By on July 28, 2009

The good old days of 2007. A time when I could visit a parts store and walk away with hundreds of dollars in free stuff. I remember O’Reillys giving me 24 quarts of synthetic oil for about $8.00 in taxes. Advance Auto Parts seemed to have access to every cheap Chinese tool set ever made with mail-in coupon in tow. As for Autozone? They gave me 12 free batteries when I established a commercial account there. I used them all that winter and made money on the cores. Ahh, those were good times! They’re no more. But you can still pick up a good deal here and there.

Coolant is cheap! $5.00 a gallon for the store brand 50/50 at Advance is as low as I’ve seen, and I bought six gallons this afternoon. Then there were quarts of leftover Ford Motorcraft® oil for 95 cents each. That will work quite well with the AC Delco filters I use for $4. Of course you can get the store brand filters for $1.50. But you have to specifically ask for it and the help doesn’t advertise that product. Not much profit. Filters that cheap also make me uncomfortable. I despise cheap cardboard so I usually stick with a brand name even if it doesn’t make much sense beyond the label.

Wal-Mart tends to have the cheapest batteries and synthetic oil. If you’re not into shopping specials they usually have the cheapest dino juice as well. As for tires? Pep Boys may have the $60 special for the ultra-cheap set of 4 on most early-1990s subcompacts. But I’m willing to have Tire Rack help figure that one out.

Lifetime warranties on parts? Yes, if the part is easy to get to or if you’re handy. But never on motor oil. With gentle driving and 5,000 mile changes most rides should outlast most Buick owners. Insurance can also be slashed quite a bit if you shop around once speeding tickets and accidents pass the three year mark. Enjoy asking for any discount that may be remotely possible. I especially like low mileage discounts (5,000 miles a year) and all the doo-dad discounts that have to do with safety. I just wish they offered one for those who hate cats.

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12 Comments on “Hammer Time: Shopping...”

  • avatar

    I could have gotten a low mileage discount back in the late ’80s when I rode my bicycle almost as far as I drove (3600mi vs about 6k). But in ’92 or ’93 I drove 13k for the first time, and I’ve never driven less than that since. AND, I consider driving distance, at least up to a point which may be around 20k-25k to correlate with happiness. I drive to do stuff I enjoy, and I enjoy driving to get there.

  • avatar

    I’d be a little careful with the choice of cheapo items like (as mentioned) filters and tires. Anything to do with safety is better to replace with a well known, quality product. One thing to keep in mind as well as price is warranty. Ask what the “lifetime warranty” means. Brake pads, for example, with a lifetime warranty don’t always mean that you can replace them for free for the life of the car, rather they are covered against defects until the pads reach a certain thickness. Also, check your local dealership for deals. I know that many GM replacement parts do carry a true lifetime warranty, and if you keep cars a long time, then that’s a good thing to have. Other manufacturers may offer the same thing.

    Gasoline is also a good place to not get too cheap. Always try to use a good top-tier gas, but if you want it on the cheap then QuickTrip (not sure if that’s everywhere or not) is a discount fuel stop with top-tier rated gasoline. I’ve seen way too many customers come into my shop with water in the tank after filling up at a no-name fuel station. It’s not worth it, spend the extra $.50 on a tank of the good stuff.

  • avatar

    IMHO octane rating matters more than gasoline brand. I have started using speedway as it is next to my new place, “92” premium and it seems to work just fine.

    I have gassed out in the middle of nowhere @ even brand name stations and gotten bad gas (I’m guessing because they sell less & it has been sitting longer).

  • avatar

    superbad, the water is from rusty tanks, and can happen with any brand. There was a Mobil station in my town that had water in their tanks, and cars were literally breaking down right down the road.

    Buying gasoline from a Shell station doesn’t mean that you are getting Shell gas, because the stations buy gas from many different sources. Today your Mobil station may have Chevron gas, tomorrow Citgo, etc…

    You really don’t know what you are getting when you fill up.

  • avatar

    Someone who got her money’s worth from “lifetime guaranteed” parts:


  • avatar

    The one thing I absolutely will refuse to do, even if it ends up free, is buy anythig because it has a mail-in rebate.
    My own little protest against that scam. Just give me the lowest price, dammit…

  • avatar
    Gardiner Westbound

    Just ordered a set of 235/65R17 Bridgestone Blizzak DM-Z3 snow tires. Tire Rack is clearing them at US$89 each. Don’t like thinking about winter in July, but it’s too good a deal to pass up.

  • avatar

    “You really don’t know what you are getting when you fill up.”
    Each major distributer may not have a local refinery. A major brand will buy the octane grades and brand name additives are added to the tanker at fill. 87 octane, for example, cannot be less than 87. It can be greater if there is an oversupply of 89 or 91/92. If concerned about additives treat with aftermarket Techron or such annually.

  • avatar

    Ah yes, I have a closet full of freebies from 2006 and 2007. Not so much now, except for a few Menards goodies. Here’s hoping for more freebies in 2010.


  • avatar

    The thing with the rebates is, they figure most people won’t send them in, and therefore they can afford to give a greater discount. I bought a printer for $50 and it had a $50 rebate. It wouldn’t have been free if it wasn’t for the mail in rebate. I am happy to send it in.

  • avatar
    Andy D

    Thanks for reminding me, this is the cheap season for anti-freeze traditionally

  • avatar


    Ask what the “lifetime warranty” means.

    During my Freshman year at college I worked at my local AutoZone. The term “Lifetime Warranty” meant that you could replace whatever you wanted for as long as you wanted just as long as it was under warranty and you had a receipt or if your contact/warranty information was in the system. If you bought the store brand (Duralast) brake pads with the Lifetime Warranty, you could replace them basically whenever they wore out, even if they weren’t damaged. I remember people that would walk into the store with their used brake pads in one hand and a receipt in the other, sometimes you didn’t even need a receipt. I’d take the receipt, run it thought the system, pull out the new brake pads, swap them with the used ones, tag the box and give the customer the new pads for free. There were people that did this 6,7,8,9… times per car.

    The same went for alternators, starters, light bulbs, spark plug wires etc. As long as you had the worn/defective part, the receipt, and you were under the warranty period, you would most likely get a new replacement.

    As for Autozone? They gave me 12 free batteries when I established a commercial account there.

    During my time at “The Zone” I remember the commercial guys at the back counter giving some crazy deals for garage/commercial accounts. Giving away 12 battery’s is not out of the ordinary. I remember the commercial accounts manager once loaned out 6 swamp coolers to his top 6 garages for the summer time. Or selling $55+ dollar brake rotors for $12 a piece. And then the garages would charge them for list of like $59.99.

    There are a lot of deals to be had out there, you just gotta look.

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