How I Made Money on a $371 Visit to the Mechanic

Two Wednesdays ago, I brought my car in to the Hyundai dealership for some maintenance and they ended up doing a whopping $371. Um, ok, I guess, there’s not much that I can do about it, right?

On Friday, I finally picked up my car. I got in, turned it on, and I see that the same maintenance light was on. So I paid $371 and they didn’t even fix the problem? That’s no good. After waiting a few minutes, they said they’d need the extended weekend (and what turned out to be the entire following week) to take a longer look and fix it, so I immediately got worried about my trip to San Francisco over the Christmas weekend.

It’s kind of hard to go without a car, and bringing my car in a few days later wasn’t a realistic option, I made specific plans for Wednesday-Friday and lining up something similar the following week would be difficult. I was pretty annoyed because all they had to do was turn on the car to see that the problem wasn’t fixed and the maintenance light was still lit.

The guy asked me if I needed a loaner car, so I said, “If I can bring it to San Francisco,” thinking that putting about 1,000 on a loaner car wasn’t a realistic possibility, but surprisingly, the guy said it was ok, so I got in and drove away as fast as I could before he could change his mind.

Then, I got to thinking about just how much having a loaner car would help me.

A trip to San Francisco was going to be at least 900 miles, so not having to put those miles on my car was definitely welcome. And there is obviously a cost to driving a car, and the IRS agrees. The IRS says that driving your own car for business uses can be deducted at a rate of 55.5 cents per mile.

That includes the cost of gas, so it was pretty easy to figure out the total cost of my trip:

1,048 miles x 55.5 cents = 58,164 cents or $581.64. Wow, I thought we’d be saving money by driving, but that’s more than the cost of 2 plane tickets! Of course, we still did have gas expenses ($138.13), so the final savings from not having to drive our car was a whopping $443.51.

So I saved over $443 by not driving my own car for about a week. The repairs cost me $371, so I was able to save over $72 on my trip to the mechanic. How many people can say that?

I did not plan to get a loaner car (I didn’t get one from Wednesday-Friday because I didn’t even know it was an option), and I certainly didn’t plan to not have a car on my trip (in fact, I brought it in so that I would have a healthy car for my big trip).

But, I got a little lucky, so I’ll gladly refer to this trip as the one where I made $70 bucks from the mechanic!

15 Responses to How I Made Money on a $371 Visit to the Mechanic

  1. That’s awesome! I drove a rental car for a couple of months because someone hit my car in 2010. It was nice because it was in the summer time, and I probably added around 10,000 miles to it, and I definitely would not have wanted to do that to my car.

    • Daniel says:

      @Michelle @ Making Sense of Cents, Woah, 10,000 miles? That’s a ton and amazing that you could get away with that!

      • @Daniel, yeah I drove it a ton. I went on a road trip (it was already planned) and I was applying to jobs back then so I was driving everywhere.

        And yeah, I made the guy who hit me pay for unlimited miles, so it was nice.

        He nearly totaled my car and totaled a couple of others, so I feel like that’s the least he could do :)

  2. That’s an amazing way to look at the benefits of spending money. Talk about great timing! Had you done the repairs any other time, you would have paid the $371 PLUS the rental car fee. Hope you enjoyed the trip!

    • Daniel says:

      @So You Think You Can Save, I did, thanks! It definitely takes the burn off, the difference is spending now vs. spending later. I still had to pony up the $371, but now my car will last an extra month or two before it will need the inevitable repairs.

  3. krantcents says:

    It is sort of making lemonade out of lemons. I hate those high mechanic bills, but this worked out better for you. When I drive to San Francisco (from Los Angeles), I usually rent a car. My cars are old (17 & 15 years old), it is cheaper and more economical to rent a higher mileage car (hybrid) to make the drive.

    • Daniel says:

      @krantcents, I had never thought about doing that, but on long trips, it definitely makes sense. Friends will never pay for anything more than gas money, so if it’s your car it’s a steal!

  4. That is a nice way to turn a negative into a positive. :) The dealer must have known they made a big mistake, and that is why they agreed. Inconvenient for you, but it definitely paid off.

  5. David says:

    Cute, but (probably) inaccurate. Following your link above to the IRS site, we find that the $0.555 is meant to include “depreciation and insurance and other fixed and variable costs.” So you need to pull out not just the gas money you spent, but also any portion of that which represents fixed costs, and anything variable in time rather than mileage (presumably some portion of depreciation, though obviously not all of it). Driving the loaner probably saved you some of the $371 which you might not have saved if your car had troubles some other time and you’d taken this trip in your regular car. It was probably not a net positive.

  6. Economically Intelligent says:

    No matter if you made money on this trip or not. Well you did make money either way because what you saved paid for the car. Lucky Dog.

  7. This is why it’s sometimes smarter to rent a car than take your own when taking long driving trips — especially if they are sight seeing rather than destination trips. Depending on where you live, it’s often possible to rent a car for under $20 a day (including taxes).

    You need to run the numbers, but I now take a few car trips each year renting rather than driving my own car because it simply makes financial sense.

    • lifeoverwork says:

      I second that. A couple of years back when I was living in CA, I found a deal where I could rent for $10/day on the weekends. I booked out every weekend for as long as they would let me (a year), and canceled on the weekends when I wasn’t going anywhere. Since I was new to the area I took a lot of daytrips, and it was great to put the miles on someone else’s car.

  8. Sweet work daniel! I rocked a loaner for over a month in early 2012 – it got better gas mileage than what I was driving, and I abated putting 5k or so miles on my car!

    • Daniel says:

      @Jeff @ Sustainable Life Blog, damn, good work! I had mine for about a week and a half total, I shouldn’t have called to check on their progress lol.

  9. I guess you were (unintentionally) compensated for the inconvenience. And you were right! All they had to do was turn the car on themselves to see if they did fix it. That’s the protocol. Well, maybe something did go wrong. We won’t be able to know. And less costly or not, a road trip in my own car still works better for me.

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