How to Be a Better Car Owner

Geek!This is Michael Talley’s submission for the HP Magic Giveaway. Feel free to leave comments for this article as you see fit – your feedback is certainly welcomed! If you’d like to submit your own how-to, what-is, or top-five list, you can send it to me. Views and opinions of this writer are not necessarily my own:

Since new cars lose so much value so quickly, never before has proper auto maintenance held such value. While much can be said on the subject, let’s zero-in on an oft-neglected, under-used, or even misused consumer resource: the Better Business Bureau.

New, used and rebuilt parts – even major items such as engines, transmissions, transfer cases, axles, doors and seats – all hold the lure of inexpensive maintenance in a “down” economy. Should we fearlessly ignore maintenance or ignorantly pursue it in such a slip-shod manner that we “lose our religion” trying to save a buck?

We can lose our transportation & our peace of mind in the process. Here is just one sober warning, for the parts side of the equation: the Better Business Bureau is currently reporting 543 complaints on a mere 3 used auto parts companies in the last 36 months. – BBB search engine is a fine resource if used wisely.

Following are some tried-and-true search engine hints for the BBB site.

  • Some businesses use a variety of names or “aliases.”
  • A brief name can be entered in the name field, but adding at least a zip code reduces “false” hits. Adding a city & state are a good alternative.
  • If just a phone number is entered, both toll & toll-free numbers provide positive responses to your search.

Some of us contribute to the consumer nightmare of poor auto parts or auto repair, because we refuse to educate ourselves – or, we’re so fixated on price alone that we forget the cost of high risk.
Here are some realistic questions to ask ourselves while parts shopping to maintain our wheels:

  • Can I afford a wrong, or defective part?
  • Can I identify a fake “rebuilt,” “remanufactured,” or inferior aftermarket counterfeit?
  • How do I avoid a part from a fire or flood vehicle?
  • How do I identify a fake warranty?
  • Is there a core charge?
  • Am I liable for restocking fees or return shipping charges in the event of a problem requiring a return?
  • Can I afford to pay for the same parts &/or repair 2 or 3 times?
  • Is the company I’m considering buying parts from not only at least BBB-neutral (1, 2 or no complaints, and all resolved), but, are they also willing to provide 3rd-party references verifying the reliability of their parts and their warranties?

Investing a little research, forethought and care can insure that we (and our desired mode of motor transportation) are on solid ground for many miles to come!