The New Car Conspiracy
The Latest And The Greatest
Have you noticed that it is getting harder for car manufacturers to come up with a unique design to set your new car apart from all the others? Or, coming up with a design that makes you want to trade in your old vehicles for a flashy new one? Gingerbread, wheel flares, exotic colors, and weird body styles are part of the game. Is it worth it?
Part of the lure involves posh interiors, super electronic functionality, rear view video cameras, and automatic driver control. You can talk to a remote friend or customer by speaking right into your dashboard. Road sounds are a thing of the past. Backing up over a kids bicycle now has to be done on purpose.
Looking At Your Current Vehicle
I leased a Chevy Tahoe SUV in the year 2000 when it was priced at $32,000. When the 3 year lease was up, I decided to buy it outright for $18,000. I had it when it was new and took care of it so the decision made sense. I still have it 18 years later with 166,000 miles on the odometer and it is running great. 5 accidents have not phased it’s durability one bit. And I have not had a monthly payment on it for 14 years.
My Chevy 2005 pickup truck was purchased for cash at $24,000 and is a hybrid. It has no standard alternator or electric motor to start the engine. Everything is controlled by special engineering inside the flywheel area and expensive batteries behind the rear seat. It has 116,000 miles on it. I have never had a payment on it and still have it 13 years later. It still runs great.
So what is my point? It is the fact that you can keep vehicles indefinitely in good running condition if you take care of them. Where I live in the Panhandle of Florida, I see numerous 15, 18, and 20 year old Pickup Trucks and SUV’s (All Makes) that look and sound like they have been well taken care of by those people who own them.
Yes I am sort of a fan of Chevrolet products, but I have envied and admired Fords, Dodges, and Toyotas in similar condition. I admire people who take care of their tools, equipment, and vehicles. Even if they are unfriendly or have negative social skills, the saying still goes.
Budgeting The Vehicle Money Grabber
If you can afford to buy a new vehicle every few years, or don’t mind making large monthly car payments, then this article is not for you. If you pay car dealers and repair shops money to fix simple repairs, then stop reading.
One simple maintenance issue is filter and oil changes. First of all, modern filters and motor oils do not require replacement every 3000 miles. I use a 5000 mile schedule.I buy synthetic motor oils and an accompanying filter in a package deal when they are on sale. I save about 30% to 40% over standard pricing.
All you need is a box end wrench to remove the drain plug and a filter wrench to loosen the filter. A shallow tray can hold the oil. You can pour the old dirty oil back into your empty 5 quart new oil bottle with a funnel. The local parts shop will let you take it to them for disposal.
I used to take my vehicles to a local quick-oil-change shop. When I finally decided to investigate their handiwork I was shocked. They gave me cheap oil filters instead of the ones I requested. The filters were not on tight. I could remove the drain plug without a wrench. Nor telling what type of oil I was actually getting. I stopped doing that and began changing my own oil and filters.
Another issue is radiator coolant. One thing that few people pay attention to is the thermostat. It probably should be changed every 5 years or 50,000 miles. Loosen the hose clamp, remove the 2 bolts holding the thermostat cover and take out the old unit. A new thermostat and gasket is easily replaced. Savings on $75 to $100 a hour mechanic’s labor charges plus markup on the parts can be substantial.
DIY Fixes That Save You Money
A leak in a tire (tubeless) can be easily fixed with an inexpensive repair kit. You probably will need a pair of players to remove the item penetrating the tire, but that is it. This way you can save $10. To $15 each time a screw or nail causes the air to leak out.
You can get just about any auto part online including head and tail lights, body panels, bumpers, and hard-to-find items at massive discounts. Networks like US Auto Parts, Auto Parts Warehouse, and Rock Auto have excellent websites that allow you to identify your exact vehicle and order right from your computer or mobile device.
New spark plugs and plug wires can be easily replaced with a simple spark plug socket and socket wrench. The trick here is to make sure you get the correct replacement parts. I have been sold the wrong ones several times. The average shop cost for just plugs and labor is $349. You can get both quality plugs and wires for around a $100 to $125 for V8 engined vehicles. Just make sure you start the plug with your fingers even it is if attached to a socket and extension. This way you don’t risk stripping out the plug or cylinder head threads.
I do my own brake jobs. They can be labor intensive, but again a few tools-only are required. All cars now incorporate disc breaks. A car jack, big C clamp, lug nut remover, and a few correct size sockets with a socket wrench are all you need for tools. Parts include new rotors and disc brakes. Cost is about $350. For discounted parts. Mechanics can easily charge over 3 times that for labor and parts.
Just jack up the vehicle and rest the vehicle axle on a car jack if you have one. Remove the tire with the lug wrench. Remove the 2 bolts holding the disc caliper in place and remove it from the old disc. Remove the 2 worn disc pads. Slip off the old worn disc (wheel). Install new one. Move the disc calipers into the open position with the large C clamp. Install new disc pads by clipping them into place inside the caliper.
Slide fully-opened caliper with new pads up over the new disc wheel and bolt back into place. Reinstall wheel and tire. Lower vehicle off of the jack and move to next wheel. Rinse and Repeat. Voila! You saved about $750. to $1,000.
Buying Another Vehicle
One way a lot of people are saving money on a late model car, truck, or SUV is to employ a specialized dealer who will bid on a car of your choice at dealer auctions. These auctions are set up to provide vehicles at wholesale pricing to used car dealers. Most of them are only 1 or 2 years old (or less) and have been repossessed by a bank or finance company. Some auctions are initiated by rental car companies to sell last years models.
The vehicles are not old enough to incur significant wear and tear. Mileage is often in the 25,000 to 30,000 mile range and that is just break-in mileage. Competition is fierce for Pickups and SUV’s, so don’t try to go too low on price you are willing to pay. You probably will have better luck with cars.
If you buy from a regular dealer, they are required to give you a 3 day Right-Of-Rescission which allows you to return the vehicle for a full refund. This gives you time to have a mechanic (that you know) or knowledgeable person (that you know) to inspect your vehicle.
I was inspired to write this articles by a blog highlighted by my mentors newsletter eBizWeb Gazette. The author explored the easiest way to make money is to cut your costs and save money on your personal expenses. He offers similar ideas to what my Brainstorming A Budget category of blogs does.
Making a vehicle last a long time was one of his topics. It’s tempting to buy a flashy new vehicle with a 3 year warranty to take care of things. But if you have had a vehicle (or equipment) for a long while and it still runs smoothly or just plain looks good, I salute you.
At least that part of your regime is worthy.