Car Care

This Scientific Study Reveals the #1 Tip to Save on Car Repair

mechanics at work

A Northwestern University study has found that the best way to save money on car repair is to know what repairs are needed and how much they should cost. Here’s how you can stay informed and save thousands. Ah, the check engine light.

There’s nothing quite like the feeling of dread that creeps in when that little light pops on. Let’s hope it’s nothing major, a loose wire maybe or *fingers crossed* a loose gas cap! But in reality, it could be a host of other issues that will require expensive repairs.

It’s a real bummer walking into the local repair shop when you have no idea what’s wrong with your car or how much it’s going to cost you, am I right?

Related: 5 Mechanic Upsells & How To Avoid Them

Knowing how to find a good repair shop is a great way to ensure you get exactly what you need (without overpaying for unnecessary car repairs), but it’s not the best way to save money and guarantee you’re not getting taken advantage of at the repair shop.

To find out how to get the best price on your car repairs, we’ll have to look at this study out of Northwestern University.

First, You Need To Know What Car Repairs You Need

According to a study performed at the Kellogg School of Management at Northwestern University, appearing confident and car-savvy helps drivers get better rates on their repairs.


“Auto repair is one of the last vestiges in which there is a tremendous amount of information asymmetry going on between consumers and firms,” explained Florian Zettelmeyer, a professor of marketing at the school where the study took place.

In other words, there’s a lack of transparency in the auto repair industry. Mechanics have access to information about your car that you don’t and set their own prices. If they think you’re clueless about car repair and they’re not an honest shop, you’re more likely to get ripped off.

This is especially true for women. Among people who didn’t know what repair they needed, women were more likely to be given a higher quote for the same repair than men for the exact same issues. 

On the plus side, women were also more likely to receive a discount when they asked for it. Maybe chivalry isn’t completely dead?

Second, You Need To Know How Much Your Car Repair Costs

Accurately quoting your repair cost can help reduce the price. 

You see, some people are bargain hunters and will call around for quotes to get a standard ball-park price on repairs, but others won’t. Repair shops know this and sometimes set higher prices to sell only to the convenience shoppers.

That means, if you’re not aware of what a good deal is, then you’re most likely going to pay more than you should for repairs.

To get the best price, let the mechanic know you know the car, the repair, and what a reasonable quote is right off the bat.

So, for both men and women, mechanics are much more likely to give you an honest rate when you come to them prepared and knowing what you need and how much the repair should cost. But that leads us to an important question…

How To Find Out What Car Repairs You Need And How Much They Should Cost

Buy a tool that can do it for you

Unless you’re a mechanic, live with a mechanic, or are best friends with a mechanic, there’s no way to know what your check engine light means… or what car repairs you need. You may have been experiencing a misfire here or there or felt like the engine was running rough, but many times there are no symptoms at all.

The best thing you can do is get an OBD2 scanner like FIXD to help you start diagnosing the problem.

How Do OBD2 Scanners Work?

Every gas-powered car built in 1996 or after has a computer inside it that can “talk” to your vehicle’s engine.

The OBD2 scanner is the tool that communicates with your car to tell you what’s wrong whenever there’s a check engine light. While it can’t always pinpoint the exact repair you need, it will be able to filter out a host of issues to help you walk into a repair shop informed and confident.

You see, every check engine light is tied to a specific OBD trouble code (or engine fault code) that tells mechanics what’s wrong. An OBD car scanner is able to read this code so that repair shops have a clear starting point for diagnosing and repairing your vehicle.

What Makes The FIXD Car Scanner Different From Other OBD Scanners?

Until technology caught up with recent times, these types of diagnostic tools were bulky, expensive, and only available to mechanics and gear-heads.

But that’s all changed with tools like the FIXD Sensor

This affordable device fits in the palm of your hand and is easy for anyone to use – even if you have zero car knowledge right now. Because it’s also an OBD2 app, you can connect the FIXD Sensor to your iPhone or Android device to translate your check engine light into plain English in a matter of seconds. No more check engine light anxiety!

The FIXD Sensor and free app allows you to pinpoint your OBD fault code and find out more about what’s going on with your car before you take it to the shop so that you’re prepared with accurate, detailed information and don’t get ripped off.

Most car scanners at the same price point simply spit out the fault code (which you then have to look up on a directory like this) and aren’t designed for anyone to use.

Plus, if you want more help diagnosing your specific car repair issue and you’d like to see fair market prices for your repairs before going to the shop, FIXD Premium puts these details at your fingertips. You can call a FIXD Mechanic to walk you through your issues, see upfront cost estimates for your repairs, and much more. Click here to learn more about FIXD Premium, plus how you can get a FREE sensor with your first year!


Wife, mom, Content Manager & Senior Copywriter at FIXD. From the garage to the gym, I love helping people learn and grow. Dream car: ‘69 Acapulco Blue Mustang.

Kate McKnight
Wife, mom, Content Manager & Senior Copywriter at FIXD. From the garage to the gym, I love helping people learn and grow. Dream car: ‘69 Acapulco Blue Mustang.

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    1. I am living proof. We have a very, very good local franchise of the nationwide Car-X chain. They have had no turnover on staff, manager is the same, high volume so that helps the manager make quota (which as any American corporation has- they have sales targets) so despite all that, and it’s hard to put my finger on it, but I get even better service on top of great and fair service I already get. I think the win-win is that the manager/service writer can have his technician focus on what’s wrong when I walk in with a diagnostic code. Simple as that. Of course he is required to suggest fluids and things but the code/Fixed info it allows the tech to ‘get on it’ and get it done quickly. Then they can focus on the person walking-in who knows something is wrong and has no idea. I know from similar past repairs pre-FIXD that it has paid for itself. FIXD showed a #3 cylinder misfire and some other indicators on my O2 sensor on my wife’s 2015 Town & Country. Sure enough, we had a valve head issue and learned it was covered by Chrylser- we got a serious, serious issue repaired and was great to know it was a bona fide warranty issue. Many thanks FIXD! Only iwish you could expand the diagnostics a bit more. Would be neat if the app worked with one of the major diagnostic gear firms and build in a Bluetooth or hard connection to a diagnotic device that those of us who are a little bit more mechanical can use for enhanced diagnostics- especially diagnosing more and more complicated electronics-related issues. Also might be nice to have an option to tie in diagnostics history and readings with the CarFax app I used to keep all my maintenance history and get my reminders about recommended service intervals- which I know FIXD has but CarFax has the national automatic feeds even from our state (Texas) vehicle registrations, inspections and catches automatic feeds from my oil change service I use and so on. Just a thought. Very greatful to you guys- I know the two FIXD units I have for our cars have paid for themselves.

    2. Great to know this! I only wish I had known about this two months ago when my “check engine” light came on and I was told that the coils had to be replaced. The cost came to $650 and I trusted the repair shop manager that he was giving me the lowest price for the repair. He replaced three of the six coils and cleared the check engine light. I came back two days later with the same problem and he had to replace one additional coil which resolved the problem and charged me $59.95 for the coil.
      I know afterwards that I was well overcharged but it’s too late now. I definitely will make sure that in the future to use the FIXD info and work with the info to get the correct cost for the repair.
      Thank you FIXD for your help.

    3. This was very helpful, and the I like the fact that I can diagnose my car myself and fix it for cheaper than a mechanic charges

    4. I do my own repairs. I like the FIXD with the upgrade, it narrows down the problem…
      Thank you

      1. will it work with diesel motors

        1. Great question, Mike! Yes, FIXD works for all diesels made after 2008! It’s the same sensor, so you don’t have to buy a special “gas” one or “diesel” one. To check your vehicle’s compatibility, visit our site:

    5. Use it all the time. Gives you peace of mind knowing what your problem is before you pay up to $150 for diagnostics tests. Many times problems can be be taken care of without a trip to your mechanic. Works well

    6. I would like to see more technology upgrades or rather updates on FIXD to make it more desirable to pay for the premium cost.

      1. Thank you for the feedback, Hector! Our engineering teams work constantly to make sure we have the most optimal features and updates to keep in line with new technology. Let us know what you would like to see in addition to our FIXD Premium subscription upgrade (which currently features our FIXD Mechanic Hotline, Confirmed Fix & Cost, Emissions Precheck, and Issue Forecast & Commonality).

    7. The cost of purchasing FIXD is well worth the money. Awhile ago my 2002 my GMC Sierra 2500 HD check engine light came on. I had purchased FIXD, plugged it in to my OBD-2 port and entered the required information after I down loaded the FIXD app. “Bingo” FIXD did its work, it identified a faulty O2 sensor on the left bank. Just for kicks I called around a few repair shops to get an estimate to replace the sensor, prices ranged from $275.00 to $415.00. Needless to say I drove down to NAPA purchased a new sensor, for $85.00 went home, put my truck up on the ramps and replaced the sensor. Then plugged FIXD back in to double check my work, my truck was 100% and ready to go. You don’t have to be a mechanic to make simple repairs like this.

      1. Thank you so much for using FIXD and for sharing this success story, Bob! This makes us so happy to hear that we helped save your time and money on repairs for your GMC Sierra. 🙂 We appreciate you! Happy and safe driving.

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