Me & My Ride: Josh and Laura Nelson

Me and my ride - Josh and Laura Nelson

When the Nelsons pull into the shop, a cheerful spirit arrives with them. They seem genuinely happy to be here, and we love their attitude about car maintenance and repair.

Josh and Laura are both quite brilliant people. They met while attending UCF where they graduated in 2012 and were married November 22, 2013. Both engineers – Josh, manufacturing, and Laura, civil – they are particularly strategic in everything they do. Meticulous about their finances and maintaining their vehicles, they’ve really built a great foundation for a long, happy marriage.

Continue reading Me & My Ride: Josh and Laura Nelson


Understanding Your Bill: Part 3 – The Deal on Parts

old car parts

You’re driving home after a long day of work. You are tired and looking forward to changing into some more comfortable clothes for a relaxing evening in front of the TV with the family. The light turns green and you begin to accelerate when your car makes a stuttering noise, complaining about continuing on. This couldn’t be happening at a worse time but, reluctantly, as soon as you get home, you dial up your auto repair shop before it closes for the day.

The next day, the technician at the shop diagnoses your car. She hands you an estimate and explains what needs to be done – it’s an important repair that can’t wait. Six hours of labor and over $400 in parts. You want your family to be safe when they are in the vehicle, so you sign off on the work.

Talking to your brother over dinner that weekend he says, “I think you are getting taken. I had the same job done on my car two months ago for less. They charged slightly more for labor but I had them buy the cheaper part and didn’t have them replace all those other little things, so overall my bill was less. You should convince your shop to do it that way or get a second opinion.”

Should you listen to your brother?

Continue reading Understanding Your Bill: Part 3 – The Deal on Parts

Understanding Your Bill: Part 2 – Why Your Mechanic Probably Isn’t Rich

Money, nuts, bolts

Meet Joseph, a veteran auto technician (aka auto mechanic), highly experienced after 20 years in the industry. Surely, Joseph is rolling in the dough. Right? After all, he’s highly knowledgeable. His experience includes engines, transmissions, cooling systems, drivetrains, axles, suspension, steering, brakes, electrical, and heating and air conditioning. He deals on a regular basis with the physics of the moving parts, the chemistry of the various fluids a vehicle requires, and the various electronic systems.

(I want to make a joke here about the teacher from Charlie Brown because that’s how much I know about these topics…but I’m also not that funny).

So, while a mechanic like Joseph may have both depth and breadth of knowledge as well as formidable mechanical skills, he may also be tied to a pay system which constantly contradicts his mastery, and the only “dough” he’s rolling in will soon become the base of his pizza dinner. This, in part, is what makes talking about diagnostic and labor rates complicated and why I’m including the mechanic’s pay in this series, “Understanding Your Bill”, alongside posts on diagnostic and labor rates, and the deal on parts mark-up. Continue reading Understanding Your Bill: Part 2 – Why Your Mechanic Probably Isn’t Rich

Understanding Your Bill: Part 1 – Why Am I Paying for Time?

Car clock

You leave your mechanic shop with your car running well again, but there’s a bit of anxiety embedded in the invoice you’ve thrown onto the passenger seat. You head home to look up your bank account balance and calculate how many days until your next paycheck.

“Do I need to hold off on grocery shopping this week?” you wonder, “Maybe I should have found a cheaper shop after I received the estimate…”

I understand that anxiety far too well. Understanding money matters has never been my strong suit. Understanding money matters related to my car was even weaker. Now that I am immersed in the context of car repairs on a regular basis, some of that anxiety has been replaced by knowing that a job well done is worth the cost, and you often get what you pay for. Continue reading Understanding Your Bill: Part 1 – Why Am I Paying for Time?

Six Qualities to Look for in an Auto Mechanic Shop

6 Qualities Mechanic shop

For several years after college I moved a lot. I’d pack as many of my belongings as possible into my yellow Dodge Neon, Clunky, to settle into my new home in a new state and a new city. Michigan. Ohio. Florida…and when my oil needed changing or something more, I brought my car into a shop the same way one would spin a globe, close their eyes, point to a location and say, “Someday I will live here!” I never knew if I was going to be treated well or get the care needed for my car and I rarely brought it back to the same place twice. It’s this near recklessness with searching for a mechanic shop that causes me to joke, “Well, it’s a good thing I married a mechanic!”

You’ll often read about the importance of building a relationship with your mechanic on this blog and it’s not because I’m married to one. Rather, it is because someone who is familiar with your vehicle, its maintenance and repair history, and who knows you will be more likely to take the greatest care of you and your car. This trusting relationship will reduce the stress of the inevitable major repair and you’ll be able to drive down the road confident in your vehicle’s performance and safety.

So, what should you look for in a auto-mechanic shop? Here are six qualities to consider:

Continue reading Six Qualities to Look for in an Auto Mechanic Shop

Dollars & Sense: Why Do Labor & Parts Cost So Much?

Dollars and Sense: Parts and Labor

Your stomach drops (and maybe your jaw does, too). You begin mentally calculating how much money you have in your bank account, the date of your next paycheck, and then you wonder if you’ll have to dip into your savings to pay for this auto-repair bill. Suddenly, you begin to question everything. Can I really trust this mechanic? Was the problem really important enough to fix now? Should I have gotten an estimate from another repair shop to compare? Continue reading Dollars & Sense: Why Do Labor & Parts Cost So Much?

Dollars & Sense: Do You Really Want a $19.95 Oil Change?

Oil Change

As you cruise through town, the signs jump out at you:

20 Minute 

Oil Change 


You glance at the tag on your windshield and realize you’ve passed the 3,000 mile mark since your last oil change. You make a note to self to get your car in later in the week while you’re running errands.

Before you run into the nearest auto shop with the lowest price, I encourage you to consider your options. In this continuation of the four-part series, Dollars & Sense, you will get a clear picture of the importance of giving your vehicle to a proper oil change. Continue reading Dollars & Sense: Do You Really Want a $19.95 Oil Change?