Before you buy that new car

Yesterday, my car went in for major maintenance. We are talking MAJOR maintenance. The total bill will be between $950 and $1150. My car has almost 100,000 miles on it. I started thinking about buying a new car. Then I remembered how much I love not having a car payment. Even if I had a  $250 a month car payment, I’m only looking at four payments to cover the repairs. That means eight months without shelling out cash. The car should last me another 40,000 – 50,000 miles, which means I have another three or four years without car payments. At $250 a month, that’s at least $9,000 in savings. Even if some of that money goes to repairs, I’m still way ahead of the game.

Would it be nice to drive a newer car? Maybe, but I love the fact that I haven’t had a car payment since 2005. My car may be almost eight years old, but it’s still running great. Yes, it has dings and scratches. Yes, it’s the crappiest car in the parking lot when I go to continuing education classes. But I love my car. It gets me where I need to go, when I need to get there.  I look forward to a few more road trips with it before the end of its life.

Do you have an older car that you just love? How much have you saved in car payments by hanging on to it? How much could you save if you held on to your car just a bit longer? On average how long do you keep your cars?

Check the bill: Don’t get overcharged for services

receipt

Yesterday, I went to have my car serviced. My little 2002 Kia has 90,000 miles on it so I know I was in for a big service. When I called to make the appointment, I told the person on the phone that I did not need my tires rotated because the place I purchased them from does that for free every 5,000 miles. I also reminded her that I had free oil changes for life. I wanted to make sure that I wasn’t charged for either of these services.

I dropped off the car at the scheduled time. The man at the dealership appeared a bit frazzled. I’m not sure why since there weren’t any cars in the bay being worked on. I waited almost 30 minutes just to get the guy to take my keys. I reminded him about the tire rotation and oil change. He quoted me $325 – $375. I thought that was fine since I had budgeted for it. I put away $50 a month for car repairs just for things like this. I signed the paperwork and left the dealer at about 1:00.

At 3:13, the dealership called my cell phone to let me know the car was ready. When I got there, I had to wait again to get my paperwork. At this point, I’m getting pretty annoyed. I had to run up to see my mom before going home and it was now almost 3:45. The guy hands me the bill and starts talking about a belt that is supposedly squeeling. I start reviewing the bill and notice that they charged me for the oil change. The guy starts arguing with me, then tells me that he can review the bill with me but he’s got to take care of the other people first. “Oh, I’ll wait.” Upon further examination of the bill, I found that they not only charged me for the oil change, but the oil change was also listed in the main service. For the main service, they had charged me for 3 hours of labor. Now, I know an oil change takes about 30 minutes and the dealer only had the car for 2 hours and 15 minutes so I really should have only paid for 2 hours of labor max.

After doing the math out on paper, I got back in line. I showed him the addition. I may be blond and a woman, but I can add. Really, I can. In fact, I kinda have a degree in it (I figure an accounting degree is pretty much an addition and subtraction degree). He looks at my math and then redoes the math himself to prove to himself that I can in fact add. I also mention the bit about being overcharged for the labor. He takes off the oil change and another $12 for the labor on the oil change that was inbedded in the three hours of labor. I had completely forgotten about the tire rotation and did not argue that point. So just based on what he took off, they overcharged me at least $42. I’m going to write the dealership to complain because I think I was still overcharged for one hour of labor at $89 per hour. After the post, I’ll be writing to the dealership and Kia Corporation to let them know how mad I am about the whole situation.

So the moral of today’s extremely long winded story: Check your bills before you pay them. Make sure you understand everything you are being charged for. I’m lucky to have worked with auto repair shops so I know how their businesses are run. If you have a service performed, make sure you understand the bill. Don’t walk away until you understand all of it. And don’t forget to check their math!

EDIT: I also forgot to note that I was overcharged for the property taxes on the same car this year. I noticed the town had the wrong model on my bill. It saved me $4.26 (or about 5% of the bill). I know it’s not a lot but it all adds up.