Everybody is constantly on the move in the modern world and having a car to get to and from work every day is a necessity for most. But what do you do when your vehicle breaks down? Have you thought about it and planned ahead of time? Are you stuck on the side of the road right now, experiencing this problem and searching for answers on your phone?
Below are four steps you might need to take when your car breaks down. While they are mostly sequential, not all steps will apply to you. It all depends on your particular situation.
1. Get Your Vehicle Off the Road Safely
Sometimes your vehicle breaks down while it’s sitting in your driveway. You come out in the morning to head to work, but it doesn’t start. If that’s the case, count your blessings. You already saved a lot of money and time.
But if your vehicle breaks down while you are driving, safety needs to be your main concern. In summary, those steps are:
- Pull completely out of traffic safely to avoid collisions
- Make sure your vehicle is visible to other drivers – use hazard lights
- Exit your vehicle safely
- Call for help
Calling for help might include getting a ride back home or to wherever you need to go. But it also might include calling a tow truck to remove your vehicle from the highway, street or private parking lot. You might also need to call your insurance agent to see which mechanic shops near your location will be covered by your insurance policy. That way, you know where to tow it!
If you leave your vehicle on the side of the road for too long, it will likely get ticketed by law enforcement. Then it will get towed away to an impound yard, where it will start racking up daily storage fees – on top of towing fees and any fines from the city.
So it’s imperative that you either tow your vehicle to an auto repair shop or to your home to avoid incurring additional expenses.
2. Get a Repair Estimate and Begin Repairs
Once a mechanic diagnoses the problem, you can get a repair estimate, have them order the parts and start repairs. This could take anywhere from a few hours to a week or more.
If you or someone you know are handy with tools, you might be able to perform the repairs yourself and save hundreds of dollars in repair costs.
Either way, getting your vehicle fixed and back on the road is likely to take the rest of the day, at the very least. So be sure to communicate with your employer, your family or your kids’ school as needed to make sure that everybody is kept in the loop.
If your vehicle is older and parts are difficult to find, or if the repairs are extensive and will cost a small fortune, it actually might be more cost-effective to just purchase another vehicle.
If you have money saved up for emergencies such as this, then you might be able to get a used car without having to take out a loan. Or if you prefer to buy a new car – one that will hopefully be more reliable and won’t break down as often as a used one – then a couple thousand dollars might be enough for a down payment.
3. Arrange Temporary Transportation as Needed
If your vehicle is going to be in the repair shop for several days, you will need to arrange transportation in the meantime.
If you are a member of an auto club like AAA or have additional benefits through your insurance policy, then you might be able to get a rental car for free or for a discounted rate while your car is being fixed.
Alternatively you might be able to carpool with a friend at school, a family member or a coworker. If so, be sure to pitch in some cash to help cover their cost of gas.
If those options are not available to you, then you might have to call an Uber or Lyft driver or just ride the public bus. Check the city website online for bus passes or just pay cash every time you ride.
4. Don’t Let Your Life Grind to a Halt
The main thing is that you don’t want to let your whole life fall apart just because your car broke down. Obviously, having a large chunk of money set aside for this purpose will get you back on the road quickly. Having plenty of room on an unused credit card can also be helpful to get your repairs done.
But what if you don’t have available cash or credit? You could be stuck without transportation for a while.
In some cases, your employer might be able to let you work remotely instead of coming into the office every day. Or if you’re a college student and simply cannot arrange alternate transportation, perhaps your teachers could give you your assignments by email for the time being.
If you use your vehicle as your main source of income, this unexpected repair may turn into a major financial crisis if not resolved quickly. If you find yourself needing to handle the emergency repair, but are too short on savings to cover the costs, you may want to consider short-term options like installment payments, quick online loans, or simply borrowing from family or friends. While using savings is your best bet, these options may be alternatives to help get you back in business right away if your savings won’t cover it so that you don’t continue to lose income.
When your car breaks down, it can definitely throw your whole life for a loop. But try not to panic. Cars break down, and their owners deal with it. By following these steps above, you’ll deal with it just fine too. And hopefully you’ll also learn from the experience and make it a habit to put aside a portion of every paycheck going forward to ensure that you always have emergency funds available.