Thursday, March 21, 2013

The honest truth about taking care of a used vehicle

I have to be honest, after a big promotion early in my career I was so ready to get a brand new car.  I could not be talked out of it because I didn't have much debt at the time (no house payment, no children) and no long term vision.

In 2004 I proudly bought a brand new Pontiac Grand Am.  It was fire engine red and the dealer gave me an affordable monthly payment inclusive of 3 year warranty - that stretched over 6 years, which was rather silly in hindsight.  However I was tremendously blessed in that my job decided my raise for that year would be to pick up my new car payment so don't feel too badly for the additional interest spent!

My car was paid off in 2010 and unlike my co-workers who got the same deal, I had not leased so I was the proud owner of a paid off car which was 6 years old but only had 60K miles.  My dad taught me to drive a car into it's golden years so I had no intentions of starting over with a car payment!  The following is a detailed summary of how I survived without an extended warranty - which you know the dealer always tries to terrify you into getting and they give you the scary brochure that talks about the transmission falling out and what not!

Post Warranty Years:

2008 - the starter broke and car had to be towed to a garage.  Apologies, I do not have a record of this fee but presumably it was around $200.

2009 - I spent $1,800 to have a bunch of issues fixed
  • The car allows the radio to continue playing even once the door is opened and it has a switch in the door that turns off the radio after a minute.  Well the switch broke leaving the radio running which would have drained the battery so this had to be fixed which was expensive because they had to take apart the door.
  • New battery at Sears with great warranty and 60K tune up
  • Replace motor to operate driver's side rear window
  • Locked keys in trunk and had to have trunk lock removed and replaced
  • Replace 2 front tires
  • Replace front brakes
  • Replace motor to operate driver's side window
2010 - routine oil changes only

2011 - spent $800 on the following issues:
  •  The motor that operates the windshield wipers broke and had to be replaced, it was expensive, almost $400 at Goodyear.  I'm quite sure we were overcharged by going to a corporation rather than a garage but we were fed up with our previous mechanics prices and looking for a better option.
Break in story to mention our 2nd big blessing.  In 2010 we bought a used van and asked the dealership where they got their car maintenance done before re-sale and they recommended our current beloved mechanic where we found a dramatic slash in prices from what we had been paying.
  • Driver's side window broke AGAIN!  I'm convinced our previous mechanic was a fraud because the new mechanic charged us HALF the price of our previous guy for the same part/labor!
  • Replaced two tires (bought used from the mechanic)
  • Driver's mirror had fallen off, was re-glued
2012 - routine oil changes only

2013 - spent $500 - $70 towing reimbursed by State Farm so total was $430.  Had the following fixed:
  • Passenger rear window pinned.  Refused to replace the motor for another window!
  • The sensor on the lock cylinder broke thus keeping the car from turning on.  Had to be towed.
  • 3rd blessing - we actually SAVED $30 by paying in cash!  A new policy.
  • 4th blessing - had one tire replaced because as I was driving off, it went flat and the mechanic felt so bad about giving us a car that was not fully fixed that he replaced it for FREE!  
Total spent since car has been out of warranty: $3,230 and things like tires would not be covered under an extended warranty.

If you spread $3,230 over 64 months, I've spent $605.63 per year on vehicle maintenance which boils down to $50.46 per month.

The car is now 9 years old with 76,000 miles.  I'm blessed in that I only need to drive it 5 miles to work and home so that's how I've kept the mileage low.  I'm also super blessed in that the used car market has recently risen in value. We checked last year and the value was $4,000 and it's now up to $6,300 which is awesome because we are working on selling the car very soon.

Car Lessons Learned

  1. Buy used!  Even a three year old car can offer a tremendous slash in sell price.
  2. If you must take a loan, then try for the shortest monthly terms you can afford because once it's paid off you can save up for future maintenance.  
  3. Ask your used car dealer for advise in an affordable mechanic.  They are in the business of making money so you can be sure they've vetted out the local mechanics!
  4. Ask your mechanic if they offer a discount to pay in cash.  Credit card companies charge a percentage fee of all transactions so on something like $500 the fee for us was $30!  If you have the cash this savings far exceeds any percentage you would earn on a credit card!!
  5. Pray over your car!  Seriously!!  It is a HUGE leap of faith to take a used car into it's golden years!  Pray over every job that needs fixed and often times you will be amazed at how God shows up!!
Philippians 4:19 And my God will supply every need of yours according to his riches in glory in Christ Jesus.

PS - if you live in Fort Lauderdale, message me and I'll be happy to give you our awesome mechanics name and phone number!

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