Say your car has a huge problem on your way to work one day. Smoke is coming out of the tailpipe. The engine overheats. You’re left with no choice but to have it towed to a garage, where a mechanic disassembles a portion of your engine and discovers the problem: a blown head gasket.

Sounds expensive, right? Not only do you have to pay for the time the mechanic already spent to diagnose your problem, the actual repair, and the cost of the tow – these expenses are coming at you out of nowhere.

To avoid resorting to racking up credit-card debt or borrowing money to pay your maintenance bills, you might want to consider a vehicle service contract (VSC). They cover repairs that typically aren’t covered by factory warranties or are no longer covered because your warranty has expired.

Unexpected vehicle issues are common (and expensive).

According to a recent Harris Poll conducted for Ally, more than half of consumers paid for major vehicle repairs in the last five years. And those fixes didn’t come cheap. Of those who paid for repairs, one in three spent $2,000 or more and 58 percent spent more than $1,000.

Combine this with a 2018 Federal Reserve study that found 41 percent of adults could not afford an unexpected $400 emergency expense and would need to borrow money or sell something to pay for it.

The statistics paint a pretty clear picture: surprise vehicle repairs happen a lot, and they’re a big expense many of us are not prepared for.

The full price of owning your car can be much higher than you think.

In reality, the price tag of owning a vehicle can far exceed your car payment, fuel, and insurance costs — the expenses you typically factor in when calculating your overall vehicle budget. Unexpected repairs and routine maintenance are expenses that many people do not factor in upfront, so it’s common to be caught off guard by repair expenses.

“Expensive car repairs can cause serious financial stress, especially for those with little or no emergency savings,” says Mark Manzo, President of Ally Insurance. “Most major vehicle repairs come unexpectedly, and standard insurance policies usually only cover repairs in case of accidents.”

And to further complicate the situation – the rise of complex vehicle technology (think: automatic braking system, hands-free voice control) and an increased number of used cars on the road (the average age of vehicles on the road is 11.6 years) have made repairs more expensive and frequent.

A vehicle service contract can help protect you from the financial burden and all-around hassle of surprise vehicle repairs.

You can think of a VSC as an extended warranty on your vehicle— nearly 60 percent of drivers who have purchased one say that peace of mind is the most significant benefit of having the coverage. Similar to other protection products, “Service contracts provide customers with the security of knowing they don’t have to worry about car repair bills derailing their budgets or putting them in debt,” Manzo explains.

In some instances, the cost of a VSC can be rolled into your monthly car payment, making it easier to budget. Typically, the price is based on your car’s make and model, its condition, and the coverage and length of the VSC.

Ally Premier Protection Major Guard covers more than 7,400 vehicle components, plus rental reimbursement, roadside assistance and reimbursement if a breakdown interrupts your trip. (Some exclusions apply.)

Click below or talk to your auto dealer to learn more about Ally Premier Protection.

Learn More About Ally Premier Protection