How My Husband & I Saved Money On Car Repairs

Last Monday as I was driving to work, I started hearing a noise coming from the rear passenger side of my car. I didn't really think too much of it because my rear passenger metal seatbelt had been hitting the plastic on the car recently. Rather than fix the problem, I lazily turned up the music on my stereo. Of course, having experienced a broken axle before, I got into the left, fast lane acknowledging that there was a grassy median I could use should I need it.

Within minutes (seconds?) of moving to the fast lane, I heard what sounded like a flat tire, so I slightly turned my car toward the grassy median tapping the brake ever-so-slightly to slow down from the 70+mph I was going. My goal was to slow down quickly but not too quickly to tear up the car while also removing myself from oncoming traffic; I was grateful for the median that afforded me this opportunity. As soft of a landing as the grass was, I quickly discovered it was thick, dense, and wet from a rainstorm that had occurred the night before. I lost traction making steering and braking difficult as my car careened toward a drain and the opposite lane (protected from me by a guard rail). Uncertain if I would stop in time and not really realizing I had lost traction, I tried to turn the steering wheel and slam on my brakes, neither of which necessarily worked as quickly as I would have liked. My car (going much slower at this point) hit the drain and instantly died as the car battery broke and the engine lost power.

First of all, let me give kudos to the kind woman who had seen what had happened, got off at the next exit, turned around to make sure I was fine, and stayed with me until my father and husband got to the scene. Also, kudos to my dad and husband who both took time off from work (one while in the middle of talking with his boss!) to come "save" me. It made me feel special and loved. :)

We had my car towed to a nearby dealership where my dad works using AT&T's roadside assistance program. My dad and his co-workers quickly determined that the tread on the inside of my tire had come loose, something we could not have predicted or noticed before the accident without looking for it. As a result of the loose tread that began the series of incidents resulting in my hitting the drain, I had popped my front driver's side tire, bent the front driver's side knuckle, messed up my struts, damaged both of my bumpers, … and something else. (I'm not a car person. Forgive me.) My car spent a total of 4 days on the rack at the dealership before it was returned to me.

During those next few days as we decided how best to fix it and whether or not it was indeed fixable, we shopped around for parts at Costco (for tires and a car battery), AutoZone (for struts and silver touch up paint where we used SpeedPerks to get a coupon towards our next purchase), and the junkyard.

Growing up with my dad as a mechanic, I had heard of them before, but I had never actually been to one. I envisioned them like this:

I expected a crazy mass chaos of cars toppled on top of one another making it difficult to find parts.

As it turns out, junkyards often look more like a parking lot. When you pay to go in, the cashier provides a detailed list of aisles and car numbers that may help you find whatever you are looking for. There were full sections of Chrysler, Ford, and Chevrolet vehicles all in varying degrees of picked-overness. (Sidenote: If you are ever in a car accident and your car finds it's way to a junkyard, don't try to find it. It will only result in tears as you see your "baby" picked to shreds. Or even worse, seeing the cars where you know someone was injured. It just makes you sad.)

While junkyard shopping was hot and complicated and not nearly as messy as I expected, by the end of the day, we had spent $200 on difficult-to-find parts that would have cost us upwards of $500. My car is still in the process of being fixed back to it's original state (no holes in the bumpers FTW!), but I'm glad to have saved so much money and to not have the need to turn this accident in to the insurance company which could easily result in my premium going up. Plus, seeing my car put back together and looking as beautiful and new as the day I got it gives me a strong sense of pride.

Shopping at the junkyard isn't for everyone, but if you are trying to save money on car repairs it can be a worthwhile time and money investment. It's a great way to save money on slightly used (or fully used!) car parts, find difficult-to-find items, or even upgrade your vehicle for less (new leather seats FTW?). However, be sure to also take advantage of other potential savings using AutoZone's Speedperks or other coupons and compare prices across different companies like Costco or Sam's Club. You never know how much you'll save by mixing and matching, and, if you are like, after your next accident you could potentially spend less than your deductible by fixing your car yourself! Wouldn't that be nice?

How have you saved money on car purchases in the past? Have you shopped at a junkyard before? Do you have any recommendations I may not have thought of?

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