When it comes to car maintenance, you can either do preventive maintenance or wait for something to fail and fix it then. Waiting can be catastrophic. For example, fail to change different kinds of fluids and little pieces of metal and plastic get run through the systems, causing serious and costly damage. We want to keep our cars a long time, so we are pro preventive maintenance. On the flip side, it's difficult to know what maintenance really needs to be done right now, versus what could wait.
We took my husband's car to the Toyota dealer recently, as there was a recall on a couple of the parts (which seems to happen often). His vehicle has 82,000 miles. He gave the go ahead for an oil change and told them he needed a tire rotation when he dropped it off. They printed out page after page of other scheduled maintenance items and their prices:
Flush Power Steering: $193
Service Rear Differential: $216
Service Fuel Injectors: $182
Service Fuel Inductors: $171
Brake Fluid Exchange: $191
Total: over $950
Then, they called and told him he needed brakes (which he suspected) and an alignment:
New total: over $1400
My Honda recently had a recall as well, which was a (free) update to the system, so I had them rotate the tires, change the oil, and do an alignment when we brought it in. Each of those items were significantly cheaper than at the Toyota dealer, so we decided to call a retail service chain to check their prices. Here's what we found:
Flush Power Steering: $56 ($137 less)
Service Rear Differential: $131 ($85 less)
Service Fuel Injectors and Inductors: $79 ($274 less)
Brake Fluid Exchange: $69 ($122 less)
Brakes: $338 ($14 less)
Alignment: $69 ($61 less)
New total: $742 (total savings over $650, over 50%!!)
We picked his vehicle up from Toyota and dropped it off at the retail store, satisfied with savings hundreds of dollars. A couple of hours later, we received a call: my husband's SUV didn't need anything except an alignment (which we knew; it was pulling). The technician was flabbergasted, and I couldn't help but wonder how many people are wasting thousands on premature car maintenance.
The moral of the story here is to get a second opinion when it comes to costly car maintenance. Even once you're confident your car needs some work, it may not hurt to shop the prices around at highly-rated shops.