The importance of keeping your car properly maintained cannot be stressed enough.

The mantra of the automotive industry doesn't exist simply to keep you coming back for oil filters; your car or truck needs regular care to keep it working properly.

Skimping on things such as occasional chassis lubes and oil changes can reap major repairs or even replacement of the vehicle much sooner than the ordinary useful life of the vehicle would warrant.

"There are minimum things you have to do with your car. If you put them off, it will cost you more in the long run," Quincy said.

Word of mouth

Listen to the word of mouth, not the radio advertisements, the experts say. While you might be tempted by a coupon sale, if your neighbor swears by the shop around the corner, give it a chance to give you a competitive estimate.

If you don't think the estimate is fair, get a second opinion. There's nothing saying you're obligated to stick with one shop because they gave you a free estimate.

If you want a larger pool of opinions, try subscription ratings services. Angie's List rates services companies in most U.S. metropolitan regions. Consumers' Checkbook rates service companies in seven metro regions. Each offers evaluations from many users on local auto repair shops, based on price and quality.

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