Topics: frugality, insurance, transportation
By Jon, the Master Tightwad
Webster’s certainly doesn’t list the acquisition of brand new cars under the definition for tightwad, so I was walking a tight line when I replaced my 1997 Camry with a 2007 Corolla. I am a lean, mean tightwad machine, so I had to do some heavy rationalizing before I could bring myself to driving off in a new car.
While rationalizing, I never factored the possibility the dealership would wreck my new car into the equation. Before I get into that, consider how this resident tightwad talked himself into buying this car in the first place.
Why Purchasing a Brand New Vehicle Is Thrifty After All
- The Camry was approaching 200,000 miles, and I found it awkward to be recognized–by name–at the grocery store by Firestone Guy. A new car would mean fewer trips for repairs. Savings: Time and Money.
- A new car is more fuel efficient (especially a Corolla versus a Camry). I went from 23 MPG to 38 MPG, a 65% improvement. Savings (based on driving 400 miles per week; I drive a lot!): almost 7 gallons, or about $20 per week.
- I needed to replace the Camry. Do I purchase used, and take a chance on the driving habits of some stranger (suddenly I recall yours truly pulling out of Midway Airport in that white Mustang, and the ensuing four days of sheer speed and adrenaline… so sorry Avis!)?
- Note to self: Never, ever buy a car that was once part of a rental fleet.
- Free Tires For Life! Yup, I was a sucker. They got me. Their handy little gimmick seemed like a no brainer on TV: buy a new car, never pay for tires.
- Free shuttle service if you let us service that new vehicle. Heck, we’ll even pick your car up if you’re nice to us.
Valet pick-up from the office? Sign me up!
Which brings us to The Call: “Hello, Mr. Tightwad, this is Bubba* at Toyota. I’m afraid I have some bad news. On the way to the dealership to service your car, our porter was in an accident. Now don’t worry, he wasn’t hurt. In fact, the damage isn’t all that bad.”
Now this is the point where I get that lump in my throat. You know, the “I just swallowed a golf ball” feeling you get when someone tells you something that simply can’t be true. So after picking myself up from the floor (and hurling said Titleist from my throat), reality sinks in. My brand new car, the one I had to talk myself into buying in the first place, isn’t so new anymore.
Now I must admit the dealership has been treating me okay so far. A rental car was delivered to me a couple hours later. Then, two days later, an appraiser calls with the good news: “Mr. Tightwad, I’ve evaluated your vehicle, and the repairs we need to make total $4,061.” Hmmm… now even I didn’t think the car looked that bad. But what to do?
What to do? I started hunting on the Internet. Shouldn’t I get compensation for the stigma of owning a wrecked vehicle? I’m pretty sure Hester Prynne had trouble in the relationship department after being branded with that scarlet letter. What future owner would want to marry my poor Corolla, even if she does look just fine in her elegant silver makeup?
*Names have been changed to protect the guilty.
Two and a Half Weeks Later
I’ve come to accept that I am simply lost in the system. A week ago the insurance company called to let me know the body shop was finished working its magic, and my car was good as new. Great, so when should I pick it up, I ask. Well, that’s not why we’re calling, Mr. Tightwad. Usually, we cut a check directly to the vehicle’s owner, but for your convenience I can send payment directly to the shop. Great service, I’m thinking.
So I did the math in my head.
- Monday… body shop finishes with Shirley (come on, you know yours has a name, too!).
- Tuesday… dealership picks up car from body shop. Dealership completes regularly scheduled maintenance. Dealership calls Mr. Tightwad to arrange vehicle swap.
- Wednesday… Mr. Tightwad turns in rental car, neglecting to fill tank (figuring the least I’m getting out of this is a free tank of gas… are they really going to tell me to go fill it up first after what they put me through?). Mr. Tightwad accepts keys to Shirley, negotiates a generous service credit to account for the diminished value, and sets out to conquer the world.
One Week Later
Instead, Mr. Tightwad continues to drive the Camry. The Camry is nice and all, but there comes a point where one must assume Shirley is MIA. What to do? Fleeting thoughts return of the sexy white Mustang in Chicago. Vroooom Vrooooooooooom. Tightwad realizes he must get his “money’s worth” from the Camry. So, Tightwad uses the Camry to haul old, wet carpet from his house; he tests that “Zero to 60 in __ Seconds” promise; he evaluates the effects of sudden braking pressure on a wet gravel road; he takes… a Road Trip!
I plead the fifth on further details regarding the Camry. Let’s just say the dealership is getting Street Justice from Mr. Tightwad from here on out. Twenty-one hundred miles later, I’ve found a new love (sorry, Shirley!).
Oh, the joys of rental cars!
Jon, the Master Tightwad works in the non-profit software industry by day and hunts for bargains by night. He’s a single guy living in the suburbs of Birmingham, Alabama.