One young Catholic family on a Journey towards Intentional and Communal Sustainability. One Artist, one full time Mama and two babies, we'll tell you about all our successes, and failures, as we try to make it in our overly Consumeristic society on just the bare necessities.

Monday, September 19, 2011

If you have to pay, pay less.

Despite the recent upset to our plans to not spend money thanks to troubling brakes on our car the whole ordeal has become a triumph and a testament to the goal of our little experiment.

After some pulling to the left, some funny sounds and an initial estimate from a repair shop our family was looking at a bill upwards of $500 to keep our family car safe and sound.

We rely on working brakes to help promote a healthy nap routine.

I would love to say that this all has become an impetus for me to learn car maintenance and to become a journeyman mechanic overnight. Sadly this is not the case, in fact I still basically have no idea how to fix cars other than changing a tire and replacing a battery.

What I do know, from my past as a full-time researcher, is how to find information and compare facts. The first step was to check whether the parts prices were reasonable or not. On a very quick inspection of napa and autozone's websites I realized that no, in fact the parts prices which I was initially quoted were reasonably inflated. I'm not saying that it was a scam, but in the very least the rotors which I was told needed to be replaced were much fancier than I needed for tooling around the suburbs in our little family car.

Armed with this information I was prepared to confront the repair shop and point out that I wasn't entirely ignorant (at least not about parts prices if nothing else) and demand some reduction in the repair cost based on the significantly lower priced rotors I found.

Before I walked in to make these demands I also decided to check the labor costs which I was quoted. Don't get me wrong, I'm a firm believer in allowing businesses to charge whatever they please for their services, but I'm also a firm believer in not paying it unless I feel that it is justified.

The first other shop I called for a quote was a nice, small, local chain of maybe...3 shops. The guy who answered was very helpful and polite. However, the quote which I received was just a few dollars less than the chain repair shop which gave me the initial quote. The difference was that the parts prices were cheaper at the local chain while the labor costs were more. But Britt and I agreed that this is a case where I do feel it to be justified to pay more, in a small, local shop you tend to get better customer service and more reliable work (because their business relies heavily on customer referral). In the case of a large national chain, they work on volume first and foremost.

I then called another chain in town and asked for quote on the same work just to double check. This shop however quoted me nearly $150 LESS than the intial $500 Britt and I were expecting to have to shell out. But thats not all...

When we actually arrived at the shop and the mechanic looked our car over for 10 or 15 minutes he told me the typical "yea, you need new brakes, see here? this is worn, that is worn etc." but then he informed me that not only did he think I didn't need to replace my rotors, but they weren't even close to needing replaced. There was something about him needing 16,000...something to retool them and that mine had 50,000. Like I said, I don't know jack about cars, but I do know that 50 is way bigger than 16 and that was good enough for me.

All said and done (I just need to pick up our car in the morning) the cost for fixing our brakes on the car ended up being just over $225. Funny how not paying for the cost and labor to replace parts that don't need to be replaced can drop the price.

In retrospect I should have called the small local guys back with the new information and see what kind of deal they could have given me. But you have to forgive me for being a bit impetuous once I found out that I was saving $275.

All things considered, I don't feel too bad spending money today, since after all I saved more than I spent thanks to a few minutes of research and shopping around.


  1. That is fantastic! I always feel like I'm getting taken advantage of when it comes to car stuff because I just want to make sure I'm safe and that it is done right so I just trust whatever I'm told. This makes me aware that maybe I too could do a little research before spending any money!

  2. It certainly gave me a sigh of relief when I heard the news. $225 is not cheap, but it's manageable within an ordinary budget. $500 is not.