To have a farmer's mentality, you need to master three personal behaviors.
- Buy what you need
- Plan ahead
- Know the right time to buy
Sometimes I have to pay a hefty penance for the sins of prior owners. Other times, all the car needs is an oil change, a car wash, and a check that doesn't bounce like a brand new discount tire. I have lived out this unusual life of constantly buying and discovering the best automotive deals for nearly 16 years now. Here are the tips I've developed in that time.
The period after Labor Day and before Black Friday is usually the best time. Large retailers such as Amazon and Walmart start pushing out their unsold inventory as cold weather begins to enter our lives. Physical retailers, such as Advance Auto Parts, will also price-match those online offers and help you avoid any delivery costs.
A note on rebates: I hate mail-in rebates. As we say in the Deep South, "Those are of the devil!" You can usually couple motor oil purchases with online rebates from oil companies such as Mobil, Quaker State, and Pennzoil. Sometimes even a third-party discount company, such as Ibotta, can knock down the price of a quality synthetic oil. I usually advise folks to stick strictly to online rebates and buy whatever amount they need for the next calendar year. Nothing more.
Filters, Belts, and Wiper Blades
RockAuto.com has been the king of closeouts on these items for a while, and it delivers right to your door. However, I try to keep my length of time fairly tight and buy only a two-year supply every two years. There are folks out there who try to buy everything they need from their first day of new-car ownership to 200,000 miles. Don't be a hoarder! If you ask yourself the question, "Do I want to keep this car another two years?", and plan accordingly, you can keep the long-term savings while avoiding the pitfalls of the hoarding mentality.
Not worth fretting about. Coolant is a $15 item that you need at most once every five years. If you want to get a Black Friday deal, Pep Boys will have it for $2 a gallon this year. If you think you might need it, do that. I think it's silly.
Radiators can be had cheap anywhere these days: Amazon, eBay, RockAuto, you name it. Just find the best price when you need one. No need to stockpile.
Advance Auto Parts has discount codes (GO10 for $10 off a $30 purchase) if you need certain fluids at a moment's notice. They will price-match online merchants as well. Those discount codes can be used for other items, too.
I combine the $15 Wagner ThermoQuiet Brake Pad rebate that seems to happen every year with a concurrent sale on Amazon. That way you typically get a better quality set of brake pads for a lower price than the cheap stuff.
Are you able to change your own battery? It can be a big pain on some cars. If you can't, get your car jumped and order the battery online so that you can get it changed at the store once you arrive. Most discount parts stores will provide this service free and if you combine it with a big discount code ($50 off a $125 purchase), you can get a quality battery and avoid a day at a repair shop.
For rubber I look to the tire holidays – Presidents' Day, Memorial Day, Turkey Day – and try to combine manufacturer rebates with ones from the retailer. This strategy recently helped me get a set of tires for my compact car that regularly sell at $342 for only $112 at Discount Tire, and yes, they were good ones. Instead of timing these purchases so that my old tires become dangerous slicks, I usually buy before the wear-out point and use one of the old tires as a new spare.
My other advice is to never buy the cheap stuff unless you want to spend more time repairing your car. I invest in better quality components in exchange for the savings, and it has always paid me dividends. If you choose a farmer's mentality and plan for the future by buying what you need before you need it, this guide should save you enough money to make it worth your time.