That knocking sound, those screeching brakes, the worn tires. All signals that trouble is either here or just ahead, and your car needs to go in for repairs sooner rather than later. Are you going to be ready for the bill that comes along with the repair work? According to a study by AAA, there's a good chance you won't be.
One in four American drivers wouldn't have the funds available to pay a repair bill of $2,000. If the tally drops to $1,000, then one in eight drivers would still be unable to pay the mechanic. It's not like those totals are out of line for a major repair, either.

If you need transmission work done, you can quickly climb into the four-figure range. Engine work? Keep climbing. Don't forget about the rubber on the road either, as a new set of tires certainly starts in the low hundreds but rapidly rises into the low thousands for higher-performing hoops.

Because of the costs associated with maintaining an automobile, and given the current economic climate, a quarter of all motorists say they are neglecting needed repairs. The problem is, that could lead to a worse situation down the road.

How are you preparing for the unexpected? Are you hoping for the best or stashing cash just in case? Sound off in the comments.
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One in Four Americans Could Not Pay for Major Car Repair, According to AAA Survey
Orlando, Fl - 8/3/2011

One quarter of American drivers neglecting car repairs and maintenance due to economy; More than half keeping older car to avoid financial burden of newer model

One in four American drivers could not pay for a car repair of $2,000 if faced with one today, according to the results of a survey released by AAA. The survey also found one in eight would be unable to pay for a repair bill of $1,000.

More than half of American drivers also said they are holding onto their older vehicle because they do not want the financial burden of a new one. And, one quarter of drivers admitted to neglecting repairs and maintenance on their vehicles in the past 12 months due to the economic climate, which AAA Automotive experts say can greatly increase the likelihood of their car needing a costly, major repair.

"Economic conditions have taken their toll on many Americans resulting in them neglecting their cars and leaving them at increased risk for very expensive repair bills," said Marshall L. Doney, AAA Vice President, Automotive and Financial Services. "Many Americans rely on their cars for their livelihood and losing access to them could be financially devastating during an already troubling economic time.

"It's important for drivers to not only continue to maintain their vehicles, but also have a financial emergency plan in place should they be faced with a sudden unexpected auto repair bill," continued Doney.

According to the survey, 38 percent of American drivers could pay for a $2,000 repair bill with funds in a savings account, while 20 percent would pay with their credit card. Eleven percent said they would have to borrow money from their friends, family, retirement or home equity in order to pay for a $2,000 repair.

Slightly more Americans reported being able to pay for a $1,000 repair bill with 46 percent saying they could use savings and 22 percent using a credit card. Fourteen percent would look to borrow from their friends, family, retirement or home equity.

AAA Automotive experts explain that a $1,000, $2,000 or higher repair bill can quickly appear – especially on older vehicles that have not been properly maintained. While repair costs can vary greatly by make, model and type of repair, a transmission repair can be $2,000 to $4,000, while an engine repair can exceed $5,000. Major brake repairs may range from $350 to $1,000, and a new set of tires can run from $300 to more than $1,000.

AAA offers several services to help members prepare for and save on costly repair bills including:

AAA Approved Auto Repair – AAA inspects and approves nearly 8,000 auto repair shops in the U.S. and Canada. Approved shops meet tough professional standards for customer service, cleanliness, equipment and training. All AAA members receive a free maintenance inspection upon request in conjunction with any other paid service. Additionally, many AAA Approved Auto Repair shops participate in the AAA Show Your Card & Save program, providing discounts on repair and maintenance to AAA members. A listing of nearby approved shops is available at

AAA Online Savings – AAA encourages Americans to have an emergency fund set aside for unexpected expenses such as costly auto repair bills. AAA offers an Online Savings Account through Discover Bank that provides easy access to funds in the event of an emergency. Additionally, the AAA Online Savings Account offers special AAA member-only interest rates, more than five times the national average, according to Informa Research Services, with interest compounded daily for maximum earnings. Members can open a AAA Online Savings Account at

AAA Member Rewards Visa – For those who pay for auto repairs with their credit card, the AAA Member Rewards Visa® credit card offers members an opportunity to earn vouchers good towards auto repairs at AAA Approved Auto Repair facilities. In addition to 2,500 bonus points, members receive one point for every dollar they spend, with triple points on AAA and travel purchases and double points on gas, grocery and drug store purchases. Members can redeem as little as 5,000 points for a voucher good at any AAA Approved Auto Repair facility, allowing this month's repair bill to help pay for future ones. Members can apply for the AAA Member Rewards at
Some AAA products may not be available in all areas. Members should contact their local AAA club with questions about availability.

The telephone survey was conducted among a sample of 1,009 adults, 18 years of age and older, living in the continental United States. The survey has an average statistical error of ±3.6 percent at the 95 percent confidence level for all U.S. adults.

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    • 1 Second Ago
      • 4 Years Ago
      The cost of repairs would probably be quite a bit lower if people took better care of their cars to begin with. Like actually changing transmission and differential fluid (AT ALL, let alone on time), keeping tabs on the condition of the belt (especially critical for touch engines) and flushing their coolant systems when needed etc...
      • 4 Years Ago
      this is because one in four americans are leasing expensive luxury cars they can't afford, with payments of $500/month and up.
      • 4 Years Ago
      In other news, water is wet.
      • 4 Years Ago
      Myself I own a 96' car, most of the parts are easily bought outside the dealership and can easily be done by myself or at a outside shop. Sadly more and more cars are becoming so complex with computers and special tools that it is becoming harder and harder for the DIY'er to well do it themselves. Plus lets not forget how more dealerships are now charging more per hour. I work at one and we now charge $121hr I still can't believe it.
      • 4 Years Ago
      The 5/21/2001 WSJ blog stated that "49% of Americans polled either couldn't or probably couldn't come up with $2,000 for any unexpected expense." People try to politicize this, but Americans just don't have savings as primary. People in many other countries save first and spend the rest.
      • 4 Years Ago
      I'd say this figure is actually a little low. I run an automotive repair shop, I usually only close 50% of jobs over $1,000 Natually I expect many of them to get second opinions, and I encourage that, Or tackle the job themselves, I also encourage that. (Makes my job much easier when my customers are educated about an automobile) Either way, maybe it is just the area I work in, or that figure is low.
      • 4 Years Ago
      Taking care of the car is key. While preventive maintenance is important, something every driver can do is just take it easy on the road. Thinking ahead about stopping and not accelerating to a red light makes the brakes last so much longer, it's stupid that people don't want to save money just by doing that. Also, less likely to get in an accident. Cutting out unnecessary trips leaves fewer miles on the clock, and that generally means less repairs. Know what you're getting into before you buy, weather its a car or parts/service. Research. This all isn't difficult yet so many people just don't give a damn and then are surprised when they're suck with these costs.
      anonymous guy
      • 4 Years Ago
      You can prolong those expensive repairs by diligent proper maintenance ... and learning how to do simple repairs on your own. I buy new every five years with roughly 100,000 on my trade and have so far been able to escape the dreaded expensive repairs due to catastrophic failures.
      • 4 Years Ago
      • 4 Years Ago
      I am one of them! $10k for a new short block and clutch for my Spec. B. Tough to finance that one!
      Joe K
      • 4 Years Ago
      I set aside an emergency fund for my subaru with 300K on it (110K on the engine). I just had to do tires and a rack and tierod ends for about 800.00. I set this aside 2 years ago knowing something will break eventually. Saftey always gets repaired, other things wil get put off.
      • 4 Years Ago
      After we bought a BMW, we found out that the tires only last 20000 miles and break pads cost $700 to replace and that's just standard maintenance. On my other SUV I have 53000 miles and I still have original tires and break pads that I just recently replaced cost me only $120.
        • 4 Years Ago
        If you don't want to pay for performance parts then don't drive a performance automobile. Also, I highly doubt it costs $700 for new brake pads. Maybe if you have the dealership do it...but brake replacement is usually a fairly straightforward and easy task for anyone with a socket wrench and floor jack.
        • 4 Years Ago
        1. Do a little research before buying. I guess you know that now. 2. Take it to an independent shop, not the dealer. 3. Your other SUV won't hold the road or brake like the BMW with its softer tires and pads. There are always trade-offs. 4. All performance tires last about 20K miles, no matter the brand of car they're on. 5. If it's even a concern what it costs perhaps you need to get a nice Hyundai with a 10 year warranty. There's a reason a new $70,000 X5 sells for $25K when it's out of warranty. No free lunches.
        • 4 Years Ago
        Short life of tires on a BMW is not a mystery or secret. That is what happens when you buy wide, sticky, soft-rubber tires on a performance car. If you use the car on the track, you got pretty good service from them. As for brakes: considering pads, rotors, fluid flush, etc., at a BMW dealer, that's what it costs. Again, was this a surprise?
        • 4 Years Ago
        Considering you can't spell "brakes" properly nobody is going to take what you are saying seriously.
        • 4 Years Ago
        Grammar check people on the net are getting tiresome. Maybe it was an auto correct. We all got his point. In the unlikely event that an attractive woman was walking you back to her room, would you walk away if she said, 'ain't'?
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