Compared with other services, auto repair is a real bargain, according to the U.S.-based Car Care Council. Over the past decade, says the council, the cost of hospital services in the U.S. have risen more than 100% and financial services have risen 90% while automotive maintenance and repair has risen only 44.5%, making auto repair one of the best values of the service industry, according to the council. Automotive parts are an even better buy with the price rising only 4.2% in the past 10 years, based on percentage changes in the Consumer Price Index from 1990 to 2001. According to the council, some 48% of all households in the United States have at least one automotive DIYer. “Whether it’s an oil change, replacing brakes or new belts and hoses, that periodic repair bill is a drop in the bucket compared to monthly payments on a new car,” asserts Rich White, spokesperson for the Car Care Council. “The bottom line is a properly maintained vehicle is safer, more dependable, cleaner and more valuable.” “Perhaps the smartest way to get a solid return on investment is to keep your car through what we call the ‘Cinderella Era,” says White. “It’s that period of time after the payoff when your car is still in great shape and needs only modest repairs.” Figures from Runzheimer International, a management-consulting firm that measures travel and living costs, confirm the council’s claims. Recent figures from a Runzheimer study show that trading a vehicle every eight years instead of every four can save more than $2,481.75 a year after the payoff. That includes repairs and maintenance, license, registration and taxes and insurance.