Author Topic: Car replacement question (first time asker)  (Read 11218 times)

prpl4va

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Car replacement question (first time asker)
« on: October 09, 2013, 10:08:40 PM »
Hi Mustachians!

Last week I spent $1K to fix my car, a 2003 Honda Civic.  I thought the repairs would give me at least another year of reliable driving.  I went on a 2 hour mountain road trip over the weekend and lo and be hold yesterday the check engine light came on - blown head gasket.  The repair cost are around $1800.  The car is worth about $3500. 

Here are my specs:
$5500 in savings
homeowner, commute 3x per week about 35 miles RT, mom to 1, married
gross around $100K per year as a couple
mortgage is $1225/month (recently refinaced to save $400/month)
approx $70k in retirement (401k and Roth)
around $10K in student loan debt (down from over $50k in debt in 2010|$4k @ 5.75%, $6K @ 3.75%)

I bought the car for $12500 in late 2006 - $6200 of that was financed and then paid off in mid 2009.  I have spent nearly $10k in repairs and maintence over the last 7 years.

Before this car problem we were on the road to wiping out the higher rate loan by paying an additional $800 a month.  So we have the money for a small (Unmustachian) car note - roughly $6K @ 1.99% and assuming we add in ~$5K from trade in and savings.  That would give us a monthly payment of about $200.  I am considering Hyundai Elantra, Kia Forte and Toyoto Corollas as possible replacements.  I'm looking at sticker prices around $12000.

How would you solve this car problem while continuing to pay off the student loans?

I need a car to get to work (my husband has different work hours and commutes in the opposite direction.

Thanks in advance for sharing your knowledge.
« Last Edit: October 09, 2013, 10:10:55 PM by prpl4va »

prodarwin

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Re: Car replacement question (first time asker)
« Reply #1 on: October 10, 2013, 01:11:04 AM »

How would you solve this car problem while continuing to pay off the student loans?

Fix the car.

chasesfish

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Re: Car replacement question (first time asker)
« Reply #2 on: October 10, 2013, 03:59:30 AM »
Fix the car.

We have an '02 Wrangler with 90k on it and we go through this debate about once a year.  $1500-$2000/year in maintenance and repairs isn't awful.

Where are you getting your repairs done?  I recently switched from the dealer to a larger mechanic that specializes in commercial fleet work, saved 30% on my last repair (quoted $1600 at dealer, paid $1200) and this fleet company has pickup/drop off

prpl4va

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Re: Car replacement question (first time asker)
« Reply #3 on: October 10, 2013, 08:00:53 AM »
I get the car serviced at a dealership. Mostly because it is conveniently near work.  I forgot to mention the car has 145k miles on it and I average 11k miles per year.  It had 68k miles when purchased.  I've spent $1838 on maintenance in 2013.

prodarwin

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Re: Car replacement question (first time asker)
« Reply #4 on: October 10, 2013, 11:25:21 AM »
I would only add - maybe cross-shop a bit?  And get a second opinion.  If you've spent $10k on repairs/maintenance between 68k and 145k miles on a Civic... the dealer is really gouging you pretty hard and/or making stuff up.  The Civic is a solid, reliable appliance.  Hitting 300k miles with one should be no problem at all.

Numbers Man

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Re: Car replacement question (first time asker)
« Reply #5 on: October 10, 2013, 11:27:02 AM »
Cars cost money to repair whether it's 3 years old or 20 years old. Fix the car. Your car is only worth $1,700 without the repair being done.

prpl4va

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Re: Car replacement question (first time asker)
« Reply #6 on: October 10, 2013, 11:48:32 AM »
Thanks for the replies. I plan on getting a second opinion on the repair cost today.

I'm curious wfhat (if any) limit you all would put on car repairs?

If i needed a $3500 transmission (or something equally expensive) would you still say fix it?

Melody

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Re: Car replacement question (first time asker)
« Reply #7 on: October 11, 2013, 03:51:37 AM »
Once the head gasket goes your car will never be reliable again. Sell it, get $1700 and use the $1700 to buy an older/less popular make and model of car that works. (Buy a low mileage old car, preferably with logbooks, cosmetic damage like hail storm damage should get the cost down the the $1700.)

chasesfish

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Re: Car replacement question (first time asker)
« Reply #8 on: October 11, 2013, 05:03:29 AM »
Thanks for the replies. I plan on getting a second opinion on the repair cost today.

I'm curious wfhat (if any) limit you all would put on car repairs?

If i needed a $3500 transmission (or something equally expensive) would you still say fix it?

On an '03 Civic, I would struggle if it gets over $4,000 in a single repair or goes over $2500 or so for two years in a row.  I was in a similar situation with my wife's car, we spent $2,000 on it, and its run well for the past 18 months.

I was amazed at the convenience of the other shop I used.  They picked up my car for me and even after factoring in a small rental car for two days, I was still 25% less.

Forcus

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Re: Car replacement question (first time asker)
« Reply #9 on: October 11, 2013, 01:18:44 PM »
I would only add - maybe cross-shop a bit?  And get a second opinion.  If you've spent $10k on repairs/maintenance between 68k and 145k miles on a Civic... the dealer is really gouging you pretty hard and/or making stuff up.  The Civic is a solid, reliable appliance.  Hitting 300k miles with one should be no problem at all.

X2. I don't see how you could have 10k in repairs on a fairly low mile Civic unless you replaced all its parts. Twice. (ok, that's an exaggeration). I think you are getting royally ripped off by the dealer.

I am also generally in favor of keeping an older car going BUT you have to factor in opportunity costs, the cost of your time, where you live, safety, etc., to make the right decision. If you are not in any way, shape, or form car handy and you have no intention of being so, then probably a 10 year old + car is not for you. Also, newer cars are safer and get better (ever increasing) mileage. If you cannot minimize your mileage (exposure to possible accidents, and cost for fuel), then these factors are important.

Anyways, if you decide to keep what you have, I would NOT have the current engine repaired - assuming that the quote they gave you was simply to install a new head gasket and maybe replace or machine the cylinder head. I would much, much rather have a low mile engine installed out of a wrecked car that has been taken care of. I am saying this from experience - I have repaired two cars with bad head gaskets and simply wasted my time and money because both had mixed enough coolant in the oil to take out the engine bearings. Also the head gasket might have been the cause or the effect. Hard to know without having it replaced and driving down the road. You may end up just throwing money down a hole on that one. Just my two cents, you could replace it and live happily ever after.

Mr.Macinstache

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Re: Car replacement question (first time asker)
« Reply #10 on: October 11, 2013, 01:52:01 PM »
Agree with what Forcus says. I you could do the job yourself, I would fix it. Since you have to rely on a shop, I might consider moving on. Yes it will cost you, that's the thing with cars... we just try to limit the expense on them.

Since it was a headgasket, it could have some extensive low end engine damage..yes you could patch it, but if the bearings go out you're looking at replacing more parts.

I would consider moving on to another used car... if you can find a one owner who took care of one, snatch that up.. if you want to spend more, you sound like you're in a good spot to search for a low-mile compact. I've been leaning away from Honda toward Toyota lately.. I think they have a much better product. Corolla's are hard to beat if you find a deal under blue book value.

Debbie M

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Re: Car replacement question (first time asker)
« Reply #11 on: October 11, 2013, 08:49:55 PM »
Once the head gasket goes your car will never be reliable again. Sell it, get $1700 and use the $1700 to buy an older/less popular make and model of car that works. (Buy a low mileage old car, preferably with logbooks, cosmetic damage like hail storm damage should get the cost down the the $1700.)

I'd also look for a car you could afford to pay cash for (the 5K you said you could use toward a down payment).  Get a super-reliable model.  Often cars that are about to have 100K miles on them are quite affordable and still have a very long life.

Forcus

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Re: Car replacement question (first time asker)
« Reply #12 on: October 12, 2013, 05:47:05 PM »
I looked for some nice "upgrades" earlier this year and it was really hard to find anything decent even in the 5-7k range with under 100k miles (all private party, no dealer). What I found didn't inspire confidence. Chevy Aveos (Daewoo built), old style Kia Rios (s-box to the extreme), old style Hyundai Accents (reliable, but still s-boxes), etc. Not saying that deals aren't out there, that the sacrifice isn't worthwhile to some, and I certainly hope the OP finds something in this range. But the only things that were somewhat close were 05-07 Focuses, 06up Cobalts, Dodge Calibers, etc. and it was hard to find them at 7k and under 100k miles.

On the other hand I have seen a lot of cars that I like (smaller, fun to drive), newer, for around 11-13k. Yes it is a lot more money than 5-7k BUT ... around here you can get an almost new Mazda 2, 2012 (new style) Focus, etc. for that price with very low (under 20k) miles. And little to no maintenance for a long time. I know it might seem anti-MMM but that's just the way I see it.


Joel

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Re: Car replacement question (first time asker)
« Reply #13 on: October 12, 2013, 05:50:42 PM »
I would only add - maybe cross-shop a bit?  And get a second opinion.  If you've spent $10k on repairs/maintenance between 68k and 145k miles on a Civic... the dealer is really gouging you pretty hard and/or making stuff up.  The Civic is a solid, reliable appliance.  Hitting 300k miles with one should be no problem at all.

+1 on this.

prpl4va

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Re: Car replacement question (first time asker)
« Reply #14 on: October 12, 2013, 07:50:46 PM »
Op here.

I decided to fix the car.  The second shop was only about $100 cheaper than the dealer. Doesn't look like there was any price gouging after all. 

I'm praying this fix lasts so we can wipe out the student loans. We'll then be in a better position too save for a cash car replacement.

This car has never left me stranded.  Here's hoping that continues.

Thanks again.

thurston howell iv

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Re: Car replacement question (first time asker)
« Reply #15 on: October 15, 2013, 09:23:41 AM »
Head gasket on a Honda is super easy. Probably under $200 to do.   You can do this yourself.
Make some effort to learn and you'll save a ton of cash. Can't kill a Honda.

prpl4va

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Re: Car replacement question (first time asker)
« Reply #16 on: October 15, 2013, 09:50:27 AM »
The head gasket part alone was $425.  Car repair is hugely money saving skill.  One that I may pick up during early retirement :). For now I'll pay the experts.

Mr.Macinstache

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Re: Car replacement question (first time asker)
« Reply #17 on: October 15, 2013, 10:03:24 AM »
The head gasket part alone was $425.  Car repair is hugely money saving skill.  One that I may pick up during early retirement :). For now I'll pay the experts.

Oh no way, what year/car are we talking about here?


Mr.Macinstache

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Re: Car replacement question (first time asker)
« Reply #19 on: October 15, 2013, 11:03:41 AM »
There you go. I failed to scroll up.

Head gaskets are cheap.. $425 is nothing short of theft!

Forcus

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Re: Car replacement question (first time asker)
« Reply #20 on: October 15, 2013, 11:34:35 AM »
Well all the links posted (I assume - I didn't click the links) are for non-OEM parts. Also you have to make sure you are comparing apples to apples. Some kits are full top end kits (valve cover gaskets, intake and exhaust gasket sets, etc.) and others may just be the gasket. Additionally my experience with shops is that if they purchase a parts store part at whatever price (usually with a discount), they charge full list price (from the parts store) which is usually 25-50% more.

prpl4va

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Re: Car replacement question (first time asker)
« Reply #21 on: October 15, 2013, 11:49:28 AM »
The line item on the bill says "head gasket set."

Mr.Macinstache

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Re: Car replacement question (first time asker)
« Reply #22 on: October 15, 2013, 12:49:43 PM »
A Fel-Pro headgasket kit is $98 for a 2.0 DOHC engine. Fel-Pro is top of the line in terms of parts. Even an honest repair shop would only charge $130 for that. A dealer selling OEM parts will be marked up like crazy, and really the quality is no better than a brand name product. Many times the aftermarket is better.

Mopar has a value line, its basically over priced parts store replacement parts with their logo stamped in.

Forcus

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Re: Car replacement question (first time asker)
« Reply #23 on: October 15, 2013, 01:35:41 PM »
A Fel-Pro headgasket kit is $98 for a 2.0 DOHC engine. Fel-Pro is top of the line in terms of parts. Even an honest repair shop would only charge $130 for that. A dealer selling OEM parts will be marked up like crazy, and really the quality is no better than a brand name product. Many times the aftermarket is better.

Mopar has a value line, its basically over priced parts store replacement parts with their logo stamped in.

I pushed this thread off topic but what the hell :D

What you said is true and also not as true (personally I have no problem putting Fel Pro stuff on anything I own as they are a supplier to many of the world's OEM's). A lot of what manufacturers sell is just supplier / parts store stuff with a nice box. Example, I found out who the OEM supplier is for Volvo cartridge filters for my car (MANN) and bought a case of them for half the price of the nice blue box. I work for a fortune 50 company and have access to purchasing data. I know for a fact that some of the parts purchased are just catalog type parts, marked up and put in a shiny box with our part number on it. As you said, there are many aftermarket products that are better than OEM. I flushed the brake fluid last year on the same Volvo but instead of using OEM fluid I used Motul fluid. Similar price, higher performance.

The tough part is knowing whether a parts store item is the same, better, or worse than the OEM stuff. For example, I won't touch parts store water pumps, power steering pumps, alternators, starters, rebuilt brake parts unless its an emergency. This is based on the fact that many of the major remanufacturers piece together used parts to make their stuff work, or worse, use crappy third world country replacement parts that don't meet original spec. Of course some of these could be better than the OEM stuff, especially if the Ford's of the world have changed suppliers to save a buck. But really hard to know.

Additionally, sometimes the parts were designed to a certain spec and the replacement parts manufacturer missed a critical point when they went to manufacture a replacement product. Example, the glow plugs on 6.9 / 7.3 International / Ford diesels. You have to use the OEM or better glow plugs. Autolite has (or used to have) a reputation for good parts but their glow plug tips swell if the glow plug controller sticks, which means that the ends either break off when the glow plug is removed (bad... have to pull the cylinder head) or break off while the engine is running (really bad). In any case, that's why my line of thinking is OEM, always, unless there is a known better solution.

Just to add a little more fuel to the fire, tires are starting to become designed to a particular manufacturer's spec. There was an article in one of the car magazines a month or so ago that went through it. Not just the Ferrari's of the world either, Hyundai, BMW, and I think GM and Ford all have their own spec that makes the tires different from the same exact brand / appearance as an off the rack tire. But they aren't the same (that being said, this does not bother me at all).

Just my $.02. Not begruding the parts stores in the least. I have accounts with them and they know me by name. I just am particular about parts for the reasons above because I try to keep my cars exceptionally clean / well running and performing. 98% of people are probably going to be ok with parts store stuff for all their needs.

Mr.Macinstache

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Re: Car replacement question (first time asker)
« Reply #24 on: October 15, 2013, 01:53:03 PM »
Good stuff there.

When I replaced my Jeep engine I scrutinized every single part used. I tried to get an OEM water pump, but the dealer told me they're N/A, but they have a "value brand"! I passed on that as it was $20 more than a premium part store one with a lifetime warranty. Jeep head gasket or Fel-Pro heavy duty? No way I'm going OEM there!

On the other hand, I got an aftermarket valve cover.... couldn't get it seal worth a shit. Although the box was damaged, so it most likely was bent during shipping, but Dorman gave me a new one under warranty. I got a used OEM valve cover and she fits perfect, not a single leak.

So, I do hear you that certain OEM parts can be crucial, but I think some of it's a racket for people who use dealer service.

thurston howell iv

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Re: Car replacement question (first time asker)
« Reply #25 on: October 16, 2013, 06:58:10 AM »
I, too, agree that some OEM parts are crucial- usually for the proper fit. However, many of the OEM parts are manufactured or remanned out of the country anyway.  I'm a member of many car forums- owning 7 cars will do this to you. LOL

I try to research parts before I use them and will readily use an aftermarket starter, alternator, etc. because most of them have lifetime warranties... They're not that hard to remove or reinstall and I can always get another at no cost to me.

Here's an example: I own a Ford SUV that has Coils on Plugs (8 of them). They go bad more often than I think they should. Everyone says to get the Ford Motorcraft units at $80-90 a pop (I think they have a 90 day warranty).  In an effort to keep my costs down, I purchased units from BWD at the local O'Reillys autoparts store. They cost about $80 with a lifetime warranty. One went bad the other day and I didn't even need a receipt or a box! I simply took it in and they handed me a new one-FREE... Now everything is fine and dandy.

I guess my point is that most of the aftermarket parts out there perfectly adequate for use on your vehicle- domestic or foreign.

More importantly, and the reason for my initial post, is that I feel that folks should make some effort to learn about their cars instead of being complainypants and lamenting the repair costs of their vehicles and then looking for an excuse to dump their "problematic vehicle" in order to buy a new or newer one and start the cycle all over again.

Cars are not some mysterious enigma. They are machines. Most all have the same basic components. With some minimal effort anyone can work on their own car - even if it's just the basics. Heck even MMM himself utilized google and youtube to learn how to replace a wheel bearing not too long ago.

My wife works on cars with me. It's not rocket surgery. I am not a mechanic but, I am happy to help with suggestions or whatever when it comes to repairing most issues.

I think this community is here for the same reason. We all want the opportunity to retire early and one of the ways to do so, if we can't eliminate our cars, is to maintain our cars regularly and as inexpensively as possible. Just trying to help here...

 


prpl4va

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Re: Car replacement question (first time asker)
« Reply #26 on: October 25, 2013, 06:40:03 AM »
An update for any one who's interested...

I got swindled and i'm hanging my head in shame.  I did pay the outrageous $1600 to get the gasket repaired.  The next week my dashboard lights (SRS, Brake, ABS etc) started blinking in and out.  Turns out my alternator is kaput.  The rip-off auto shop charged me $115 to diagnose and wanted another $400 to replace the alternator. 

I've sunk so much into this car that we decided to fix the alternator (not sure this is very logical, but...).  This morning I went shopping around to the gas station service shops down the street.  The place that I chose is about $60 cheaper on the alternator.  BUT here's the kicker...I sheepishly asked how much they charge for a head gasket and to my SHOCK the service manager said around $600 dollars!!! Yes that's a $1000 dollars less than I paid.  I'm not sure how I didn't pass out right there.

I'm going to tell this story over and over and over again to save my friends/family some money (and embarassment).  I'll be a better car owner for having made this mistake.  Moving forward!

[I'll save you the words and say it, "I told you so!"]

Forcus

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Re: Car replacement question (first time asker)
« Reply #27 on: October 25, 2013, 08:04:11 AM »
Before you freak COMPLETELY out (maybe too late), there may be a reason it's so much cheaper.

One guy might simply pull the head, swap gaskets, put it back together, and send you on the way. Only new part is the gasket, rest is labor.

Another guy might pull the head, have the head surface checked for warping and milled if necessary, replace all upper gaskets (valve cover, thermostat housing, intake, exhaust, put it back together with OEM parts including new head bolts, add new coolant, pressure check everything, and send you on your way. More expensive, more time, but more likely the repair will hold.

You can probably tell which way I lean based on my previous posts..

In any case, just something to know about why prices might be so much different. Or, of course, you did get ripped off.

Mr.Macinstache

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Re: Car replacement question (first time asker)
« Reply #28 on: October 25, 2013, 12:53:18 PM »
$2000 into the car is still cheaper than a years worth of $200 car payments. Dont beat yourself up.. you most likely got good service as Forcus said. Just chalk it up to education.

daverobev

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Re: Car replacement question (first time asker)
« Reply #29 on: October 25, 2013, 03:37:46 PM »
It might be worth talking to the local press, threatening the shop that charged you $1.6k... because, at $100 an hour labour, that's still a joke...

I mean, we paid $800 for timing belt, water pump etc on our civic at whatever the manual says... but that's the most expensive repair.. and it's not even a repair, it's scheduled maintenance.

Ours is a 2004, has 225 or 240k km, so roughly 150k miles, on it now, and... yeah it's been pretty good. Ours is a manual trans though.. I've heard bad things about Honda automatic transmissions of that era.

Mr.Macinstache

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Re: Car replacement question (first time asker)
« Reply #30 on: October 29, 2013, 12:16:37 PM »
It might be worth talking to the local press, threatening the shop that charged you $1.6k... because, at $100 an hour labour, that's still a joke...

I mean, we paid $800 for timing belt, water pump etc on our civic at whatever the manual says... but that's the most expensive repair.. and it's not even a repair, it's scheduled maintenance.

Ours is a 2004, has 225 or 240k km, so roughly 150k miles, on it now, and... yeah it's been pretty good. Ours is a manual trans though.. I've heard bad things about Honda automatic transmissions of that era.

C'mon, it's not like they didn't know the cost before they dropped the car off? $95 an hour is the going rate for dealer or some larger car repair shops. You can choose to pay the quote or shop elsewhere.

There is a lot of myths about Honda automatics... what I know for a fact, is that people totally disregard any sort of maintenance to their transmissions and then blame Honda when it goes out after a 100k miles? On the other end, there have been some weak links in some transmissions, those are only made worse when you fail to service them.

daverobev

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Re: Car replacement question (first time asker)
« Reply #31 on: October 29, 2013, 01:51:07 PM »
It might be worth talking to the local press, threatening the shop that charged you $1.6k... because, at $100 an hour labour, that's still a joke...

I mean, we paid $800 for timing belt, water pump etc on our civic at whatever the manual says... but that's the most expensive repair.. and it's not even a repair, it's scheduled maintenance.

Ours is a 2004, has 225 or 240k km, so roughly 150k miles, on it now, and... yeah it's been pretty good. Ours is a manual trans though.. I've heard bad things about Honda automatic transmissions of that era.

C'mon, it's not like they didn't know the cost before they dropped the car off? $95 an hour is the going rate for dealer or some larger car repair shops. You can choose to pay the quote or shop elsewhere.

There is a lot of myths about Honda automatics... what I know for a fact, is that people totally disregard any sort of maintenance to their transmissions and then blame Honda when it goes out after a 100k miles? On the other end, there have been some weak links in some transmissions, those are only made worse when you fail to service them.

My point is: If the parts are $400, and labour is $100 an hour, how many hours does it *actually* take to do the job? Because if it's less than 12, well.

Just from googling a bit it seems like 'book time'... actually 12 hours might be right. So I guess OP didn't get ripped off, exactly, just charged book time. If they did it in 5 hours... well. Or maybe the other shop didn't know which engine the car has and mis-quoted.

thurston howell iv

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Re: Car replacement question (first time asker)
« Reply #32 on: October 30, 2013, 09:50:54 AM »
Most shops charge book time even if they can do it faster...

OP: Don't beat yourself up. It happens.  I got ripped off by a shop  for a few hundred dollars and decided that maybe I should learn a thing or two about this mystical, magical contraption that vexes us so.   Mind you, this was before internet so I had to go to the library and search through what I could find and learn by trial and error. 

These days you have access to the internet. You can find a DIY write up or youtube video with nearly anything you need to do on a car!!!   

Please, please, please stop being beholden to the myriad idiots and thieves at repair shops that seek to take advantage of you because you do not know.  I would think that a $1k hit might be a bit of incentive to start learning about your car.  A little new knowledge will go a LOOOONG way with all cars. 

Hell, you can replace your own alternator and all it will take is a few minutes and a few tools.
I am happy to help you find the best price for the part and show you how to do it!!!  Feel free to PM me anytime.