Hey it’s Nelson’s alter-ego here, he’s busy right now. Probably masturbating, because we all know he ain’t getting a lady. Sure, he’s got enough money to pay for it, but he’s also really cheap, so he won’t. Even though $500 would get him a night with a woman who is 839284 times hotter than any he would have a chance with.
Anyway, I don’t know about you guys, but I love emergency funds. Nelson’s a dumbass for craping on them, in my humble alter-ego opinion. What are you supposed to do when your car breaks down? Use credit cards? Sell an investment that’s near cash? How dumb. I should probably just smash his laptop so we don’t have to put up with his crap anymor-
HEY. STOP IT. I’M TYPING HERE. (Scuffle ensues. Punches and whatnot, and then a grown man starts to cry.)
I’M BACK, BITCHES. I punched my alter-ego in the junk. He won’t be bothering us anymore. What exactly did he write, anyway? There’s no time to look. I’ll just have to trudge onwards.
Over the weekend, I happened to stumble upon a personal finance blog that was so generic that I literally cannot remember the name. If I could, I would link to it as a shining example of how not to blog. Anyway, the author of Generic Personal Finance Blog Yakezie Member (or NAMBLA for short) was touting the benefits of an emergency fund. His car started making weird noises, so he took it to the dealership. And OMG, it needed to be fixed. The horror, right?
Well, thank the almighty Allah for emergency funds. He paid for his $2000 repair in cash, thank you very much. He has no debt, and he’s keeping it that way, gardbloomit! He also apparently talks like a drunk 1890s cowboy.
On second thought, don’t thank Allah for anything. It’ll probably get you arrested at the airport.
Let’s forget about the emergency fund for now, and focus on something else. Specifically, how dumb it is to get your car fixed at the dealership.
Back a few years ago, I was having problems with my car. Speficially, the engine would flood when it was below minus 20 outside. The obvious solution would be to move somewhere where it doesn’t get so damn cold, but apparently I’m a sucker for punishment. I spent a few hundred bucks trying to get it fixed, including taking it into the dealership. They suggested a new battery, so I told them to just do it. I think it cost about $300. It also cost $105 in labor.
I’m no car guy, but I guarantee that I can put a battery in myself in less than an hour, and I don’t get paid to work on cars for a living. I paid the dealership $105 for some mechanic to do 10 minutes of work. My poor money. I hope they spent it on chips.
The dealership knows they’re your default place to get repairs. Their only interest is getting you to drop enough money to make it worth their while, yet not so much that you get so pissed off that you pledge to never return. Like most businesses, they’re designed to fleece you for the maximum amount the market will bear.
Yeah, it sucks. We all know this. But what’s the alternative? Do what I do. Get your car diagnosed at the dealership, and then get it fixed privately.
You’re scoffing at this, but it’s not that hard to do. When you take your car into the garage, specifically let them know you’re interested in knowing what’s wrong, and that’s it. If you’re so inclined, make up some story about how you can’t afford to get it fixed right now. Go ahead and make it about how you don’t have an emergency fund, and then the girl working the desk won’t care.
Once they’ve diagnosed the problem, ask them for a quote to fix it, just for fun. Pay special attention to the price quoted for parts, since dealerships regularly charge customers double the garage’s cost.
Once you know what needs to be done, it’s time to show a little initiative. It’s best if you have a mechanic friend, but you might not. If you don’t know a mechanic, start asking around. Or, try throwing an ad on Craigslist, it’s not that hard. You’re looking for a mechanic to fix your car, not posting a picture of your junk. I pay my guy $30 an hour, because I like him and I want this relationship to continue. You can probably get away with $20-$25 per hour, depending on where you live.
Work out the details with the guy, have him come over some Saturday or some night after supper, and get the work done. Get him to help you order the parts, and give him a little extra for helping you out. And if it’s not warm out, at least try to get your new mechanic friend a heated place to work. That’s about it.
Or, if you’re so inclined, you can buy one of the computers that the mechanics use to diagnose the problem in the first place. It’ll set you back a few hundred bucks day one, but it’ll save you money over the years. Somebody wrote about that a while ago, and I’m altogether too lazy to use the Google machine to find it. If you do find it, post a link in the comments.
Need proof that this works? Three years ago, I got a $2300 quote at the Ford dealership for doing some major work on my crappy little car. I used this strategy to get the job done for $900. Sure, I was without a car for a couple days, but saving $1400 made that an easy pill to swallow.
Getting your car fixed at the dealership is the worst. Have a little patience and save yourself money. And then wire some of that money to me. I will spend it on chips and women, and then squander the rest.