With the state of the economy, people are trying to save money every way possible. One such avenue is by performing vehicle maintenance on their own. While this is never an easy task, it is made much more difficult by the parts shopping task. Having to buy parts for your car is never a fun experience, but is now increasingly more important in this economic state. Here a a few tips to make it easier.
1. HAVE ALL THE INFORMATION YOU NEED TO GET THE CORRECT PART
You may be surprised to know just how many different options there are in your vehicle you never knew about. Each vehicle package has different options that affect the part. The best way to ensure you get the correct part is to come equipped with all the information you need. Most questions can be answered by your Vehicle Identification Number (VIN). This will tell the parts consultant the correct year, make, package type, paint and trim color codes, key codes, and anything that came with your vehicle from the factory. The only time the VIN will do you wrong is if something on the vehicle has been changed. Your VIN can be found on your title, insurance card, and on the drivers side of your dashboard.
2. IN STORE SHOPPING IS BEST
Most customers will price shop over the phone. This is a good way to get the wrong parts. Parts terminology changes from car brand to car brand. Trying to make heads or tails over the phone makes communication more difficult. If possible, take the part with you so the consultant can get a better idea of what you need. If you can’t bring the part or vehicle with you, try to get a picture of the location or part. Cell phone cameras are perfect for this.
3. KEEP IT SIMPLE
Trying to make sense of what is going on with your vehicle can be difficult enough. To simplify the process it is best if the person working on the car does the talking. It is difficult for the consultant to make sense of what is really happening if they are playing a game of “Telephone” with you and others. This speeds up the process.
4. YOU GET WHAT YOU PAY FOR
There is no set place for you to find the right part. Dealerships are your best option, as they can find original equipment parts. Aftermarket chains, such as Auto zone or Napa, may be able to get you a better price. A few things to consider when price shopping between these venues are:
Warranty – Never be afraid to ask what the warranty will be for your part. If there is a difference between stores, ask why.
Price- You may find that there is a significant difference in price. Double check to see what comes with the part you are buying. It may come as a whole assembly or kit from one place and be a separate component elsewhere.
Returns – Be sure what the return policy is just in case it is the wrong or not what was needed to fix the problem. As with any purchase, hold on to the receipt!!
Freight – There will be cases when parts will need to be ordered. When pricing, ask if freight is included on the price quote. It is to your advantage to know as much as possible.
5. KNOW YOUR LIMITS
Vehicles today can be very complex. Most of the electronic functions run throughout the body. Some parts may have to be “flashed” with a computer to make it function with your car. Knowing ahead of time if the part you need will requires special treatment will save you time and money. Be sure to check with your mechanic for price breaks for labor/programming. If the repairs you are trying are beyond your abilities or understanding DO NOT ATTEMPT to repair it yourself. Get with a certified mechanic to assist you. It may not be cheap, but will definitely beat the added price of additional parts and time.