By Troyce Grant 

After a rainy day in Athens, Georgia, college student Riley Herring was driving to Aldi when the driver of a Toyota RAV 4 slammed the brakes in front of her.  Herring pressed hers, but the pavement was so slippery she hydroplaned and smashed into the small vehicle.

She knew having an accident would be expensive but said she didn’t know anything about car repair or navigating the insurance process. Herring said she was fortunate to have family in the Athens area who were there to help guide her through the ordeal.

“I 100% could not have done it by myself,” Herring said. 

Herring said she was concerned that as a young college student, an unscrupulous car repair shop owner would take advantage of her lack of knowledge. 

To avoid this, Herring said she took her car to an Athens collision repair shop her relatives had used and brought her cousin along because he knew more about cars than she did.

For students who may not have such family support, an expert in car repair said it would be important to research repair options. 

Greg Thomas, the program coordinator of the automotive repair and collision program at Athens Technical College, said a good way to avoid being swindled out of your cash is to read reviews of repair shops online. He also recommended asking other students about their experiences with different car shops.

Herring said the mechanics who worked with her were very thorough at explaining what the key issues were with her repairs. By doing this, Herring said she felt safe and was able to trust them, adding the mechanics were actually trying to protect her from getting ripped off from her insurance company.

Herring said she didn’t realize before her accident that sometimes insurance companies will give a victim less money than his or her car is worth after an accident. By explaining all the little details of the repairs, she said the mechanics allowed her to go back to her insurance company confident in what she needed to cover the cost of the repairs.

While accidents happen, Thomas said more often it is other random repairs students must prepare to handle. And he said car repairs are generally more expensive to fix today and noted that repair costs can vary by the type of car. 

Thomas, who has been in the industry for over 30 years, also has two college students who are car owners. With his experience and in-depth understanding of car repair, Thomas said the best way to prevent paying high expenses for car repair is to keep up with a vehicle’s regular maintenance. 

He said getting the oil changed, tires rotated and checking the air filters and tire pressure are all part of the routine maintenance that not only will keep costs low but make the car safer to drive.

For example, Thomas said he has had students come to him after driving on dangerously low tire pressure. “They’ve been running around with 15 or 20 pounds of pressure when it needs 32 or 35,” he said.

Troyce Grant is a journalism student at the University of Georgia.