Why do all car problems happen on Sunday? We never seem to have any issues when our mechanic is open. Oh well.
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.
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.
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.
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?
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.
I’d want the spots bigger and have the DeLorean doors, but this is the general idea…
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?
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).
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.
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?
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.
As Ron White says, you can’t fix stupid. I know that is harsh, but seriously…read on.
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.
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?
As I’ve written before, my husband owns a Prius. The funniest thing is that we didn’t actually buy a Prius to conserve gas. In 2008, my husband wanted a small SUV in order to haul around his reffing supplies and Curling gear, but then he saw a Prius in a supermarket parking lot and peeked in the back. He was surprised by the storage area and the Prius was cheaper than the Hyundai Sante Fe he had in mind. That is how we ended up choosing to buy a Prius - it ended up being $21,500 for a 2007 Toyota Prius with a ton of extras and the Sante Fe was about $30,000-$35,000 depending on what options he wanted. That said, making double the miles per gallon is pretty great too. Here are the pros and cons we see of owning a Prius:
- It 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 has the perfect amount of storage space in the back for all the stuff my husband takes around – reffing duffel bags, Curling broom and shoe bag, and our bowling ball bags for our bowling league.
- It is 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 Chevy Aveo.
- It is a quiet ride since it only makes noise while it uses gas to recharge the batteries.
- It doesn’t require much maintenance at all since all of the systems are enclosed. So far, we just have its oil changed every 5000 miles and it will need a closer look when it hits 100,000 miles.
- The push button start and backup camera are great! Other cars have those too, so keep an eye out.
- There is 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 year or two and it costs about $450 to have them all replaced at Discount Tire.
- If something breaks that shouldn’t – it would be expensive to replace. The battery pack alone is $3000. So far, we haven’t had any issues at all though.
Can You Save Money in the Long Run on Gas Alone?
Before you yell at me about a Prius being a bad deal, I will beat you to the punch. It isn’t a great deal for everyone. I know. It was an awesome car for us since it saved me from owning an expensive SUV that makes 22 miles per gallon on a good day, but it isn’t the car for everyone. If you are ever in the market for a basic sedan, it would take years for the Prius to pay you back for its extra cost through gas savings alone. Here is a quick breakdown.
A Prius vs Basic Sedan Breakdown
Let’s say you drive 15,000 miles a year (like my husband). Let’s also say a Prius makes 50 miles per gallon and cost $23,000 to buy and the other car you have in mind makes 25 miles per gallon and cost $18,000 to buy (a standard sedan). That means you would need to fill up the other car twice as much but it cost $5000 less up front.
At gas being $3.00 a gallon, the Prius would cost $900 in gas and the other car would be $1800 in gas. You’d only be saving $900 a year in gas. It would take you a little more than 5 1/2 years to pay back the extra cost of the Prius in gas alone. So in our example, if you usually own your cars for 6 years or more, the Prius may make sense for you. If not, the sedan may end up being cheaper if all other things were equal.
The Gas Savings vs Bigger Prius Cost Equation
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
Example – 2011 Prius at $25,000 vs 2011 Corolla at $18,000 (based on prices I found online at a nearby Toyota dealer)
1. (12,000 / 30) * $3 = $1200
2. (12,000 / 50) * $3 = $720
3. $1200 - $720 = $480
$7000 / $480 = 14.6 Years to Break Even
That number of years would go down as gas prices go up and vice versa. But in general, I wouldn’t make my car choice based on miles per gallon alone. Would I think about getting a Prius myself? Yep. But I like it because of its versatility. Keep in mind though, my other favorites are a Mazda Miata or even a Mini Coupe…cuteness can beat out usefulness, lol.
Look at me getting my math on for you.
What do you like and dislike about your vehicle? What do you like and dislike about a Prius? Any Prius owners out there with one 5 years and older? What can we expect?