Hammer Time: Retail Sucks

Steven Lang
by Steven Lang
hammer time retail sucks

My wife and I are among the few remaining newspaper readers. She peruses the ‘Living’ section, scouring every square inch for coupons. I just look for deals on motor oil. Sometimes my eyes will wander around to cheap tires or the latest headlight cleaning shtick. I despise cheap tires and God knows cleaning Chrysler headlights is far from my list of to-do’s these days. But finding a great deal? That’s what I live for. At least when it comes to eliminating any future purchases. For those of you seeking the frugal nirvana I have two words for ya. Forget retail.

I’ve found perfectly good tires at thrift stores. Motor oil? Freecycle has enabled me to get dozens of quarts for . . . well . . . free. Then of course you have the treasure troves of everything automotive. Junkyards and your mechanic’s mini boneyard.

Junkyards are always the obvious place for a long list of hardware. Engines, trannies, body and trim parts. Heck . . . you can even have sensors galore and reincarnated interiors if you look hard enough. However what has truly amazed me over the years is that wearable items can be truly had for a song.

Want some near-new tires? Ask. Of course you may end up with a perfect set of three but ask anyhow. Has a car come in with good seats? Ask again. A lot of yards will try to remarket seats but there are many who will let you have it for cheap to free if you’re buying a bunch of stuff or are a regular. Then there is what I consider to be the true Shangri-La.

Audio systems. It just amazes me that these things are seldom if ever removed from the vehicle. Perhaps it’s an Atlanta thing. I don’t know. But for every car that I saw with crappy aftermarket wheels that weren’t worth a damn, I’ve seen stereo systems that were truly expensive works of automotive art. I’ve literally put one in a Euro-spec Benz that I purchased for a mere $250 last year. It got the best Alpine system I could find for the time. Ipod compatible? Check. USB connectivity? You betcha. How much? Free from an impound auction. One of my friends was in the crushing business and he cared as much about the radio as I care about the Atlanta Braves.

One more thing. For those without the free time or resources, your local mechanic may be a very good resource. Early in my career I found many of my favorite future resources from an independent repair shop. That eventually lead to new sources and before I knew it, I conquered another mountain of frugality. Now if only I could manage my time as well.

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2 of 9 comments
  • Commando1 Commando1 on Jun 01, 2009

    None of this is new. Gearheads like me have been doing this since the first Model T went to the junkyard. In the fifties, all those Caddy tail lights that went onto Fords came from scrounging aroung. Pre-Craigslist. Pre-eBay. Pre-everything. In actuality, junkyards have become useless to the true scroungers. With their computers and kids behind the counter that can't even spell "interchange", and "insurance" regulations that prohibit you from walking the yard, the boneyards that we think of are all but gone. Us true scroungers now look elsewhere and we ain't telling where because then everybody will go there.

  • Chuck Goolsbee Chuck Goolsbee on Jun 01, 2009

    Being VW owner I have learned to never buy new. Thankfully there are two VW-specific breaking yards near me. One near my house, the other near my office. I've never had issues finding parts for low prices using this method. --chuck

  • Scott ?Wonder what Toyota will be using when they enter the market?
  • Fred The bigger issue is what happens to the other systems as demand dwindles? Will thet convert or will they just just shut down?
  • Roger hopkins Why do they all have to be 4 door??? Why not a "cab & a half" and a bit longer box. This is just another station wagon of the 21st century. Maybe they should put fake woodgrain on the side lol...
  • Greg Add me to the list: 2017 Sorento EX AWD w/2.0 Turbo GDI 68K miles. Changed oil religiously with only synthetic. Checked oil level before a rare long road trip and Ievel was at least 2 quarts down. That was less than 6 months after the last oil change. I'm now adding a quart of oil every 1000 miles and checking every 500 miles because I read reports that the oil usage gets worse. Too bad, really like the 2023 Tuscon. But I have not seen Hyundai/Kia doing anything new in terms of engine development. Therefore, I have to suspect that I will ony become a victim of a fatally flawed engine development program if I were to a purchase another Kia/Hyundai.
  • Craiger 1970s Battlestar Galactica Cylon face.