Payin’ My Automobills (Yeah, that’s a Destiny’s Child Reference. Don’t mock me.)

There are certain types of spending that just plain suck.  Sometimes you have to spend money on things even though you don’t really feel like you’re getting anything for it.  Utilities would be one example.  Of course I realize on an intellectual level that paying my electric bill is keeping me comfy in my home.  But when I write that check to Delmarva Power each month, I feel like I’m spending money and have nothing to show for it.  Utilities just aren’t sexy, and I gain very little satisfaction from paying for electricity.

Car maintenance and repair often falls into the “sucky spending that isn’t the least bit satisfying” category.  Driving isn’t any more enjoyable after getting an oil change.  Replacing worn-out brake pads is certainly important, but new brake pads don’t make your car look newer or sportier.  So when I learned that I was going to have to spend $500 on car repairs as mentioned in my last post, I was quite grumpy about it.

The biggest chunk of the $500 repair was for two new tires, an expenditure providing very little gratification.  But the second biggest chunk of the bill was for the replacement of two belts (A/C & alternator and power steering).  Sounds decidedly unsexy, no?  How much satisfaction could one expect to get from $135 worth of belts (especially the non-accessory kind)?

A lot, it turns out.  I can actually feel a huge improvement in how my car drives now.  I guess this is the kind of thing that sneaks up on you, but I didn’t realize how much my car had started vibrating at higher speeds.  And since I feel that speed limits are just suggestions (and usually not very good ones), my car was vibrating a LOT.  Now it’s a smooth ride all the time.  Also, the car no longer shakes violently when the AC or heat are turned up all the way.  Okay, that one didn’t sneak up on me, but I kinda just ignored it and kept the climate control on a lower setting. 

Prior to the belt replacements, I had become so dissatisfied with my vibrating, shaking car that I planned to buy a new one at the end of next year.  I planned on getting a Mini Cooper, which would run around $18,000.  While I would still love to have a Mini in the future, I no longer feel that I need one in the near future.  I think I’ll be quite satisfied to continue driving my Honda Accord indefinitely.

The point of this post is that I now view my $500 car repair as an expenditure that saved me $18,000.  Also, now that my current car is perfectly tolerable, I can continue driving it long enough to save enough to (hopefully) pay for a new car with cash.  I haven’t had a car payment in years, and it’s certainly not something I look forward to.  It’s nice that I can now reclassify my maintenance expenditure as “sucky spending that is at least somewhat satisfying.”

Viva la frugal!

P.S.  I like to support small, local businesses when I can, so I want to give a shout-out to Mid-Atlantic Tire in Easton, MD.  I have been taking my car to them for years and they are everything you look for in an auto maintenance shop but have trouble actually finding: They are courteous, knowledgeable, reasonably priced, and honest! 



Filed under Frugal

2 responses to “Payin’ My Automobills (Yeah, that’s a Destiny’s Child Reference. Don’t mock me.)

  1. Mike

    Good post. There is nothing fun about car repair. A broken car hovever; even less fun. As you stated, think of it more as an investment. An ounce of prevention….

  2. Caroll

    Yes! Make those “car payments” to yourself in a special fund. Having cash for big expenses is smart. It won’t make you rich, but will keep you in control of your life.
    And I also like Mid-Atlantic Tire. My “trust relationship” with my mechanic ranks right up there with (ok, right after) my gynecologist.

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