Of course, not driving as often keeps maintenance costs down. Grouping your trips together helps as well. It's those short little trips that don't allow the fluids to get up to operating temperature.
Dealers are typically more expensive than independent shops, but they're not necessarily bad. There are good people and honest mechanics at both, and there are pushy up-sellers and shady mechanics at both. In either case, if you find someone who seems honest and you can trust, stick with them. I go to one near my workplace that offers free (technically, included) shuttle service to and fro, as well as a "free" car wash. Tips accepted, and the guys at the place I go deserve it.
The up-sell is the biggest challenge. Sometimes, it's worthwhile, sometimes it's not. I usually decline to give myself a chance to read up on it, especially if it sounds odd. Plus, a coupon for that service might be found.
A lot of things in the 30,000 (or whatever mileage) maintenance aren't necessarily needed by that time or at all. Other maintenance can be done by yourself (air filter), while others are offered free elsewhere (tire rotation). Still other maintenance they don't charge for at all, but they list it to make it seem more impressive. Finding out the prices of the individual service can be worthwhile. I found a dealer who performed the same service for 1/3 less!
Some dealers send out coupons. Get on more than one mailing lists, because often times they'll match their competitor's coupons. Note that some coupons only apply to "one" service, so decide where you want both things done; if you'll only get the savings off on one service, and have to pay for the other, or whether to bring your vehicle in to each dealer to get the savings on both offers.
By abcs from Shoreline, WA
By Ole Lulu
By Terri H.
By Syd Barr
The mechanic says my ac compressor is seeping and the hose took a dump and that it's about $700 to fix. Does anyone know how to find a little bit cheaper mechanic or if that price is correct? Please help. I have 2 kids and can't have them in the hot car for the summer like that.
Check with your local high school/trade school/college as to their car repair classes. They will do the work for free or only a very minimal charge, for the experience. You will probably have to buy the parts.