On Vehicle Repair Costs

I’m sitting at the local car dealership while they do a massive amount of repairs and maintenance to my trusty 8 year old Honda Civic. Dealer recommended maintenance is, for the most part, a complete rip-off that I avoid. One thing that can’t be avoided in Pennsylvania is the state-mandated annual shakedown called the PA State Safety and Emissions inspections.

My inspection was past due this time around – completely forgot about it. Post-Covid and, I suppose, lots of banked stimulus checks, seems to have caused a logjam when it comes to buying cars, getting them serviced, contractors, etc. So I had to wait over 2 weeks for the next available appointment.

A week before the appointment I wound up running over what appeared to be a crow bar that was flopping around on Route 422. I must have caught it with the edge of my tire and it popped up and smacked the undercarriage very hard and put a hole in the exhaust pipe. Took it to the local AAA Service Center as I didn’t like the sound of it, and they said they couldn’t repair it – the after-market pipe was not correct and Honda was charging $800 for a genuine part. I told em I’ll take it to Honda.

So this morning I arrive and, after about an hour the guy comes out and lists off a litany of costs, most required and some “recommended.” I immediately spotted the $2172 bill total and, quite frankly, breathed a bit of a sigh of relief. That’s slightly more than I expected – I was braced for a $2k bill. But surprisingly, the exhaust repair will be cheap at ~$300 because they are just going to weld it to repair it. But the brakes are close to failing, and tire alignment is needed, oil change, and some leaks apparently. In the end I just told him to do it all.

Let me say that it sucks paying a big bill like this no matter how you look at it. But I’m fine with this one. Know why? Because I can afford it. Some of the most mundanely stressful times in my life, so many, were when I was in my 20’s and early 30’s, still mostly living paycheck to paycheck, and each year waiting for “the guy” at the auto service shop to come out with the full court press sales pitch on everything he recommended I get fixed/maintained. I’ll never forget the last time I was at the dealer in the waiting room waiting for “the guy” to come out with the usually bad news. He came out to talk to a 40-something year old lady sitting nearby. I forget the specifics, but he quoted around $800 for the total cost, and mentioned something to the effect of, “Tesla parts aren’t cheap!” The lady replied that she would need to wait until the end of the month, when she has the cash to pay for the repair.

I was flabbergasted. Someone who owns (kidding – leased it no doubt) a Tesla can’t afford an $800 bill?!?

I understand that there could have been extenuating circumstances that happened post-purchase of the Tesla but it’s not likely…

That scene reminded me of my days not so long ago, sitting in the dealer waiting room, waiting for “the guy” and knowing I couldn’t comfortably afford the likely bad news. But decades of diligent saving, hard work, and mostly decent decisions have paid off. I can comfortably pay a $2172 repair bill and will drive off in my trusty old Honda Civic with a smile on my face, thinking about that Tesla owner.