Retail Can Go To Hell (In A Handwoven Handbasket)


My wife and I are among the few remaining newspaper readers.

She peruses the ‘Living’ section, scouring every square inch for coupons. I take pride in reading articles from all the sections and, after that brief exercise is done, I just look for car deals that are loaded with gotchas and thirteen lines of small print.

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 heartfelt words for ya. Screw retail.

I’ve found perfectly good tires at thrift stores, on Craigslist, and even the local community board. Motor oil? Freecycle has enabled me to get dozens of quarts for . . . well . . . free.

Then 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. You can even have aftermarket upgrades 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 wore out car that I ignore with crappy aftermarket wheels that aren’t worth a damn, I discover stereo systems that are truly expensive works of automotive art.

I recently put one in an uber-restored 1977 Mercedes 350 SE that I purchased for a mere $250 a few years ago. It received the best Alpine system I could find for the modern time to compensate for the scent of the horsehair filled seats.

Ipod compatible? Check. USB connectivity? You betcha. XM? Sirius? Yeah, but who cares.

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 inquisitive nature, your local mechanic may also be a good resource. Early in my career I found many of my favorite future shopping denizens from an independent repair shop. That eventually lead to more new sources and before I knew it, I conquered another retail myth. Cars can be cheap to own if you are crafty enough.

Now if only I could manage an afternoon at the mall without feeling like a complete weirdo. And speaking of weirdos… what about you? Has there been an automotive moment in your life when you were able to give a big raspberry or a flippity bird to a retail automotive establishment? I’m not just talking about performing your own oil changes. I want the good stuff. The tires you got for less than the modern day cost of a rotate and balance. Or the $100 junkyard part that would have normally cost $1800 at the dealer.

I want to hear the blood, the gore, and most of all, the cha-ching. So feel free to share.