When a line item doesn’t cover the cost

Last week, as I was heading to my friend’s house in very heavy rush hour traffic, my car started revving pretty high RPMs while I was in neutral in a left-turn lane. As we have a manual transmission, I have found that sometimes it helps to just turn the car off and re-start it to kind of “re-boot.” In this particular instance, it wouldn’t restart and I was stranded at the edge of the intersection. Luckily, my husband rescued me and pushed the car through the intersection (no one stopped to help me, not even the people who were stuck behind me in the lane). After waiting 1.5 hours for the tow truck, we were dropped off at the nearest dealer that works on Saturns. 

After waiting about 22 hours after the breakdown, the diagnostics came back and we officially needed a new starter. The dealership wanted $615 to get the part and install it. Since I had seen starters for my car online for ~$145, I felt like this was a rip off and we decided to take our chances and go elsewhere. We were charged $125 for the diagnostic (but, hey, they washed the car, so wasn’t it worth it? No.) but taking it to a local chain ended up saving us over $150 (even with the extra $125 charge).  The dealership came down $100 when we told them that we could have it done cheaper elsewhere, but they insisted that we needed to have an original part.

Now, our car is 7 years old and has 124K miles on it, so it’s about the time that there should be some issues cropping up. And I’m not sure I understand the wisdom of putting a part that is 7 years old in my car, whether it was used or not.  My husband was in a meeting and I couldn’t reach him, so I called my Dad to confirm my thought that it would be perfectly okay to put in a re-manufactured starter. He said that it was fine and that Saturns were meant to drive a little over 100,000 before showing any major issues. 

So we had the work done, adding a high-mileage oil change to the docket, resulting in a $425 price tag to get our car to run. We *do* have a line item in the budget for $30/month for car maintenance…but of course, this won’t cover it. It seems as though we need to re-visit our budget as there are more repairs to be done and my husband drives a 17-year-old truck. 

It couldn’t have come at a worse time as we have major bills this month and the disbursement from my student loan won’t hit until a month from now. Somewhere, somehow, I need to find an additional $700 to make sure we stay in the black with our cash flow. This is what happens when you start closing your credit cards…it’s harder to adjust in the short term.


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