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Car Crisis Averted – It Could Have Been Worse

Maintenance issues are currently wearing me down.  Everything around me is breaking.  When I make progress on one, another gets worse.  And when my husband honked from the garage on his way out Monday afternoon, I ran downstairs to see what happened.

The Prius wouldn’t start.  Crap.

Car Crisis

Okay, so technically the Prius started.  It just wouldn’t allow us to shift it into gear or move it in any way.  It would sit there, lit up, and literally writing to us on the display that it was broken and needed professional help.  How freaking sad is that?!  It was a little sadder when I replied that I knew how it felt.

Anyway, my heart dropped.  We are just now starting to make real progress again to our long-term retirement goals.  It also doesn’t help that we spent the $10,000 saved for a new car on our new home instead in late 2012, so that account only has $3000 in it right now.  Definitely not enough to buy a solid, new family car with low miles with cash.

Handling the Immediate Issue

But we had a $13,000 paper weight in our garage, so whining wouldn’t help.  I called AAA, explained that we had a dead Prius in our garage, and dropped my husband off at the meeting he was late for.  As soon as I got back, the tow truck driver arrived and asked how to put a Prius in neutral…

Ummmm, I already told the AAA lady that a Prius doesn’t have a neutral.  It has “go” and “not go”, and that’s it.  So the very nice tow truck driver, who was not previously informed, used a jack to get the front wheels off of the ground and we slowly pushed the hybrid out of our garage and down the driveway about a foot at a time.  He then promptly hooked it up and towed it away to our favorite mechanic.  I stuck a large note to the driver’s seat asking my mechanic to call me when they got into the car.

Car Crisis Averted

So at 8:30am Tuesday morning, I get a call from my man, Mike.  He explains that the 12v battery was done.  He also let me know that there is one in the area for about $300 or he could maybe get one online for $200 in about a week.  Yeah, we took the same day option.  My car leaks brake fluid and is a standard…it’s not a car to share.

Tuesday afternoon, we paid up $350 in exchange for a Prius that runs (that also had the oil change it needed this week anyway).  :-)  Overall, we’ll consider it a win.  We’re just holding our breaths that it is indeed good to go for a while.

What’s Next

Now I may up our contribution to the new car account.  Right now, it’s at $500 a month (my last car payment was about $200 a month and his last one was about $300…hence paying ourselves $500 a month now).  I think it’s going to be $1000 now…we really rather pay for a car in cash when we need it.  No more car loans please.

Okay, so now our cars are both working.  Our icemaker works now too.  But, I still haven’t gotten my stupid phone fixed.  Waiting to get it back from Samsung since I declined to pay them $179 to fix a phone that I can buy new online for $150.  Oh, and our cable is still being inconsistent.  We’ll most likely be getting rid of it early next year (the next month is too crazy to handle yet something else new to deal with).  It’s working well enough for now.

Have you had any car problems lately?  Anything else on your plate?

The Summer Sucks for Cars

Why do all car problems happen on Sunday?  We never seem to have any issues when our mechanic is open.  Oh well.

The Issue

Last Sunday afternoon, while we were driving a friend home, our Prius beeped at us and gave us a ton of warning lights.  We pulled over but couldn’t see, smell, or sense any problems, so we decided to drop our friend off and just go to our mechanic Monday morning.

The only thing that seemed wrong was that the A/C wasn’t cooling the air it was blowing.  I checked under the hood and under the car twice just to make sure the thermostat housing hadn’t busted and dropped all of the coolant on the ground, which happened to me before in my stupid Aveo a few years ago.  But nothing was leaking out of anything.  Still, the drive home was sweltering without air conditioning and we were anxious the whole time.

Monday

So we dropped off the Prius Monday morning as planned.  My normal dude was off for the day, but a new guy (who I found out more about later) got us squared away and said he’d call with an update.  I ended up calling him in the early afternoon before he had the chance to work my call in.  Apparently the solar sensor is broken, which means that even though the A/C could possibly work, this stupid sensor is telling it not to.

So they had to order the part and have it overnighted.

The good news was that a solar sensor is a $37 part.  So even with labor, we could have been looking at around $200.  The bad news is that even when the solar sensor is fixed, 70% of the time that means the amplifier is broken too and that’s a $475 part and would need even more labor.  So we’d be looking at a  $700-$1000 bill.

Tuesday

The solar sensor arrived around 2pm and our car was ready to be picked up at around 4pm.  :-)  It drove fine on the way home and the A/C worked again, yay!  If you have to have a problem, it’s good to have the less expensive one!!!

The grand total came to $216 for the sensor, the labor, and an oil change (it was time).  BUT, the shop was just purchased by new owners a few days ago.  It didn’t affect our service since they kept the same employees, but they didn’t have a credit card machine yet.  I hadn’t brought cash or checks since they didn’t tell me in advance.  But the new owner, Oscar, was actually the guy I had been working with the whole time!  He said that my favorite mechanic (Mike) vouched for me and I could call the next day with my card info and he’d run it on the new machine.  Awww, thanks Mike!

Well, I was writing this post Tuesday afternoon and realized that I hadn’t asked about a AAA discount or a cash discount.  So I called Oscar again.  Sadly, they aren’t working with AAA yet (next few weeks), but he offered to work something out with me since he knows that missing a discount by a couple of weeks just sucks.  I offered cash instead of a credit card and he jumped on the offer and told me to come in Wednesday to work out a deal.

Working Out a Cash Deal on Wednesday

This was pretty easy.  I even made the best of driving 20 minutes away by scheduling to meet up with a friend to swim after handling the car stuff since she was only 10 minutes away at that point.  :-)

I took $220 in cash, drove to the mechanic again, and he cut the total to $200.  Woot!  It’s only a savings of $16, but that was more than I had saved by not asking.  I also make 30 miles to the gallon and drove less than that roundtrip, so I definitely netted an overall profit.  Plus, I got to swim with a friend and earned some more Weight Watcher points.  :-D

So here is my official thanks to Oscar and Mike over at the newly named, Affordable Complete Car Care Group!  I’ll link to their website as soon as it is up and running.  :-)  If you live in the Houston area, I highly recommend them!

What This Means Financially

Thankfully, we have a car maintenance fund at CapitalOne 360 (formerly ING Direct).  It could have covered the worst case scenario if necessary, but that doesn’t make car problems much more fun to deal with.  Although…I do get a kick out of haggling.  It makes my posts more interesting too, lol.

Any car stories from any of you lately?  :-)

Go Ahead and Laugh…This Really is My Dream Car

Okay, so you might have read before that I hate my car.  I bought a brand new Chevy Aveo in 2005, spent about $13,500 over 2 years to pay it off completely, and figured out in the first 3 years that it was just a crap car.  They even made the thermostat housing out of plastic.  You know – the thing that keeps the radiator fluid inside of your car that sits right next to the super hot engine.  Yay for using crappy plastic (*sarcasm*).

Lucky for my car, I don’t drive much.  My mechanic actually said those words last year when installing my new brake pads – he thinks my car sucks too.

It’s now 8 years old and still has less than 60,000 miles on it, so I will probably have it forever.  BUT, if I ever am completely set and have a little extra money to burn, I now know exactly what car I would get and how I would get it pimped out.

Side note – you should be laughing your butt off just picturing me saying “pimped”…if not, look at my picture to the right and imagine me saying that sentence again…it is honestly hilarious, trust me.

My Dream Car

Back on point, here is my idea of my dream car.

I would buy a 1-2 year old certified pre-owned, fully optioned, RED, Volkswagen Beetle.  I’d then pay to have it painted professionally with large black spots to make it a Lady Bug.  But I wouldn’t stop there…I’d then have the doors installed DeLorean-style so they’d open like wings.  Finally, I’d have hydraulics installed so I could “settle” after I parked.

Yep, I would want my car to remind people so much of a lady bug that they couldn’t stop giggling.  My dream car would make me smile every single time I saw it and hopefully would do the same for anybody else around too.  I think that is the perfect car – something to make me comfortable and happy while moving from Point A to Point B, and it can give a ton of smiles along the way.

Lady Bug

I’d want the spots bigger and have the DeLorean doors, but this is the general idea…

 

Cost Breakdown

I came up with this idea about a year ago, but I still can’t shake it.  I really do think I will own this car sometime before I am too old to drive.  It wouldn’t even cost all that much in the big scheme of things.  A certified pre-owned 1-2 year old Beetle with all of the options is around $19,000 right now.  A great professional paint job would cost less than $1000 for big black spots and the hydraulics would run about $3000 or less.  The gull-wing doors could run about $5000 I think.  So overall, my dream car costs less than $30,000.  That’s doable in the next 20-30 years.  It’s low priority right now of course, but it’s definitely something I am aiming for.

What do you think?  Great idea or stupid as hell?  :-)  What’s your dream car?

A Car for Isabelle

I woke up to a text message on Tuesday morning from Isabelle:

Going to the credit union and then test driving today…u wanna go with me?

Isabelle’s Pontiac had been dying a slow death for a couple of years at least, so neither one of us was too surprised when it started having more problems at the end of last week.  Also, I worked for a car dealership software company from 2005 through 2011, seeing the deals from the inside, so I know what can be negotiated (hint – everything).  Now, I absolutely love car shopping.  I just couldn’t pass it up.  :-)

Our Car Shopping Day

Mr. BFS, Isabelle, and I met for lunch and Isabelle and I headed off from there.  She already knew that she was looking for an affordable, used car with low mileage that would make great miles to the gallon since she drives 60-80 miles roundtrip for work every day.  She narrowed those choices down to wanting a Honda Civic or a VW Jetta.  She already test drove a Civic, so we were heading out to find a Jetta to try out.  But first we had to go downtown to her credit union so she could get pre-approved for a loan.

That took a little longer than anticipated since we both suck when it comes to navigating downtown Houston, but she ended up being pre-approved at 1.99% for 60 months for a car that would be 5 years old or younger and less than $20,o00 total!  Cool beans.  That more than covered what we were looking at.

The Jetta

We used her smart phone to find a VW dealership close to the credit union and once again used our poor navigating skills to find it.  There were a lot of wrong turns and some good-natured cussing, but we did find the dealership and test drove a 2012 Jetta with 8,000 miles on it.

Isabelle just didn’t enjoy it as much as the Civic she tried before, and it was right around the same price.  So we headed off to a Honda dealership closer to my house.

The Bad Experience

They let me down.  Our car shopping could have been done and they let me down…

So, we pulled into the dealership, were greeted by a sales guy as usual, and perused the 2011-2012 Certified Pre-Owned Civics that they had on their lot.  And we found a gem.  A 2012 Honda Civic with only 4000 miles on it for $17,450.  It was almost exactly what Isabelle wanted except for the color, but we of course kept all of this to ourselves.

We went inside, they laid out the numbers, and everything looked good EXCEPT for the trade-in amount that they offered for her Pontiac.  The first Honda dealership of the day offered her $4000 for her trade, but this one only offered $2000.  The end result would make this deal about $18,400 overall.  That wasn’t a problem, except we knew her car was worth more.  So we asked for a higher trade-in value.

The sales manager actually came over to our table, didn’t sit down, and told us in a very condescending tone while standing over us that our trade-in wasn’t worth more than $2000 and that the other dealership only made that offer to get their car sold.  Hmmm.  So I brought up the Kelley Blue Book Value of $4700-$5200, and he told me that KBB wasn’t worth anything.  It was a “Californian pricing system that had nothing to do with this deal”.  He also pointed out what a great deal he had placed on his car.  He wasn’t budging.

So I let him know that he was being a condescending douche the best I could without using the word “douche” (I was actually very polite and told him that he may not want to treat his female customers like they were stupid), asked for his business card, and we left.  The actual sales guy looked so sad…

Happy Ending

We left pissed.  And I was a little hurt because I didn’t help Isabelle get the car that she wanted.  So we drove back to the dealership that she had visited that morning.  She liked the car she test drove that morning, but it had 40,000 miles on it which was higher than what she needed or wanted.

So when the same polite sales guy was available to talk to us, and we quickly figured out that he just didn’t have the selection we needed, Isabelle had a great idea.  She asked if they could get a car delivered from somewhere else like the dealership we just left.  They couldn’t use that exact dealership since it wasn’t in their organization, but Mr. H did start pulling up all 2011-2012 Certified Pre-Owned Honda Civics that they would have access to…

And there was Isabelle’s baby…a 2012 Civic with 6000 miles that was also in the gray color that she had wanted all along.  We talked quickly on the side and came to the conclusion that she wanted that car, and she would be really happy to get the same deal that she was able to get from the douche dude.  The numbers on this one were a tiny bit higher than the last Civic, and there would be a $500 delivery fee to get the car brought down from Oklahoma, but the trade in was still being offered at $4000.  They agreed at a soft quote of $18,400 to walk out the door, and would talk Wednesday morning once they knew if the car was still available or not.

Civic

Papers Signed

Isabelle was able to sign the Retail Installment Contract today.  With taxes and fees and everything, it came to $18,500.  Her Pontiac is now someone else’s problem, her new-to-her car should be arriving later today or tomorrow morning, and the best part is that Kelley Blue Book says the exact car that she is buying would be valued at $19,400 (seriously – that was for a car with the same options and mileage).  If you don’t take her trade payoff into account, she only paid $15,500.  Overall, Isabelle is a happy woman.  Plus, she successfully stuck to her guns with the Finance and Insurance manager when that paperwork was completed, so she wasn’t swindled for a super expensive tinted window package or anything like that.

How to Make a Good Deal

We only were able to make a good deal by knowing our numbers in advance.  We already looked up the value of her trade-in.  We already looked up the general used prices of Civics and Jettas.  She already was pre-approved at an excellent rate.  And Isabelle downloaded a KBB app on her smart phone so we could look up the values of the vehicles we were test driving.  Overall, we knew what she could afford, we knew what she wanted, and we knew what it should cost.  Knowledge is power in car sales just as with all negotiations.  Know your numbers before you start haggling and you’ll end up way happier.

Do you have any happy or bitter car buying experiences that you’d like to share?

Ask for Discounts or Get Screwed…

I don’t know how else to say this, so…I took 15 minutes and saved 15% or more on my car insurance.  :-D  Seriously.

Quick Car Insurance Breakdown

Okay, to give a little back story, my husband and I have two cars, both paid off.  Here is the coverage we have on each.

2007 Toyota Prius – Full Coverage

  • $300,000 Bodily Injury
  • $100,000 Property Damage Liability
  • $2500 Personal Injury Protection (PIP)
  • $50,000 / $100,000 / $25,000 Uninsured Motorist Coverages
  • $1000 Comp and Collision Deductible
  • $25 per day Rental Vehicle Coverage

2005 Chevy Aveo – Liability Only (No coverage for comprehensive or collision damage)

  • $300,000 Bodily Injury
  • $100,000 Property Damage Liability
  • $2500 Personal Injury Protection (PIP)
  • $50,000 / $100,000 / $25,000 Uninsured Motorist Coverages

For the past few years, we’ve been insured by Geico and the coverages above have come to about $110 per month ($70 for the Prius and $40 for my car).

Car Insurance

Our Car Insurance was Raised…Again

This happened in early February.  I received the notice from Geico that our policy was up in April and they included the new rates.  They went up by $6 a month…again.  Every 6 months, they try to raise our premiums despite the fact that we don’t get into accidents or receive tickets.  So every 6 months, I call in, threaten to leave, and we get the rate lowered back to normal and move on with life.

Well, I was in a bad mood already and just hit the roof this time.  So I wasn’t just playing the game when I called.  I wanted either no fight at all or the biggest fight ever…one way or another, this crap was going to be resolved quick.

So I wasn’t surprised at all that the rep I first reached offered to increase our deductible or decrease our coverage.  I declined.  Then they asked me to take defensive driving again since our last class certificate from 2009 expired early last year.  I said I would get to it, but I wanted the rates lowered to the same amount we were paying before without the certificate so that if I took defensive driving, it would be an actual discount.  Well, that rep couldn’t do anything like that for me, so I was transferred to a “specialist”.

Someone Not Full of Crap

I was honestly surprised by the next rep.  She was polite, knowledgeable, and didn’t act like I was too stupid to live.  She also performed a miracle…she actually reads company memos.

So after hearing me out, she asked me to hold for a few minutes while she looked into a new program in Texas that she heard of – Geico Advantage.  So I held for maybe 4 minutes before she popped back on the line and started laying out the new program.  It was actually pretty easy.  Geico Advantage is identical to what I had except it has a new name and uses new criteria to set rates.  Since credit history (Excellent) and accident records (none in about 10 years) were two of the biggest criteria, we got the lowest rates they offered.

The Miracle

We literally qualified to pay half of what we were paying FOR THE EXACT SAME COVERAGE!  No joke!  The exact same everything EXCEPT $30 allowed per day for a rental instead of $25 (so BETTER) for HALF.  Not only that, but she started me on the new plan immediately, so what I had already paid covered the next two months.  Overall, I will start paying for car insurance again in May 2013 and it will be $55 a month.

I actually waited to write this post because it sounded like a scam.  But my March payment was skipped as stated, and I received all of my coverage info in the mail along with our new insurance cards.  It truly is identical coverage and will cost us about $330 every 6 months instead of $660.  I love it when stuff works!!!

Ask for All of Your Options!

If I hadn’t called in that day to ask how to keep our rates lowered long-term, I wouldn’t have been transferred to the specialist that reads company memos.  So I would not know about Geico Advantage and I’d still be forking out $110 a month for car insurance when I could have been paying $55 a month instead.  So, remember to ASK for all of your available options or you could be getting screwed and not even know it!  I got lucky in that Geico Advantage was only apparently released recently, so I only overpaid for a month or two…what if I had waited until next year to get pissed and call?  Just ask.  It’s worth it.

Have you ever been pleasantly surprised by asking for discounts?

How to Get the Best Price for Your Car

The following is a guest post from Aaron at Three Thrifty Guys.  Please check out that site – he literally got this post together for me just because he knew I was dealing with a lot this week.  In fact, the new carpet is being installed today.  Thank you Aaron!

Since I first started driving – some 20 years ago – I have never once bought a new car. I’ve gone through 6 cars and all have had their fair share of wear. Through good experiences and bad – I have learned a few things about selling an automobile and getting the best possible price.

First Thing’s First

My first two cars ended up stranding me on the side of the road. And I don’t blame them. They were pretty beat up and worn out. I had driven ‘em close to 200k miles and they were just plain tired. So, the first car I sold was my ’99 VW Jetta to a wise car flipper. (yes, they have car flippers too). I was just a few months removed from paying off the 5-year car loan on the used VW when I found a deal for another VW Jetta for sale (yes, same color) on Craigslist. I met with the owner – who seemed very upfront and traded my ‘99 Jetta for his older, yet “refurbished” model. While the ’99 had some defects – I soon would learn this ’97 model was even worse off. In a year and a half of ownership, I had spent just over $5k on that thing. It was a lemon.

From that poor experience, I vowed I wouldn’t try and take advantage of another person trying to buy from me.

I would be an honest used car salesman.

Check THE BOOK

When it comes to used car prices – the “Bible” is the Kelley Blue Book (www.kbb.com). Most dealers and private parties will be checking values by this resource. You should too. Know the price you should expect to receive based on your vehicles condition/mileage for both a private sale and a dealer sale (they give both). You can also check and see what your car is going for in the classified section of your local newspaper. Every situation is different, but I would suggest trying to sell your auto via a private party. You’re likely to get more.

Check your Car’s History

Make sure you know the history of your vehicle and what a potential buyer will see if they look up your car on sites like Carfax.com. Do your own investigation there so that you are prepared to handle any inquiries about your car’s past. Also, have you kept detailed records of all the repairs and maintenance performed on your car? Clean records will certainly help you maximize the price you can sell your car for.

Clean ‘er Up!

Spend a little bit of money (or do it yourself) for professional detailing. Having your car look sharp and clean could add hundreds more to the sale of your vehicle. Well worth the investment.

List it on Popular Websites

Obviously one of the best places to sell a car (and for FREE) is Craigslist. The site is widely known and used by everyone who surfs online. Other places you may want to advertise your car is at your place of work or at an organization you belong to (church, community club, etc). These are all free and will get you qualified leads and a quick(er) sale.

Negotiate with Confidence

One of the keys to a successful used car sale is to be confident in your pricing. Be sure you back up your price with facts like, “I have kept all the maintenance records since purchasing the car”, “I  have the history of the car in a detailed report which I will provide for you”, “I just put new tires on the car two months ago” OR “The price I am asking is consistent with Kelley Blue Book’s value”. When I have done my research and provide honest intel to a potential buyer, I feel more confident in my asking price.

More often than not, a buyer will ask you to lower your price. If you aren’t firm on your price, make sure you only go down in price by small increments. For example, if your asking price is $3500 and the buyer asks you to sell for $2750 – tell them, “I’ll go down to $3400.” This way you aren’t giving away the farm in the first round of negotiating. Don’t be afraid to walk away from a potential sale either. Especially if you feel your price is fair. A danger is thinking the first buyer will be your only prospect.

While this is not exhaustive – I do hope these tips help you get the best price for your car.

Do you have any ways you have been able to get a good price for your used car?

Crystal’s Comments:  Great advice!  I covered some of this in How to Sell Your Car on Craigslist, but I love these negotiating tips.  And the experience behind this post is stellar – I have only sold 3 cars in my life, 2 of my own and 1 for a relative.  Some day I will bite the bullet and sell my Chevy Aveo…I really dislike my crappy car, but I like keeping the money in the bank even more, lol.

Really?! You Can’t Fix Stupid.

As Ron White says, you can’t fix stupid.  I know that is harsh, but seriously…read on.

Backstory

So my husband comes home from work today and tells me about a conversation he had earlier in the day with a fellow teacher.  Here is her backstory.  Her daily commute is about 120 miles or more roundtrip.  She drives a fuel efficient car that isn’t paid off yet.  That car is about 2-3 years old and has 70,000 miles on it.  She wants to trade it in for a newer model of the same type of car.  My husband asked why and these are the reasons she listed off:

1.  This car has too many miles on it.
2.  She’s hoping to not need a car in 3 years.
3.  So when she sells her car in 3 years, one with less miles would sell for more.

Do you see a problem with this logic?  Mr. BFS did…he said he sat there with his mouth open for a few seconds not knowing how to respond.

Why I am Being Judgy

In case you aren’t following along, this person would like to sell her current car, that is working great, to buy a newer model of the same car, so she can turn around and sell the newer car in 3 years for more than the current one would be worth at that time.  She thinks that is the best deal for her and her money.  Really?!

Guesstimates Based on the Car

Current car was $25,000 or more.  Currently worth $16,000 or less.  Owes at least $12,000 (probably way more, but I will be extra optimistic).  She has paid at least $16,000 including interest.  If she sells this car, she will pocket at best $4000 and have paid a total of $12,000 and I am being very generous with my guesstimates.

If she keeps this car, in 3 more years it will be paid off (probably $30,000 or more total with interest) and be worth about $10,000.  That means she would have probably paid a total of $20,000.

A new model of this car is $25,000 or more.  Will be worth about $16,000 in 3 years.  She will already be in it for $16,000 again.  It will still have about $12,000 left.  So she sells it and yet again is in the hole for about $12,000.

Her Options

Option A – Keep the car, pay it off, sell it in 3 years, and spend a total of around $20,000
Option B – Keep the car, pay it off faster, sell it in 3 years and spend less than $20,000
Option C – Keep the car, pay it off faster, get stuck here, keep car, and spend less than $30,000
Option D – Sell the car, buy a new one, sell it in 3 years, and be down at least $24,000
Option E – Sell the car, buy a new one, get stuck here, keep car, and be out at least $32,000

In no scenario will selling her current car and buying a new one be in her favor monetarily.  It just doesn’t work like that.  If you could make money by buying new cars, selling them, and buying another new car, no one would ever drive a car older than 2 years.  Cars are the definition of a depreciating asset and she wants to load up.  Oy.

What do you think?  Am I missing something?