Posted by Elisabeth Leamy, Tue Apr 27 2010, 12:11AM

One way to SAVE BIG is to keep your car as long as you can stand it

One way to SAVE BIG is to keep your car as long as you can stand it. Sounds obvious, but most Americans trade in their car every five years. Folks who do that will own about a dozen cars in their life. Let's say you spend $15,000 on each car. That's a total cost of $180,000. If you can stretch that time frame out by, say 50 percent to seven and a half years, then you will only need eight cars in your life and at $15,000 each, you will spend just $120,000 --a $60,000 savings. Personally, I'm driving a 10-year-old car that I bought used in the first place and it's plenty nice and cruising along just fine.

One key to keeping your car longer is to find a great mechanic to maintain it for you. Car repairs are one of the most expensive services that we spend money on, so working with an honest mechanic will help you SAVE BIG. Every consumer reporter tells you to ask friends and family for referrals to find a good mechanic. I've given that advice myself in the past, but it's not very satisfying. What if you're the organized one in the bunch? They're probably asking you! Below is a list of creative ways to find a mechanic.

Ask a Mechanic: One creative alternative is to ask a mechanic about mechanics. Huh? Maybe a friend takes their car to a reputable shop that doesn't work on your kind of car. Ask that shop who they would recommend.

Check "Consumer's Checkbook" Magazine: If you are fortunate to live in one of the large metropolitan areas served by Consumer's Checkbook magazine, lucky you. "Checkbook" surveys hundreds of consumers in the area and uses their responses to rate shops for quality and price. www.Checkbook.org.

AAA-certified auto repair facilities: AAA shops are another possibility. They're required to offer members a 12 month 12,000 mile warranty on their work. Their estimates are guaranteed. And if you still have a problem, AAA will investigate your claim and resolve it. Visit www.AAA.com to find a member mechanic in your area.

Automotive Service Association: Another source of shops that have pledged to uphold high standards is the Automotive Service Association, ASA, (not to be confused with ASE, Automotive Service Excellence, a series of exams mechanics take to prove their competence.) I have often turned to ASA mechanics, to be the "good guy" experts when I am doing an undercover investigation of crooked mechanics. www.ASAShop.org,

Better Business Bureau: Continuing the alphabet, you can test out mechanics who are members of the BBB. There are certainly some bad businesses that join the BBB to camouflage themselves, but most are good companies that have pledged to uphold a code of ethics. If you have a problem, the BBB will help mediate it for you. www.bbb.org.

CarTalk: Do you ever listen to Click and Clack and their hilarious talk show, "Car Talk," on NPR? Car Talk listeners swap referrals with each other at www.Cars.com in the Car Talk section. Just search by zip code and then read with a critical eye.


When you've found some promising shops, take two more simple steps.

1) Check their reputations with the Better Business Bureau by typing their name and location in at www.bbb.org.

2) And then Google them. Type in their name and the city where they're located and words like "scam," "ripoff," and "complaint." If anything major comes up, steer clear.