I saw this “buy used cars” post at Narrow Bridge, and for some reason, I had a “nuh-uh” child-like moment. I ended up leaving a super long comment that I thought should be shared here too. To give some context, the post in question was really well written and named off 5 reasons people use to justify buying new cars.
2. Gas mileage
3. I’ll drive it forever
5. Cheap payments
It then pointed out why each one of those reasons is a bad idea in the long run most of the time. Well…I apparently wanted to write a really long comment on why I buy new anyway, hahaha.
I Buy New
I bought a new car after college and another one this year. For reasons 3, 4, and 5.
Before I bought my new Chevy Aveo in 2005, I was used to driving a 1998 Mazda Protégé that my parents “gifted” me. It was AWFUL – would stall out frequently at stop signs and lights even though it was an automatic, leaked a quart of oil per week, and didn’t have an air conditioner (we live in Houston, TX). My parents got it from the bank for $1200. I tried to give it back but they got all upset, so I just parked it at my college campus and walked or begged rides to get anywhere. I only used it once a month to visit my parents and it broke down on me twice in one year. I put $1000-$2000 into it overall in less than 18 months and finally resold it to a guy who needed it for parts about 2 years after getting it for $1400. I hated that car and the fact that it left me stranded all of the time.
So, after getting my first real job a month out of college, I bought an $11,000 brand new Chevy Aveo. It was a 5 year loan for $217 a month. I ended up paying it off in 2 years and it cost me a grand total of $12,800. Over the next 7 years, I put about $1500-$2000 into maintenance and repairs. I drove it into the ground early this year, so it made it 9 years (it is a badly made car that should have made it another 2-3 years for sure). It wasn’t the best car ever but it did what it needed to. I was only stranded once in those 9 years when the thermostat housing (made of crappy plastic) broke on me on my way home 3 years into owning it.
In April of this year, I bought myself a brand new 2013 Honda Fit (there is only an electric 2014, so 2013′s were made for 18 months). I paid $16,356 drive out and got 0.9% interest for the next 5 years. My payments are $278 and I will probably not pay it off early. It will cost me $16,680 total and I didn’t even give them a down payment. We have our money invested in more than 0.9% returns. As long as Honda’s are as reliable as people say, I will be driving this one for at least 10 years. I am hoping for more.
This is my personal TARDIS – my new 2013 Honda Fit
All of this said, my husband bought a 1 year old, used Prius in 2008. It was $21,000, we paid it off in 2.5 years for $22,750 total, and he’s still driving it. We have had to put about $1000 into a few issues in the last year or so. It now has 130,000 miles on it and we think we’ll get another 2-3 years out of it…we’ll see…
So yes, less than $5k used cars are a better money value, even with repairs. But at some point, I decided that saving money doesn’t beat your day-to-day peace of mind. So I am a supporter of buying awesome used cars or new cars and really driving them for 10+ years if possible. I honestly don’t care if some money is wasted overall if I am not stranded more than once every 10 years for the rest of my life.
How about you? Do you buy new or used? If you buy new, is it actually worth it to you? Have you realized how much investing that same chunk of change could get you in 30 years? Is that a good trade off for you? If you buy used, what are your main reasons?
We originally bought our used 2007 Toyota Prius in early 2008 when gas prices were reaching $4 a gallon here in Houston, TX and there was a 200 person waiting list for a new Prius. Long story short, they wanted $32,000 for a new Prius or $27,000 for a used 2007 Prius with 30,000 miles on it already. After a couple of hours of negotiation, we settled at $21,500 for the 2007 model. With financing at 4% and everything else, we ended up paying it off early and put in a total of $23,400.
In December 2011, I posted The Pros and Cons of a Prius – From an Owner’s Mouth since they were getting popular. I wanted to check in again now that our Prius is 7 years old and just hit 130,000 miles.
Not our car, but it looks identical and I wasn’t home to take a picture when I wrote this…
- It still makes 44-47 miles per gallon on road trips and 47-52 miles per gallon with in-city driving. Yep, that seems backwards but it isn’t since the breaking system is part of the battery re-charging process.
- It still has great amount of storage space for us. It regularly carries reffing duffle bags, a Curling broom and shoe bag, luggage, etc. Heck, we actually successfully transported a full-sized chaise lounge home along with the two of us.
- It is still very comfortable for up to 4 adults and semi-comfortable for 5 if a couple of the adults are not large, lol.
- It drives fairly smooth – a lot smoother than my old Chevy Aveo. It’s about the same as my new Honda Fit even though the Prius is heavier.
- It is a quiet ride since it only makes noise while it uses gas to recharge the batteries.
- It doesn’t require much maintenance – just an oil change every 5000 miles.
- The keyless entry, push button start, and backup camera are great! Other cars have those too, so keep an eye out.
- Toyota is great at honoring their recalled parts.
- There is still a big blind spot thanks to the slope of the rear window area.
- It is so quiet that we’ve accidentally left it running in the garage for a few hours until we went to investigate the periodic vacuum cleaner sound.
- It seems to run through good tires every two years now and it costs about $450 to have them all replaced at Discount Tire.
- If it breaks down in your garage, you will need a jack with wheels to get it out since it is a hybrid that can’t be put into neutral when it is dead – it’s just a pretty paper weight with front wheel drive. So you can jack up the front and push it out so it can be towed.
- When something breaks that shouldn’t – it would be expensive to replace. The hybrid battery pack alone is $3000 (is still recharging perfectly according to the little display picture that shows how it is working at all times).
- There weren’t any issues at all for 6 years. But in 2013, we’ve had to replace the 12v battery ($300), the solar sensor ($160), the water pump ($340 and this may still be covered – just need to submit a recall notice and receipt and see what happens), and the display stopped working but was recalled (that was covered by Toyota automatically, plus they covered our rental car for the 2+ weeks that it took to fix it thanks to that part breaking for a lot of people at once). So last year cost us about $800 in parts. Haven’t had any issues in the last 5 months though.
More technology does mean that there is more that can break, but I’ve been impressed overall by our Prius and Toyota’s way of handling their problems. We still trust our Prius despite the issues that happened last year.
Side Note – In The Pros and Cons of a Prius – From an Owner’s Mouth, I developed the simple equation for figuring out if the gas cost savings justified buying a Prius instead of whatever other car you may be thinking about buying instead. I just ran the numbers for a new 2014 Prius versus the new 2013 Honda Fit I just purchased (remember, there is no non-electric 2014 Honda Fit, so the 2013 model with 50 miles on it is as new as it gets)…
Gas Savings – Toyota Prius vs Honda Fit
Basically, here’s how you can use to see if a Prius would save you more in the long run:
1. (Your Average Annuals Miles / Comparison Car Miles Per Gallon) * $Gas Price Per Gallon = Cost of Gas for Comparison Car (CC)
2. (Your Average Annuals Miles / 50) * $Gas Price Per Gallon = Cost of Gas for Prius (P)
3. CC – P = Gas Savings Per Year (to use below)
Extra Cost of the Prius / Gas Savings per Year = Years it Would Take to Break Even
That said, a 2014 Prius is currently selling for about $21,300 and my new 2013 Fit was $16,300. That’s a difference of $5000.
1. (8000/32) * 3.5 = $875
2. (8000/50) * 3.5 = $560
$5000 / $315 = 15.87 Years
So, the extra $5000 wouldn’t have been covered for 15.87 years based on the current cost of gas and how much I drive in my highest mileage year ever. So, if I was considering a Prius just based on cost, then I made the right decision to go with the 2013 Honda Fit. Obviously, most people don’t buy cars based on price alone. You also have to consider what your needs are as well as your general wants, but it’s good to at least consider gas prices.
Have you owned or thought about owning a Prius? What experiences have you had or heard about?
I bought my new Honda Fit last week, so the next step was to sell my 2005 Chevy Aveo. The estimates I could find from dealerships were just around $2000, but my online research showed that I could get $3000-$4000 pretty easily. I sold the last car we replaced, a 2003 Hyundai Sonata, on Craigslist in 2008 for double the dealer’s offer, so I decided to try again. Here is how I sold my car in less than 72 hours.
1. Gather the Documentation
The first thing I did was to make sure that I had my car’s title ready to go. If you can’t locate your title, order a copy as soon as you can. In Texas, you can go to http://txdmv.gov/motorists/buying-or-selling-a-vehicle/get-a-copy-of-your-title to get the form to print, fill out, and mail in with a $2 check. You can do a quick search of your state’s DMV site or a search engine to find your exact process.
I also found our online DMV site and printed out a Texas Certificate of Title (Form 130-U) and a Bill of Sale. I also ended up submitting the Motor Vehicle Transfer Notification form online. That informs the DMV that I no longer own the car, so I shouldn’t be held liable for it anymore. The buyer will also want to have you two fill out a transit permit app online like this one and print it out so that they can drive around without plates for up to 5 days to give them time to register the car under their name. Again, no matter what state you live in, you can find all of the info you need through a quick online search or through your DMV.
In short, you will need:
- Title App
- Bill of Sale
- Transfer Notification
- Transit Permit
2. Determine a Value
I spent a couple of hours researching how much my car was worth. On Kelley Blue Book, it was listed at $3071 in “Fair” condition or $3471 in “Good” condition. My Aveo fell somewhere in between those definitions – it had minor body work damage (a wavy part above the front, right wheel well) and no current issues with how it functioned. Technically, it was closer to “Good” even though I personally was losing faith in it because of the things I have had to replace like the thermostat housing and master brake cylinder.
On Edmunds, my Aveo was closest to “Average” condition, which was listed as $2600 in a private party sale or $3350 if a dealership was selling it.
I also searched for other 2005 Chevy Aveo’s that were listed on Craigslist in my area, and the ones closest to my condition were listed around $3800-$4100, and they had more miles on them.
Based on all of that, I decided to list my 2005 Chevy Aveo for $3950 and accept the first cash offer over $3100 (obviously keeping that number to myself).
You will always want to ask for at least 10-15% more than you actually want since people will haggle. It’s human nature to only believe you got a great deal if you got some money off of the asking price…even if the asking price was intentionally inflated. That’s why it pays to ask for a discount on pretty much any purchase…it may be built into the price.
3. Clean the Car
This is a huge problem that I saw on other Craigslist postings – people would post pictures of their dirty car for sale and expect everyone to love it. They won’t. Do you want to spend a few thousand on a new-to-you car knowing that you immediately have to clean it? No.
Do yourself and your future buyers a favor. Wash your car and clean out the interior.
I spent 2 1/2 hours on my car since it was dirty. I am not a doting owner. So, I took it to a drive-through car wash that had a $3 special. Then I dried it off with a towel so it wouldn’t have water marks. I also took a simple soap solution (a few drops of liquid dish washing soap and water) and washed off any remaining yucky marks that the car wash didn’t get completely off. That all took about 20 minutes.
The remaining 2 hours was spent getting all of my stuff and trash out of the car and trunk, vacuuming, using Windex on the plastic parts and the windows, and taking masking tape to the upholstery to pull off a bunch of dog hair. I also squirted around some Febreze: Allergen Reducer when I was done to help make it smell fresh and hopefully help out anybody that may be allergic to dogs. My total cost was $3 since I already had the soap, water, Windex, masking tape, and Febreze for home use. I also read that baby wipes work great on the plastic parts too. I forgot to polish up my tires, but that’s recommended too.
If you don’t want to spend a couple of hours cleaning he car you want to sell, find a detailing place to do it for you. My in-laws occasionally use an $80 place on their side of town. The closest detailer to my house wanted $130, so I just did it myself.
4. Take Pictures
Another big problem with some car listings online was that there were few or no pictures at all! Would you want to drive a long way to test drive a car without having any idea what it is going to look like? No, of course not!
My main picture was the “photogenic” side of my car at an angle as you can see above. Then I took pictures of the front, back, and both sides of the exterior. I also did a close-up of the damaged area on the passenger side front wheel well so future buyers would know that I wasn’t hiding it, and it wasn’t that bad. I then took pictures of the interior seats, front and back, the whole dashboard area (by sitting in the back seat), and a close up of the odometer. Then I took a picture of the original owner’s manual and window sticker just in case that would be a great selling point. I forgot to take a picture of the open trunk, but that would have helped too since it was really big.
Craigslist allows up to 24 pictures, so you should definitely be able to fully show off your car!
5. Create the Craigslist Post
People generally find the time to buy cars on the weekends, so Fridays or super early Saturdays are the best days to post. I would suggest Craigslist above anything else since they are free and widely used for used car buyers. I also created free ads at Cars.com and Thrifty Nickel online, but they didn’t get any responses except from shady car buying agencies. I deleted them.
Remember to include the year, make, model, and condition or major selling point in the title of the ad. Also remember, once again, to set the selling price at least 10-15% more than you are willing to take since everybody will want to haggle no matter what price you choose.
I posted first on Wednesday, then renewed that one and posted another one on Friday night.
The ad that ended up selling the car was titled “REDUCED Blue 2005 Chevy Aveo LS – LOW MILES at 63k – Non-Smoker Owner!!!” and the price was $3950 on Wednesday and reduced to $3900 Friday night. I was willing to accept $3100, but was aiming for $3500.
Our post included the year, make, and model, a section for the car’s features, a section where I listed what was replaced and when, the quick history of the car (including how the wheel well was damaged), and 12 pictures. I included my first name and cell phone number. I made sure to fill out all of the info from the drop down menus that Craigslist has too so my car would be found in related searches.
6. Test Drives
I had one test drive on Thursday from my Wednesday ad that didn’t go anywhere since the buyer’s older brother liked the car more than she did. Then I received 4-5 interested emails and texts from my Friday ad late at night. The young couple that agreed to see it first thing Saturday morning ended up buying it for $3400. I let the other interested people know that it was sold.
For test drives, I would suggest taking a photo of their driver’s license and texting it your spouse or a friend. That way you have a copy of their license AND someone knows who to report if you go missing. I never felt unsafe with either set of test drivers, but this was super easy and seemed smart.
7. Close the Deal
I answered every, single question anybody had. I also was completely honest about the issues that I have had with the car, what I have had to replace, and that my mechanic suggested I get a more reliable car now that I was driving more. I pointed out all the updated maintenance records in the owner’s manual and explained that the car would still have some dog hair in it since masking tape can only do so much. I would suggest that if you are a chatter box like me, make sure to say your piece and then leave silences long enough for questions. No reason to talk over people.
The couple who bought the car said that they liked my post since it was so detailed and there we no surprises when they saw the car. Everything was as stated and I am really straight-forward. They only had $3400 for a new-to-them car and I wasn’t going to push very hard for my happy $3500 price since I’d get to have my whole weekend to myself by 9am by wrapping up the deal AND the offer was above my $3100 minimum. Win-win for me and them.
8. Do the Paperwork
Since I already had printed out what we needed and filled in the car’s info in the spots that I could before hand, the paperwork process took less than 20-30 minutes.
The buyers left with:
- a 2005 Chevy Aveo
- a Title
- the Title App
- the original Bill of Sale
- a Transit Permit
- the license plates
- the registration sticker
- the Vehicle Transfer Notification form that I then filled out and filed online
- a copy of the signed over title
- a copy of the Bill of Sale
- $3400 in cash
9. Things to Cancel
Before I sold the Chevy, I deactivated its EZ Tag for our toll roads. Our toll road authority says on their website that I could deactivate the sticker but leave it in the car so that the buyers could reactivate it on their account.
I also called our insurance company and had the Chevy taken off of our car insurance policy. It was liability only, so it “only” reduced our premium by $17 a month, but that helps make up for the $50 a month increase from my new car. Old premium was $55 a month, now it’s $82 for full coverage on a 2007 Toyota Prius and a 2013 Honda Fit.
10. Deposit Your Cash
That was the best part.
In the end, I started cleaning my car at 10am on Wednesday, April 30, created the first listing at 3pm on the same day, renewed that listing and created another on Friday at 8pm, and the car drove away sold at 9:30am on Saturday, May 3. That’s right under 72 hours from start to finish! YAY!!!
Do you sell your own old cars or do you trade them into the dealership? I will admit that trading them in is easier. Did I miss anything?
I posted Monday about targeting a new car since it is just time to move on from my 2005 Chevy Aveo. Well, I was offered a deal that I didn’t want to pass up! Here is my new 2013 Honda Fit!!!
This is my personal TARDIS – my new 2013 Honda Fit
I should probably explain here that there was no “2014 Honda Fit”. They are skipping directly from the 2013 model to the 2015 model that will be out in a couple of months. So a 2013 Honda Fit is as new as it gets and this one had 58 miles on it and was built in December 2013.
Buying a Car
I’ve been researching cars since last Wednesday. Once I was 99% sure that I wanted the Honda Fit more than any of my other options, I researched the poop out of it. Specifically, I:
- Read everything they had on new and used Honda Fits on http://kelleybluebook.com and http://www.edmunds.com. I read their info and ALL of the user reviews.
- Used search engines to find even more personal positive and negative reviews. The majority of the negative reviews were about singular vehicle issues. The ones about general stuff, like road noise, I noted down for my test drive. I found the Fit to be much quieter than my Aveo and it handles super easily. Like a go kart, which was listed as a negative for a few people, but I enjoy it so far!
- Searched Craigslist for every Honda Fit for sale there – new and used. Found that the dealers were selling the new, 2013 Honda Fits for $18k-$19k drive out or $14k-$15k for low mileage used ones. Individuals were selling low mileage used ones for around $12k.
- Looked up the basic tires on Discount Tires to make sure they aren’t super special $200 each tires or something hinky.
- Used search engines to ensure that insurance for a Honda Fit isn’t amazingly higher than for any other subcompact I was looking at.
Now, here’s where I just got lucky…
I still had the contact info for the Honda salesman that Isabelle and I used about a year ago, Mr. Harper. He was friendly, straight-forward, and worked out a very fair deal for Isabelle’s Honda Civic. I emailed Mr. Harper and asked for him to let me know if they got in a used Honda Fit with less than 40,000 miles for $12,000 drive-out or a brand new one for $15,500 drive-out.
He called me 4 hours later with the offer for a brand new Fit, automatic, with tinted windows, for $16,356 drive-out at 0.9% interest. The automatics were normally $1500 more expensive than the manuals, so I jumped on this deal.
Here’s what I wasn’t really expecting. Mr. BFS and I drove to the dealership yesterday, arrived at 11:15am, did the test drive, filled out all of the paperwork, and left the dealership at 1pm WITH my 2013 Honda Fit at $16,356 DRIVE-OUT!!! Not one number changed. There were no hard sales. Even the finance manager was friendly and laid back as we declined the extras.
The final numbers came down to $16,356 at 0.9% for 5 years. That’s about $279 a month for 5 years. There is no prepayment penalty, so we could pay off the car loan at any time, BUT we might not. If we don’t, we spend $380 on interest in 5 years ($16,735 total). If we do have extra money to throw at it, we may throw it at the 4% interest mortgage loan instead.
Buying a Car
In the end, here are my suggestions on buying a new car:
- First, you have to narrow down your options. That was hard for me.
- Research, research, research! You have to make sure you know what you are getting and how much it may cost.
- Look at all of your buying options – new or used, Craigslist or dealerships. You may be surprised. Generally, you will get the best deal by buying used from an individual. If you do go that route, just have the car checked by a mechanic before handing over the cash. If you go through a dealer, make sure you work out the deal before going in – makes it so much easier! And be ready to leave if they mess with you.
I’m super happy!!! A new Honda should be able to make it 10-15 years for me (100,000+ miles) without as many worries about quality as I’ve had for the last 9 years. I’m getting my Chevy Aveo cleaned up today and will post about selling it if it all works out by the end of the weekend as hoped.
What do you think? What car buying tips would you suggest?
Update April 29, 2014: I ended up buying the 2013 Honda Fit – wish me luck!
My Chevy Aveo is a cheaply constructed car. I knew it when I bought it brand new for not much in 2005. And now I am new car shopping.
My Chevy’s History
This isn’t my actual car, but it looks identical.
I bought my new, bright blue Aveo in June 2005 for $11,200 and have discovered a lot of “cheap” about it since then:
- In 2008 at around 24k miles, it developed a small brake fluid leak that wasn’t worth tracking down according to my mechanic. I just learned to add new fluid every 6 months.
- In November 2009 at around 38k miles, the 02 sensor busted and my serpentine belt had cracked. That cost $540.
- In April 2010 at about 42k miles, my PLASTIC thermostat housing cracked in half. That cost about $350.
- I then called GM’s customer service to ask why there wasn’t a recall since it was a problem with EVERY 2004-2006 Aveo model and they completely blew me off. That was the day I decided never to buy a Chevy again. They won’t back their crappy cars.
- In 2013 at about 58k miles, I needed my engine mounts replaced to keep my bottom from falling out. I remember that costing around $400 (but I don’t have a blog record, lol).
- And now, in 2014 at 63k miles, I needed to replace my brake main cylinder since the fluid leak had gotten bad. That cost around $300 too.
According to my mechanic, despite my super low mileage, my car is simply cheap. It’s time to move on.
I’ve spent the last 5 days narrowing down my options to the automatic hatchbacks below. I like manual transmissions, but it makes more sense to move onto a car that my husband can drive in a pinch too. Plus I’m driving more for pet sitting and traffic stinks in a manual. Hatchbacks will make hauling stuff around, like the cages for dog fostering, way easier.
Here are the cars in the running and their new and used prices (low mileage for the used quotes):
- Honda Fit – $18k New, or $12k Used
- Toyota Yaris – $17k New, or $12k Used
- 2014 Mitsubishi Mirage – $14k New
- Hyundai Accent – $16k New, or $12k Used
- Toyota Prius – $19k Used
I dropped the Nissan Versa and Kia Rio off the list since a couple of the others had better reviews and similar pricing.
What’s in My Brain
The 2014 Mitsubishi Mirage is the one being promoted the most by my parents. It is about the same price BRAND NEW as many of these cars used versions, but I’m slightly leery of their awful reputation with everyone but my parents (they LOVE this car in the manual version). And it makes 38-44 MPG, which is better than everything else on the list except the Prius.
My parents have the silver one, and I would probably lean towards blue or silver too. I also like the green and pink/purple, but I don’t think I’d like them for 10 years…
When I drove my parents new Mirage, it was amazingly easy to drive, maneuver, and was fun overall with way better included options than my Aveo. But it is apparently really noisy in the automatic version – even my parents cringed a little about that. I don’t want to skip out on a great deal, but I also don’t want to make the mistake of having another car that will give up on me in less than 75k miles. My parents last Mirage was 14 years old when they sold it, still running fine, with 150k miles on it. But this new 3-cylinder Mirage is completely different. And the automatic version is simply worse than the manual version.
The Honda Fit was brought onto my radar by two people – my friend, Kersten, who LOVED her old one and a new blogger, Brian at Long Term Mindset. I remembered that our other friend, James, really enjoys his as well and has had his for more than 6 years. It apparently feels a bit like entering a TARDIS – bigger on the inside. Plus, the seats fold completely flat without much effort to make hauling stuff way easier. It just stinks that I can find a great deal on a new one. I will end up paying $18k drive-out, which is right around the used Prius price. And I know I like a Prius. If I buy a used Fit, it is simply cheaper to do it from an individual than a dealership, but I won’t have any warranties to lean on.
This is one of my top options right now…
I know I like the Prius since that is what my husband drives. Tons of hauling space, 47-51 MPG, easy to drive for me, and Toyota really backs up their products. Our Prius is 7 years old, has 130k miles on it, and has had 3 problems. Toyota covered the most expensive two automatically since they had recalled that part. They even covered a rental car for 3 weeks since one of the issues needed a part that was back ordered. The expensive hybrid battery has never had any problems, which everyone is scared of. And I know many stories of people getting 250k+ miles without working to hard at it. It’s a car that has impressed me.
This is a newer version of the color and design that we have of the Toyota Prius.
I need to actually see the Yaris and Accent to test out their fold-down seats and the way they handle.
Waiting to Pounce Since I Broke My Brain
I am overwhelmed by options. I could get a brand new, zippy Mirage for $14k right now ($12k if I continue using a manual). I could get a new, fun Fit for $17k-$18k with some haggling work or a 40k mileage used one for $12k without much work at all. I could get a used Prius with less than 60k miles for $18k pretty easily. I could look into getting more info on the Yaris and Accent.
So for right now, I am going to keep my eyes peeled for deals and just keep driving along in my Aveo. I can’t make up my mind and I’ve broken my brain with trying to make the “right” choice. No matter what, I am looking at spending $12k-$19k in the next year, so I’m a little grumpy about that anyway.
Whine, whine, whine. LOL. How are you doing? What would you suggest?
This is not a sponsored or requested post. I just like the American Automobile Association (aka AAA).
Mr. BFS and I have been members of AAA for 4 years so far. I am not a fan paying for something that you may or may not use, like warranties and insurances, but it’s cheaper to be insured in some cases than risk the worst happening with no backup. Specifically for us, I don’t drive much at all, BUT Mr. BFS drives all over town (and sometimes the state) for sports officiating. At about $10 a month, AAA membership is cheap peace-of-mind for me while he is on the road.
AAA Benefits that Matter to Us
If you’ve ever looked into AAA, you may have noticed a super long list of benefits for members. I am sure that there is someone that appreciates and uses all of them, but here are the benefits that I care about the most (we are on the Member Plus Plan – not basic but not Premier either):
- Free towing four times per year up to 100 miles
- Free fuel if we run out of gas. They provide more than enough to get to the next available gas station.
- Battery service with unlimited jump starts. You can use the towing benefit if your car still won’t start.
- Flat tire service. If you have a spare, they will change the tire for you. I actually would suggest learning to change a tire yourself and saving yourself about an hour of waiting. But we have had to use this as you will see below…
- Minor mechanical first aid. If they can help, they will. This is not insured but it may help you get to your mechanic.
- Free identity theft monitoring
- Vehicle lockout services
- One Carfax vehicle history report per member
- AAA discounts
AAA Benefits that We’ve Used
- Free towing – In the last 4 years, my car has needed one tow due to a broken belt. Our Prius has need to be towed 3 times…all because of electrical issues of some sort. I think low-tech wins the towing wars…but the Prius makes 50% better mpg.
- Free fuel – We ended up using this a few weeks after getting AAA! We ran out of gas in Kansas on the way to a curling tournament…50 miles between gas stations…
- Battery service – I’ve needed two jump starts…yeah, I wait too long to buy new batteries.
- Flat tire service – We change our own flats, EXCEPT that one time when two of our tires popped at once thanks to debris in the road. AAA put on our spare and even quick-patched the less blown tire so we could drive the 3 miles slowly to a Discount Tire.
- Minor mechanical first aid – One of my batteries was not accepting a jump because of crud build up. The guy they sent used a Diet Coke to clean the stuff off, tested my battery, jumped it, and sent me directly to O’ Reilley’s Auto Parts for a new one.
- Free identity theft monitoring – I signed up and like the fact that it is being monitored all the time.
- Vehicle lockout services – We have used this for one car so far…a friend’s while we were hanging out. I love the fact that AAA covers me, not my cars. That means that I’m covered even as a passenger with other people.
- AAA discounts – This has saved me about 10-15% per fix at my mechanic’s every time. I’ve also used it at two hotels. I think it’s close to covering about one year’s membership by itself and could work more for me if I remembered it all of the time…
Are you a member of AAA? Why or why not? Does something else you have cover most of this?
Know when a traffic ticket can end life as you know it? When you are a sports official and things don’t go as planned…
Mr. BFS received a minor traffic violation ticket in Galveston in March 2013. I can’t remember the exact wording but it was like “changing lanes without signaling”. It was 2am, no one was on the road (literally…it was just us and apparently this one cop for miles), and we simply moved out of a turn-only lane since it was the wrong turn.
In April 2014, he applied to take defensive driving and was approved. He took the course in late May 2013 and mailed in everything requested on June 7, 2013 via USPS Certified Mail (a month before it was due). That package contained his driving record and the defensive driving certificate from the online class that he took.
Well, he received a court summons on January 18, 2014 saying that he had to come to the Galveston Municipal Court on February 10, 2014 to explain why he didn’t send in his paperwork. He’s worried and I was pissed and worried for him.
The Main Issue
Here was the main problem. He’s a Texas Association Sports Official. This means that he can’t have ANYTHING on his record other than basic traffic tickets or he can’t ref anymore. Period. Reffing is his life.
Given that info, Mr. BFS was worried that they were going to charge him with something paperwork related that would get him kicked out of sports officiating. We no longer had the certified mail receipt, just the credit card charge, so we had no way of proving that we sent in the papers.
Correcting the Issue
I called the court during the following week to ask about what we needed in order to wrap this up. The court official on the other end said that they received our paperwork but that he hadn’t taken a “Texas Certified Defensive Driving Course”, so the certificate he sent in wasn’t what they needed.
I’m going to pause here to say that I was a good girl when I heard this. I didn’t ask why in the hell they hadn’t told us last year. I didn’t ask if it was standard procedure to wait until a year later to pursue issues like this. I didn’t snap at her in any way. I was good.
Anyway, I did ask what exactly did we need to do to make this better. She said that my husband had until his hearing on February 10 to come up with a valid defensive driving certificate.
Getting Another Certificate
Mr. BFS called the place that he used before and asked if they were a Texas Certified course or not. They explained that they have that course but he signed up for the insurance-discount-only course. They also admitted that this happens pretty often accidentally, and then sent him a link to the certified course to let him take it for free. He spent the next 10 hours of that same day carrying around a laptop. He took the course and did other stuff while it made him wait to continue. It was easy although time consuming since it was almost identical to the course he took before. Grrrr…
I paid $20 to get the new certificate in 2 days instead of waiting for regular mail. Thanks to ice, it arrived within 3 business days later. My husband immediately certified mailed it in again as requested. I am keeping that USPS Certified Mail receipt forever.
I then called daily all of last week to make sure that the judge would see the new certificate and clear the case before today, February 10. Otherwise, my husband would have to drive the hour and a half to Galveston to spend hours waiting to see the judge, who would then take 2 minutes to clear the case since he had the certificate in hand.
Luckily, they finally officially acknowledged it last Thursday, February 6, 2014 and cancelled our court date. Supposedly, this is all wrapped up now.
Point to Remember
Overall, this stupid scare was hanging over my husband’s head for nearly 3 weeks. We’re glad it’s over but I still wish they would have pointed out the mistake last year instead of giving us 3 weeks to make it better or suffer the consequences.
Also, everyone should make a note to themselves right now that THERE IS A DIFFERENCE between defensive driving courses. They are nearly the same course but are very different in the eyes of the law.
Have you ever had to deal with something similar? Ever had a basic traffic ticket go awry?