If It’s Not One Car Repair, It’s Another

The great thing about having two cars that are fully paid off and have relatively low mileage is that we don’t have a monthly car payment. The bad thing is that they still cost money.  Both of our cars are in such a phase right now. We set aside some of our ‘tax refund’ money for the car repair fund, and it’s definitely in good use.

Still it doesn’t make it any easier!

2007 Buick Rainier – 78,000 miles

This is my wife’s car as well as what we use to tow around our RV trailer.  It has a great engine that’s run fine.  But it’s had two expected things come up and one potential gotcha.

  • Brakes. I don’t think it’s ever needed a full brake job yet but I could tell that it was about time.  The last checkup we had indicated that we were down in the 25-35% range, so when it started making grinding noises around corners, I knew it was time.  Sure enough, the pads and the rotors needed replacement.
  • Tires. We had the tires originally replaced around 35,000 miles, and at the lastmb-2015-06-tire rotation, they told us they were near end of life.  The tires were certified for 60,000 miles, but since we tow and do mostly non-highway driving except when towing, they have likely worn a little faster. Regardless, we’ll end up getting a prorated reduction through Discount Tire on the mileage that the tires did not make it to.  So, we’ll essentially get one tire for ‘free’.
  • Leak. The car started leaving puddles in a spot where I wasn’t used to seeing.  At first I had thought it might be a coolant leak since it was right under where the resivoior is, and it was a bit low, but the mechanic confirmed it was just water and likely a somewhat plugged drain hose. Crisis averted.

2006 Pontiac G6 – 68,000 miles

This is my car and it hasn’t been as bad.

  • Tires. This car also needed a second set of tires.  They did two of them last fall and the other two over the winter.  Again, the previous set didn’t make it to the warranty period, probably again because it’s mostly city driving, but we got about 35% off because of it.
  • Rims. The tire shop gave me some news during my last rotation.  They told me that the tires were starting to get out of round.  They have to recommend replacing them, but there’s no way.  Michigan roads are a potholed mess, and the guy agreed with me that if I were to get them done, they’d just experience the same problem.  So long as they work, I’m keeping them.  I just check pressure on a regular basis to make sure that they don’t go past the point of no return.
  • Leak. Different car, same issue.  The car is leaking water, which is normal in the summer months, but it seems strange, because I’ll find a puddle on the garage floor in the morning after it’s been sitting for over 12 hours.  It’s definitely water, but I just need to keep an eye on this as it seems a bit…strange.

Hopefully we’re at a lull for a bit.  While the math works out that it’s still much cheaper than paying monthly payments, it still hurts when everything runs so close together!  I hope to get some time to rebuild the car repair fund back to a more solid level.

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5 Reasons You Should Not Lease A Car

Leasing cars has gone through some ups and downs in terms of popularity over the past several decades.  There was a time when it seemed that everybody leased a car as the rates were unbelievable.  Then, leasing lost popularity as it came out that the reason for the low rates was because manufacturers were charging too little, so they had to raise prices, which led to the market falling out.   I admit, I leased two cars during the leasing heyday.

Now, it seems that leasing is making a comeback.  But, since automakers have learned mb-201402carstheir lessons and are not going to take losses on the lease, I’m here to tell you that leasing is a bad idea, and I present five reasons why an auto lease is a bad idea.

  1. You don’t own anything – After you purchase a car, that car will decline in value.  If you take out a loan on the car, you’ll pay for it all while the value goes down.  Paying for a depreciating asset is not a great financial move, but paying for one that you don’t have any value into is an even worse one.  At least with a car, once you’re finished paying for it, you have the value of the car that’s yours.  With a lease, you never have a single cent of that car that you can count as your own.
  2. Yet you’re responsible for everything – The automaker acts as if they’re doing you a big favor by letting you borrow their car for a ‘modest’ monthly payment, but you’re responsible for everything to do with that car.  You have to do all the maintenance (and have the records on hand to prove that you did it), make any repairs, and fix anything that gets damaged.
  3. You’re held to an unknown standard – Can you turn the car in with a small ding in the door?  What about a minor chip in the windshield?  Is that matted spot in the upholstery considered regular wear and tear or do you have get it detailed?  These are things that only the manufacturer knows and they’re not going to tell you, meaning that you’ll likely pay for things done that you wouldn’t have been charged for anyways or you’ll turn it in without fixing things that they’ll charge you for, likely at much higher rates than you would have paid.  Either way, it’s your wallet that takes a hit.
  4. Any variance on what you drive comes at a cost to you – Say you have a 24-month lease that allows you 20,000 miles.  Everybody knows that if you go over that 20,000 miles, you’ll get socked with a pretty hefty per-mile rate.  But, what they won’t tell you is that if you turn it in with less miles driven, that’s costing you as well.  How?  Because you paid for the miles that you’re not using.  Drive over or drive under the stated mileage, and you lose either way.
  5. The first lease sets a cycle that’s hard to break – One of the lures of leasing is that you can typically get a pretty low rate…on your first lease.  See, they’ll give you a decent amount for your trade-in.  Throw in a little up-front cash, and you’re driving a pretty sweet ride for $300 a month.  You laugh at the guy that bought his car and is paying $500 for the same car.  Only here’s the problem.  After your lease runs out, you don’t have another car to trade in, yet you’re going to need something to drive.  That ‘savings’ is only a one time thing. You’ll likely lease again because it still works out a bit cheaper, but you’re now in a cycle that’s very difficult to get out of.  And that’s exactly what the car makers want.

I think that leasing is a bad idea.  I think that the best approach is to buy a car, pay the car off, and work toward a goal where you can pay for a car without having to have a car payment at all.

Do you lease or own?  Do you have a car payment or are you paid off?  What do you think about car leases?  Are they the trap I’ve described or are there benefits that I’m not seeing?

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Five Ways to Get a Discount on your Next Auto Purchase

Whether you’re buying new or used, shopping for a car can be a nerve-wracking process. It’s in the seller’s best interest to get the maximum price for the vehicle. Buying a new car from an auto dealership means that you’ll be contending with a seasoned sales professional, while buying a used car means that you run the risk of buying a lemon in need of significant repairs. To walk out with a discounted price on a car in top shape, you’ll need to arm yourself with information and be prepared to stand your ground.

1. Research your Vehicle Online

To get started, you’ll need to research your vehicle of choice thoroughly. There are numerous online resources that can help you do this, including forums, blogs, and auto listings sites. If you are not yet sure what type of car you even want, read reviews of a number of models and compare their pros and cons carefully. On the other hand, if you have it in your mind that you want a used Bentley, you can look online to see what prices look like. By knowing a car’s market value along with its best and worst features, you’ll be ready to haggle.

2. Find out the Invoice Price

If you’re buying a new car, a typical tactic is to walk into the dealership and try to talk the price down from its sticker price. However, a different tactic that could work in your favour is to find out what the invoice price is instead. This is the amount that the dealer paid for the car and can serve as a baseline that you can use to your advantage. Start your bid at or near this price; and haggle up rather than down.

3. Take your Time

Although buying a car is exciting, you can avoid getting flustered by walking into the dealership with confidence. Be prepared to walk away if your terms aren’t met. If you feel uncomfortable at any point or feel like you’re being rushed into a deal you don’t quite understand, you can always say that you need time to think about it and walk away. That way, you can go home, research any points you’re unclear on, and come back later with a better idea of what to expect.

4. Get an Outside Inspection

If you’re buying a used car, it’s imperative to run a vehicle history report or ask to see a paper trail of servicing. This will show you if there has been any past damage which you could use to talk the price down. It’s also helpful to ask a local mechanic to give the car a once-over, which is well worth the price if they uncover any flaws that the seller is unaware of.

5. Shop around for Financing

In addition to paying for the car itself, you’ll also need to think about your financing options. Although you can arrange a car loan through the dealer, there are usually better rates available from a local bank or credit union, particularly if you have decent credit. Go to these private lenders first to obtain quotes, and then use these as bargaining tools if you want to arrange financing with the dealer.

It always pays to shop around to find the best deals on a new or used car. By taking the time to do your research in advance, you can get a lower price on the car you want.

Content was provided by Car Sales.

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Car Repair Bills Suck, Especially Three Of Them!

I drive a 2006 Pontiac G6.  It only has about 60,000 miles on it, as I have a very short commute to and from work (about five miles total).  I do some other driving on it, of course, but it’s a low mileage car.

The downside is that although the mileage seems low, the fact that most of the driving is done on city streets, and not much on the highway, makes things wear out at earlier mileages than they often should.

I had a feeling that some repairs would be upcoming, but I didn’t know that I would need three of them, all within the space of a week.

Squeak Turn Squeak

The first indication that something was wrong started a couple of weeks ago when I started noticing a small squeaking noise, primarily when I was making left hand turns.  It started spreading to where a left hand turn would trigger it, but it would continue when going straight.  So I knew it was getting worse.

My initial assessment told me that this type of thing is often a bad wheel bearing.  I called around to a few places, and got quotes ranging from $300 – $550. I had work done in the past at the place with the lowest price, so I was fine with taking it there.

First Stop – $0

I dropped it off, and got a call a little later saying that they saw that I had bad tires on the front, and since many ‘noises’ can originate from bad tires, they recommended that I get the tires replaced, as they needed to be replaced anyways, plus it might just be the source of my problems.

So, I went to pick the car up and scheduled a time at the tire shop.  I’d had the tires replaced at around 30,000 miles, and they were supposed to last 60,000 miles.  So, I knew that I would get partial credit on them but I had to go to the same shop.  I knew that this bill was coming, as I’d had two tires replaced earlier in the year, and they told me that the other two had some life, but not much.

They replaced the tires.

Second Bill – Two Tires – $221

mb-201312repairOn the way home, I made some left turns and sure enough, the car started squeaking.  Dang.

So I took it back to the original shop where they then were able to proceed.  An hour or so after dropping it off, my phone buzzed and I knew it was bad when he said that the bearing was not the problem.  He explained that I had bad tie rod ends and that they needed to be replaced, as well as the joints, plus it needed a front end alignment.  He said I was probably noticing a vibration, which was true, but I had figured that was from the tires.

It wasn’t.  So I gave him the go ahead and he started work.  When I went to pick it up, he showed me the old parts and how he was able to push on parts that should have no give.  He said that if one failed, the car would lose steering control and usually the car would make a hard turn.  Imagine driving down the road and jerking the wheel all the way to the left or right, and that’s what could have happened.

Third Bill – Tie Rods, Joints, and Alignment – $830

I pulled out and almost immediately noticed…you guessed it, the squeaking noise.  Turns out the tie rods were just something that they’d been lucky enough to find, but it still didn’t address my problem.  They were ‘surprised’ as they had driven it after their repairs, but I’m guessing that they didn’t make any left turns.  I drove back and had the mechanic come with me to listen.

He said that it sounded like brakes.

After getting it back and looking, he confirmed that my rear brakes were indeed shot.  In fact the pads were completely worn out.  The squeaking was metal on metal from the pad plate hitting the rotor.

My father-in-law had done a brake job a couple of years prior, but at the time, only the fronts were needed.  The mechanic said everything there was in great shape, but I definitely needed new pads and rotors in the back.

Fourth Bill – Brake Job – $226

So, that brings me to a grand total of $1,277 for three different repairs, all of which were necessary, but being so close together it really stung.

I trust the mechanic and have many other people around us that have used them, so I have no doubts as to their trustworthiness.  I believe that they were all very necessary repairs.

All I know is that I hope that the car is happy now and doesn’t require any repairs anytime soon.  This has exhausted our car repair fund and now is short by about $500 just to get to $0.  And ideally, I like it to have about $1,000, so I’m $1,5000 short right now.  It’s a good thing I didn’t fall into the temptation of buying that new fridge a couple of weeks ago when there was a sale.

It’s a bummer, but I still look at it that it’s much cheaper than a car payment.  Even with a $300 payment, that would have been just four months worth of payments.  It’s been a lot longer than that since I’ve had a repair bill on the car, so for now, it’s still a winner to pay the repairs versus buying a new car.

But it doesn’t make it sting any less!

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