Holy Car! $806.22 For Repairs

by golbguru on December 7, 2006

Man I hate going to car mechanics. They are like dentists…you go to them with one problem and they send you back with 15 problems…and a convincing lecture about how your life can be in danger if you don’t take care of each of them (or something to that effect). Both give you repair estimates that makes your heart stop a while.

A few days ago, two lights came “ON” on my dashboard: brake light and check engine light, and the car started acting weirdly. I took it to the mechanic for repairs. The damn thing even died on me at a red light while going to the mechanic. Anyways, here is the repair estimate that the shop guys gave me (click on the image to enlarge it):

car repair estimate

That’s not a repair estimate…it’s a definition of the term “ouch”, especially for someone on a graduate student stipend. I took care of the thing which was causing it to die and had to pay $191.75 for it. For the rest of the things, I am going to look around and see if I get cheaper quotes. Especially that brake job that says $382.69 !! ..that sounds like a rip-off to me. Even the $191.75 sounds like a rip-off but there was no way I was driving that tin-on-wheels back without making sure it doesn’t die on me on the way back home.

According to Edmunds.com the current private party value of this piece of trash is $2199. This thing is getting way out of hand… $806.22 repairs for a $2199 car.

There is more “ouch” to come. Soon after I got the car back, the “door open” light has started go ON.

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{ 25 comments… read them below or add one }

1 Maria 12.07.06 at 2:28 pm

I hate going to mechanics too! Earlier this year my engine light went on and they discovered that my gas cap wasnt on tight! $69! The best part is that it didnt click for me and it went on again and I took it in again! Another $69. Finally the light went on in my BRAIN and I TIGHTENED the gas cap.
But, they sure can make you feel really dumb, but when you’re as dense as I was, oh well! :) Now I consult my manual before going to a mechanic!

2 moneysmartlife 12.07.06 at 3:27 pm

I struggled with the same question two and a half years ago when my older car needed repairs. It was going to cost half the value of the car to fix it so I finally decided to get rid of it and buy a newer car.

Looking back, I wish I had sunk the money into the older car to keep it running for another two years. The cost of the new car (purchase price, property taxes, sales tax) far outweighed the price of fixing the old. Now we have both our cars paid off, I’m hoping to make them last a loooong time!

3 jay 12.07.06 at 3:44 pm

Almost every car made since about 96 has a standard diagnostic system called OBD2. Most all Check Engine lights are triggered by some OBD2 sensor failing or reporting out of range. Most of it is emissions related crap, but it can cost you money if not fixed. You can buy cheap code scanners or even build some to check the error codes on your make of car. This will give you at least some idea of what’s wrong and you can hit the web to see what it will take to repair.

4 golbguru 12.07.06 at 5:03 pm

moneysmartlife: I am glad you mentioned that. I am going through the exactly same thoughts about buying a new car. I got to think it over a few more times.

jay: thanks for the info. I am going to check for some scanners on ebay right now.

5 Super Saver 12.08.06 at 2:54 am

For me, dealerships for my car model have become the preferred repair shop choice for quality and cost. They used to be high cost provider, but they seem to have changed their business model. I have compared some routine maintenance, like oil changes, and the dealerhship cost has been equal or lower than others. I haven’t done the brake repair comparison yet.

I miss the days when we lived in Japan and didn’t own a car. Japan has a great train, bus and taxi infrastructure, which makes a car less or not necessary.

6 3 Things About Money 12.08.06 at 4:26 am

Ouch! That hurts. It does sound like the sensor brain is starting to go haywire. I agree with the others, drive it till it drops — you’ll save money and it is better for the environment. I drive a Ford Focus and all of them have a brake-and-rotor issue that is the result of poor design so I am a student of brake quotes. I don’t care where you live, 382 is too high for that job –call around, you’ll save money!

7 MoneyFwd 12.08.06 at 7:37 am

As far as I’ve heard, there’s a book that gives the average cost of doing a repair, and it’s a guideline on pricing. A lot of the cost ends up being labor, and even if it takes an hour, but the book says it takes 3, they charge you for 3. Rip-off.

I’ve been thinking that trying to find a way to learn more about car mechanics would be a better option than wasting all of the money on repair shops. I’m just not sure where to look for a class or whatever.

8 Golbguru 12.08.06 at 8:23 am

Super Saver: I know what you mean..I have been in a place where public transport rules..and it really sucks not to have one here.

3 things about money: I agree :)
MoneyFwd: this is the second time I have heard about such a book…I should look into this.

9 Frugal Frugalson 12.08.06 at 9:37 am

Boy, do I feel your pain! I’ve been able to save myself a bunch of money and aggravation by doing some car repairs myself.

I bought this OBD code scanner and it has been a big help. I’d also suggest looking for a vendor/model-specific forum where you can get great pricing, diagnosing, and repair info for your particular car (I like maxima.org for my car).

10 Ambellamy 12.09.06 at 11:54 am

Same thing happened to me… 4 years ago my mom paid 5,000 (out the door basically) for a 1992 toyota camery with 130,000 miles on it… i didn’t drive much (i put less that 20,000 on it in four years) and after many repairs… the car was just dying…

It never stalled… never not started… but it was dying and the paint was beyond repair… i knew on trade in i was only going to get 800 for it…

Well when i took it for a “check up” the work alone was about 1500 bucks and that didn’t fix a whole lot of non neccessary problems… and the private dealer for good condition was about $1,700 and mine wasn’t good condition…

Sure i could have spent the 1500 and saved her… but i decided to get a newer car… looking back… part of me is sad about that choice (because i financed a car)… but part of me isn’t because i communte and needed a reliable car… and this one has AC and the hood stays open when you open it… doesn’t squeak… and doesn’t need new shocks…

and this car will last me for life…

—-> I know its a waste of Money… but i bought the additional insurace which is good till 2011 because i won’t put 100,000 miles on it. and i always take it to the dealer when it needs it.

11 Golbguru 12.09.06 at 12:46 pm

Frugal Furgalson: I wish I had the place and time to do some repairs myself (I did save some money changing the battery and a headlight sometime back)..but I am not confident enough of the engine stuff..always afraid that I will screw up something and that might cost me much more than the original repairs…anyways I am on a look out for the OBD scanner…some other commentators above also suggested that.

Ambellamy: I understands :)..I am always arguing and then counter-arguing about getting a new car…but since I don’t really “commute” to work, I will go with moneysmartlife’s suggestion of sinking some more money into this instead of a new car. Honestly, I don’t know if that’s going to be a right decision..time will tell.

12 Matt 12.11.06 at 11:02 am

Mine cost me over $1000 last month and now there’s a light on to check the airbag. I don’t even want to take it to the shop!

Good luck getting your car fixed up.

13 Ramon 08.20.07 at 11:15 am

This may be foreign to many “city & urban” types, but autoparts stores such as AutoZone & Advance Auto offer FREE OBD scans and will print out the results and step-by-step instructions.

14 Guzziee 05.30.08 at 8:24 am

You could’ve just cleaned that egr valve and save $200 bucks :D

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