A few years back, I shared a story about a car that our free car-buying service, Auto Expert, helped me find and purchase. My car goals today are similar to what they were back in 2011. I was looking for a used vehicle that was economical and had a price tag that wouldn’t make me wince every month when the payment was due. Beyond those two items, I didn’t much care what else made up the car.
Auto Expert successfully found me the affordable, economical car I was looking for. And, it was a good thing I didn’t have many other preferences, because this one came electric green with chrome wheels, a spoiler, and a resonator exhaust tip. My cool-factor would surely go up 1000 times with this machine. Plus, it’d be easy to find in a parking lot. Bonus! So, I took my shiny car home and named him Luigi.
For the next 5 years, all was Princess Peachy. Having a 2006 vehicle with typical L.A. commute miles, I was pleased to find that all my fears about high maintenance costs really didn't amount to much of anything. Besides regular maintenance and two sets of tires (worst luck ever with running over nails), Luigi drove smoothly, racking up miles and miles along the way. We have had some good times, but it is only a matter of time when the good comes to an end. Hello 2017: the year I’d drive my car and start asking myself “What’s that noise?”
So, what was it?
It was many things. It was the brakes that would screech at the slightest pressure, the air conditioner that would scream in 100 degree temps, the chug, chuugg, cchhuuug of my alternator slowly coming to a complete stop (twice that happened), and the driver side window that POPPED out of its tracks at the most random time on the freeway. Every new car noise meant I got another opportunity to learn how to fix the problem via YouTube videos. And, well, I’m not the best at that.
It wasn’t until this most recent noise that I decided to fold and make an actual adult decision about what to do with my car. It was falling apart, people! So, I presented myself with two questions: "Do I take my car to an auto shop for the very first time and risk questioning what I’m being charged and whether what’s being fixed is necessary?" Or "Do I crumple the car up like a ball of paper and throw it into my basketball hoop garbage can?" I’m sorry, teenage “me” snuck in there. The second question was actually "Do I buy a new car?"
I’ll fast-forward through the details of me torturing myself with those two questions and leave you with the conclusion I came to: it depends. You see, the only way that I was going to find my true answer would be for me to entertain both those questions. That is, I would need to take my car to the auto shop to find out what’s wrong and get a quote. And, I would also need to prepare myself for the possibility of needing to buy a new car and coming up with a rough idea of what that would look like and at what price.
The winning question
This recent noise resulted in my car’s alternator once again failing (three’s charm right?), causing me to roll to a complete stop on a random street in Burbank. Since it was evening, I finished the remainder of my commute by Uber and left Luigi parked on the random street to “sit there and think about what he did.”
I used our time apart to research auto shops. Thankfully, my car stopped less than half a mile from a shop that got rave reviews on Yelp. That gave me some peace of mind about my auto shop worries and after managing to get my car to the shop, I readied myself for the news that the repair costs would be thousands of dollars. I had already calculated in my head that if the auto shop gave me a repair quote costing more than a few thousand bucks, I would consider buying a new car and getting an auto loan instead.
When the repair shop called me a few hours later with my quote, I was relieved to hear that the cost to fix my car was what I figured was about the average I would pay for one month’s auto payment. How silly I felt that I had strongly considered crumpling my car up and buying a new one instead. I gave them the go-ahead and started thinking about the reward points I would earn when paying for the services with my credit card. Now, that's math I can wrap my brain around.
So, at the end of the day, my Luigi is back to being his pre-2017 self. For now that is. There’s no doubt that future woes will occur. However, at least I know that the next noise I hear, I’ll be able to reasonably game plan my next steps, starting with taking my car to my newfound favorite auto shop.