Saturday, February 28, 2009

It pays to do your due diligence when having your car or truck repaired - you could easily save yourself hundreds or even thousands of dollars!

Well, as I've said, "it definitely pays to do a little research or homework when it comes to repairing your car or truck." My Volvo recently had a leak in the rack and pinion. This leak originally was just a drop or two per week which really wasn't much, then out of nowhere and started leaking an ounce or two every day - that is pretty bad. I called a few people in the phonebook and through craigslist to get some prices and figure out what all needed to be done. To get some reference points I even called the local dealers.

The range in prices I got was from the high-end of $2400 at the car dealers to a low-end $500 for come to your home repair service. The problem here was that the car dealers were going to fix the actual problem of the leaking rack and pinion, whereas the at home repair services only wanted to fix the power steering pump and high pressure hoses. So the real problem here would not have even been fixed by the at home repair services. When I told him that the rack needed replacement they stated that that was never the case and all that was needed was to replace the pump and hoses.

Now by looking around a little bit and doing a little research I found the actual price on these parts and all the markups involved depending on where you bought it. The power steering rack and pinion was $1034 at the car dealerships. The same part was $675 at AutoZone, $659 at PepBoys and so on. By doing a little research I found a reputable remanufacturer that sells these racks at OEM or better condition and grade for a fraction of the cost - around only $250! Literally one fourth of what the car dealer wanted and one third of the local auto parts store prices.

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So right off the bat, by buying through these guys, I was saving between $400 and $700. Now all I needed to do was find someone to remove the old rack and pinion and install the new one. Well it couldn't be the at home repair guys because they obviously missed the mark with their diagnosis and knowledge because in this case it really was the rack and pinion that needed to be replaced. There was nothing wrong with the power steering pump or hoses.

After asking around and looking a little bit farther out side of my city I found a very reputable car repair shop in the outskirts of Kannapolis, NC. He was skilled in all things automotive from car repair to body work and his prices for labor or about half of what everyone else wanted. For instance, the car repair Bible or book that auto mechanics and car repair shops used to diagnose and determine billing for labor hours stated that the repair for a rack and pinion on a Volvo was 4.7 hours. So, if a car dealership recharge $80 an hour for repair time, that would be $376 in labor costs, not including parts or other fees.

I'm still not sure exactly how the new car dealership came up with $2400 - must be they added some bogus fees which basically does translate into extra pay cash or to help pay the highly inflated bonus and salary of the general manager and other basic do-nothing, high pay positions (general managers make on average $250,000 a year and that money must come from somewhere - usually from bogus dealer processing fees and other ridiculous add-ons and other bogus fees which they charge to the customers).

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So, basically with a little the homework I got the part $250 and that includes shipping to me in the labor was done for around $160 which equals a total of around $410. That's a savings of 83% off the dealers prices and 70% or so off the prices of the local auto parts stores like AutoZone, PepBoys and others. The dealers price to install and include all parts and fees was $2400. The local auto parts stores were around $1800 all inclusive. I, with a little research got $410 for the same service plus they threw in the free oil change and checked my car over to see if there is anything else needed repair for free.

So the point of this article is there's no reason for anyone to pay the high exaggerated prices to repair their car or truck at the local car dealerships. They have gotten far too greedy, their markups are ridiculous and in some cases they will actually literally outright lie to you about what really needs to be done to your car (see car dealer scams for more info on this). You need to be wary and need to be willing to do just a little bit of due diligence or homework and you can save literally thousands of dollars in car repairs (see save on car repairs for more info on this). No where is this more important than now during the current recession (or some talking heads would refer to it as the next great depression). Good luck, do your due diligence and save big as I did.

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

Will the big three automakers still be the big three after this bear market?

The latest tragedies of the bear market are Lehman and Merrill Lynch. AIG got saved in the final hours. Could you imagine what would have happened if AIG had gone down? I think we are on the verge of an economic depression - not a recession. And that means there is much more that can happen.

I think and analysts agree that Chrysler, Ford and GM are all in serious trouble. Just like some of the biggest banks and insurance companies fell and some came close (hint to the wise - others may still and probably will fall) so will at least one of the big three automakers. They are all in worse shape than the banks and have been losing money for years prior to this latest economic downturn.

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Consumers are putting off any unnecessary purchases and are finding it very hard to get approved for credit except for those with exceptional AAA credit. The dark clouds, vultures and blow flies are circling Detroit and the big three. It is most likely inevitable that one will fall, but hard to tell which one will fall first. Will it be Chrysler? Without Iacocca they just haven't been the same. It's like Limp Biscuit without the biscuit, just limp.

Chrysler had some great times with the minivan and such, but it hasn't got much left. I think they will be first. GM has some serious problems and so does Ford with their finacial numbers and there are no profits at all. I wonder what kind of pay the executives are taking while their companies are outright falling hard? Well, only time will tell and soon.

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Saturday, August 30, 2008

Salvage and rebuilt cars

Well, the other day I had to get my car a 7500 mile service and an inspection. So instead of going to the usual place, I looked up online and found some closer places that were a little cheaper. Upon going there I found it to be a little industrial center with a European cars repair center, an inspection station, an American car repair center, a Tow yard (with a fended in lot for repos and wrecked vehicles), and a body shop. All had different owers and they were one right next to the other.

I found the body shop most interesting as it was full of badly wrecked and recently new (2006 and newer luxury cars (BMW, Volvo, Porsche, Maserati and Mercedes Benz). While I waited for my car to get serviced and then inspected (what was funny here is that the inspection place was right next to the Eiuropean service center where my car was being worked on, but the owner said I would have to personally take my car over there when it was done because he and the inspection station owner did not get along). Anyways, As I walked around the body shop manager came out and we talked a little - apparently he was taking a break and had nothing better to do - neither did I as I was waiting for probably an hour or two for my car to be done.

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So we walked around his shop and I asked him about some of the vehicles in there. One was a Volvo that had obviously been hit really hard in the front. The frame was bashed in and so were the doors and even the left rear quarter and rear bumper and frame. Apparently this car got squished really bad. I asked him why this car was being fixed up as it was probably written off by the insurance company as a total wreck. He said these are his most profitable vehicles. He has an agreement with a local franchised new and used car dealer that buys these cars from customers and from salvage auctions for dirt cheap and then they haul them with a flat bed wrecker to him for repair.

The body shop man said within a few weeks they look as good as new and the used/new car dealer just sells them back to customers for big profits. According to the bodyshop guy, he also makes out very well due to this and so he recently increased his hourly labor charge 10 dollars because he could. I asked him is these cars were properly titled in the state for salvage and rebuilt. He said he had no idea what the car dealer did with them or if the eventual buyers even knew these cars were previously involved in a serious accident and deemed a total wreck by the insurance companies. He said most likely they didn't know or didn't care. Just goes to show that you need to do a used car VIN (vehicle identification number check) like Car Fax or Experian Autocheck prior to buying any used vehicle.

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Hurricane Gustav and what it means for Car Fax, flooded cars and con artist used car dealers

The weather reports are now saying that the tropical storm Gustav is now a strengthening category 1 hurricane and that by the time it hits the left side of Cuba it could even become a category 4 hurricane. For those of you that don't know already, a category 3 hurricane is classified as a major hurricane capable of producing massive destruction like Hurricane Wilma, Katrina and others.

Not only could Gustav become a category 4 prior to entering the Gulf of Mexico, but it could even strengthen and enlargen more through the gulf. Then it is projected to barrel down near New Orleans and Louisiana. This is an area that still hasn't fully recovered from the last one - Katrina. The city of New Orleans and the surrounding area are mostly very low lying lands or even under sea level. Last time a major hurricane hit this area, the resulting floods ruined hundreds of thousands of cars and many of those have ended up back on the streets with little to show their previous flood history.

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Flood cars are very dangerous because the water damage will cause corrosion of parts that are internal and are not meant to be exposed to the elements. These parts can easily include hoses, electrical lines, etc... The problem with flood cars is that things will break down and go wrong and usually when you least expect them too. What happens if you are driving down the road and all of a sudden your brakelights stop working due to an electrical short caused by frayed or corroded wires? What if your headlights stop working at night due to a similar electrical glitch?
That could easily result in a terrible accident.

These things and more occur quite often with previously flooded cars so they must be avoided. By purchasing a CarFax or Experian auto check one can better find out the vehicles history and avoid flood damaged vehicles. Now with Hurricane Gustav barreling down on the same area there will inevitably be another resulting sharp increase in flood damaged vehicles being resold and buyers being left out as to the vehicles true history. A CarFax is essential to any buyer of a used car or truck.

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Tuesday, August 26, 2008

Craigslist Raleigh, North Carolina, free car and truck classifieds and saving money!

Raleigh is the capital of North Carolina and a bustling economic and business area. It is also, unfortunately as of late, best known along with nearby Durham for the Duke lacrosse team case, Prosectutor Mike NiFong’s ineptness and the irreverent Al Sharpton and his proclamation that the Duke lacrosse team defendents were guilty and their racist crimes were atrocious when in fact it was all made up (similar in fact to a 20 year earlier trial of Tawana Brawley which was also found to be made up. Al Sharpton along with two assisting attorneys (Maddox and Mason) were successfully sued for slander). The Raleigh – Durham metro area is a beautiful sprawling area with lots to offer and it does not need to be tainted in this way. Raleigh is also becoming well known for its local Raleigh Craigslist website.

What is the local Raleigh Craigs List you ask and why do I care? Well, it can easily save you hundreds and even thousands of dollars on everything from auto repairs to routine shopping and more. Regardless of where your interests and desires lie, there is something for everyone on the Raleigh version of the national Craigslist. Are you looking for a good, cheap and reliable used car? There are many to choose from. And the best part is that with unlimited words and pictures you can really get a good feel for what you are looking at before you really expend any time on it – where as before with the local newspapers you had little idea and had to call the seller and then go and look at it. This usually led to a lot of wasted time as many of these would end up not being quite what they were made out to be.

The Raleigh Craigslist saves you time with posts of all kinds of items for sale and services with pictures and great descriptions. Also, the website is locally regulated by its own community. If there are junk or spam posts they will usually get flagged down and removed very quickly. Craigslisters tend to be very adamant about self policing the site and will not stand for any scams or spam (this is unlike the local newspaper classifieds where many of the classifieds listing especially under business ideas and such are complete scams).

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With the Raleigh craigslist you can save on just about everything you can imagine. My wife even saved a ton and learned how to save huge on Mary Kay cosmetic products. Rather than buying them through your local Mary Kay representative look these same products up on Craigslist and on websites like Ebay and You will find thousands of ex Mary Kay representatives that found the promises of easy money were just delusions and that they are selling what’s left of their inventory at huge discounts. Whether you look on Craigslist, Ebay or for Mary Kay products you will find every product, kit, etc… offered from Mary Kay at around 80% off regular prices or more. Shoot at these savings and the plethora of inventory from the millions of ex reps, the Mary Kay reps would be better off going into business for themselves and keeping all of the profits and underselling all the other Mary Kay reps.

Another great way to save money is with services. Rather than going to your local new car dealer and paying through the roof for your car repairs, browse through the local Raleigh craigslist automotive services section. There are hundreds of posts from the same mechanics that work at your local new car dealerships, but they are moonlighting for extra cash and are offering their services at huge discounts. These aren’t fly by night mechanics. I personally have used mechanics from Craigslist and had them show up with their same uniform from a local new car dealership on as they just got off of work. Another nice benefit is that they get parts cheaper with their employee discount and most will gladly pass this savings on to you.

Do you want to see some of the items that various flea markets will be offering before you travel all over to look? With $4 per gallon gas this is very helpful – just look for similar sales and events and most will have pictures and huge descriptions of all the items available (unlike the regular newspaper classifieds which don’t tell you much at all). This way you can best judge which sales to go to and which would be a complete waste of time. Who wants to travel all over town to look at junk they have no interest in whatsoever?

Are you in the market for some cheap art work or nice antiques? How about an oriental rug for your living room? A sleeper sofa for your family room incase of extra guests? A leather recliner for those days when you come home tired from work and just want to relax? How about a licensed massage therapist to go with that leather recliner? Someone to fix your computer and make it run faster or recover data from that hard drive that just crashed? Do you want someone to come and mow, trim and blow your lawn for a great price? How about some landscaping like installing a few trees and bushes or making a rock wall or border? Need a new deck or some pressure washing?
It’s all on Craigslist and at a fraction of the price of what you would pay through regular business listings found through the Yellow Pages or Angie’s List (it is important to note that consumers pay to use Angie’s List and then again through the contractors whom are also billed for using the service and then pass it on to the consumers through higher prices). I have used various contractors both through services like Angie’s List and through Craigslist and found the quality of work to be the same, but the prices to be around 50% or more cheaper through Craigslist.

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Sunday, August 24, 2008

Amazing stuff you can find for sale in Craigslist car and truck section

Here's a picture I found in craigslist as I was just looking around and seeing what is out there. It was a little different and so it caught my eye. I thought you might think it was funny:

Does this car look hot or stolen to you? At least it's on jacks and not on milk crates or rocks. I would include the rest of the craigslist listing, but I cannot seem to find it. Maybe it has already been flagged off or something.

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Monday, August 4, 2008

New reality show - Wrecked on Speed Channel

I flipped through the channels earlier today and found this reality show about towing companies based in Chicago called Wrecker on the Speed channel. It was basically about the other end of accidents - towing and clean up. I never knew that towing companies were required to perform clean up of the incident. I always thought that was up to the firemen.

The show featured some conflict between long time wrecker and flatbed drivers and a new female safety supervisor or coordinator. The good old boys (long time male wrecker drivers and operators) liked to do things their way and didn't like being told how to do things. But there can be some very dangerous moments when lifting and pulling wrecked cars and trucks at an accident scene. I have personally seen what can happen when a tow line snaps and it could easily rip your head off! So regardless of personal issues, safety is very important.

It was a very interesting show as it showed the operation of several rigs. Some well known (like typical wreckers and flatbeds) and lesser known like the little special lifts and Bobcat like equipment and the huge rotating boom trucks. Did you know these huge rotating boom trucks cost over $600,000 and only last about 5 years before they need replacing? I didn't know that myself and I have spent over 15 years in the automotive business.

Later in the show the business owner and his daughters were introduced and, apparently the daughters like to park at the front entrance blocking some of the service bays at the repair facility and their uncles (it's a family owned and operated business) have told them numerous times not to park their brand new SUV and Dodge car (typical spoiled owner's kids as with many businesses) out front. So they used the lifting equipment to relocate the girls' vehicles. Of course, the girls then went to see daddy and complain and daddy couldn't get a word in and was left frustrated (more evidence of typical spoiled owner's kids).

I wouldn't say it was the most interesting reality show I have ever seen, but it was quite interesting and there were a lot of little interesting tidbits they revealed every now and then - like these:

1) There are over 300 car accidents per day in Chicago and over 250,000 cars get in an accident per year there.

2) Many times the length of time it takes to clear up an accident has nothing to do with the wrecker operators - they can't even start until the police give them the go ahead. Manytimes they must wait for accident or crime scene photographers, power company workers, etc...

3) In continuation of # 2 above, once the wrecker crew is given the go ahead the clock starts and the police manytimes only give them ten minutes or so to fully remove the vehicles and have the lanes open. So the police can take their time, but not the wrecker guys (or gals as is sometimes the case).

4) There is a lot of maintenance and much of it can easily be traced back to improper storage and care of the equipment. Daily maintenance logs help, but as evidenced in the show many drivers do not use them.

5) Wrecker drivers and operators have a 24 hour on call or standby job and can get called away at any time.

6) All wrecker calls are dangerous - lines could snap, toxic chemicals are ever present (gas, antifreeze, blood, etc...), and they work within feet or even inches of fast moving traffic - just like construction workers.

So, please respect wrecker drivers and operators as they have a tough, gruelling and dangerous job. Please slow down and drive safely around them - they are just doing their job as quickly as they can - they have to.

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