribute to a car repair savings fund every month, or maintain a rainy-day fund to cover scheduled maintenance and unexpected auto repairs. You can set this up quickly and easily through the online savings program for NEA members..

Lease instead of buy. Leasing cars eliminates the need for a vehicle protection plan because the factory warranty usually covers the leasing period.

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