What Happens If You Can't Afford Your Car Repair: Debt Awareness

What Happens If You Can't Afford Your Car Repair: Debt Awareness


Debt Awareness week runs from 20-26th of March, and this year it's more important than ever. 

The cost of living crisis is seeing more and more people being affected by debt, and it truly can happen to anyone. 

A full third of Brits report that they’re finding it hard to keep up with their normal household expenses. If you’re already struggling with your day-to-day bills, then an unexpected and expensive car repair could be a real problem. 

The first thing to realise is that you're not alone, organisations like StepChange are there to help and advise you, and there are always options, no matter how serious you think the situation is.

In this post, we explain the different options if you can't pay your car repair bill and explain if it's true that garages can keep your car if you don't pay.  

What are your car repair financing options? 

If your auto repair bill is more than you expected and you can't afford to pay it, here are six things you can do.

1. Ask if there's a cheaper alternative

If the estimate you’ve received for a repair job is surprisingly high, ask the mechanic if there’s a less-expensive option available. 

That doesn’t have to mean cutting corners or risking further problems later. Sometimes an estimate is based on certain part brands and the highest hourly labour rate. With a bit of flexibility, the garage might be able to use cheaper parts or find a workaround to cut down the cost.

old school mechanic with car

2. Do the repairs in phases 

If the service centre is recommending you do a series of repairs, ask if you can prioritise them and do only the most crucial fixes first. If you can break the whole job up into phases and control the timings, you’ll be better able to manage the overall cost. So long as there’s no safety risk to deferring some repairs, let the fixes that can wait ‘til later, wait ‘til later. 

3. Offer to clear the bill in more than one payment 

If you can’t clear your car’s repair bill in one go, ask the service centre if they’ll let you break up the bill into multiple payments.  Some garages will let you do this or may even offer their own basic in-house financing for large repair jobs.  

Can garages keep my car if I don't pay?

Yes. Do be aware however that under UK law, mechanics can put a lien on your car if you don’t pay the bill in full within 30 days. That could mean leaving your car in the garage until the bill is fully paid. To avoid that happening you might want to put part of the bill on a credit card or consider a dedicated auto repair loan. 

4. Popping it on your credit card 

Credit cards are a simple way to cover any unexpected expense, though the interest can make an already large bill even bigger. 

Still, if you're stuck with a big repair bill sometimes the most straightforward solution is the best one. If you have 0% APR deal and can pay down the balance quickly, putting it on your card might not be so painful. But if you have a standard interest rate, you’re going to have to take the extra hit. 

In that case, the interest rate on a dedicated car repair loan might be more attractive.

car mechanic's tools

5. Consider car repair loans 

An auto repair loan is a loan or credit line designed specifically to cover car repairs. Most of the firms specialising in car repair loans know that repairs often land without warning, so they try and make the process simple so you can get the cash you need ASAP. 

Any lender will want you to have good credit, but car repair loan specialists typically offer loans for people with poor credit too. Note though that you’ll likely pay higher fees or accept a less generous interest rate. 

Try Bumper 

Debt Awareness week is so important to highlight how debt can happen to anyone at any time, bad luck can catch anyone out when it comes to cars and maintenance. If you do find yourself facing a sizeable repair bill for something unexpected, Bumper's ‘buy now, pay later’ service can help ease the pain.  

Bumper lets you split hefty a repair bill into smaller, easy-to-manage, interest-free payments. It works like this: 

  1. Enter your vehicle registration number and postcode
  2. Select a local repair centre from our network
  3. Complete a simple credit application for up to £5,000 
  4. Receive your unique Bumper Code
  5. Book your appointment

The whole process takes a matter of minutes. Bumper lets you get the repairs you need quickly while deferring payments in easy interest-free instalments. Visit our How It Works page to find out more or search for a trusted repairer near you.

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