If you live in the adult world long enough, you are going to find yourself facing a big expense. It might be something you’ve planned for. It might be unexpected and cause you to dip into your emergency fund. Since we work hard for our money, and want our money hard at work for us, it’s important to find the best deal before shelling out our hard earned cash. My question today is how far are you willing to travel to get a better deal and save money?
Wild Variation in the Price of Tires?
We have known for a while that our truck needed new tires. We try not to drive it much in the summer because it drinks more gas that our cars, but with winter around the corner, it was time.
I have to give a big shout out to my husband. A few years ago, he would have gone into the closest tire place and bought whatever they recommended. It would have gone on the credit card or one of those 6 months same as cash offers. This time, he got a quote from every place in town that sells tires, including the dreaded Wal Mart. Sadly, the least expensive quote was around $950 for a good all weather tire, rated at 55,000 miles. Why is rubber so expensive?
We’re all for buying local if we can, but all the local shops are chain affiliates, so we don’t really have a loyalty there. Next he began searching online, and we found a place across the state line in New Mexico that offered the same tires for $675. If you look far and wide, it is likely that you’ll find a better deal than what’s in your back yard, but how far should you go to save money? I think it comes down to a few things.
Compare Apples to Apples
Before you set off on a road trip to save a few hundred dollars, make sure the products you are looking for are comparable. I see ads all the time for $499 per eye LASIK surgery when I know the good surgeons charge double that. If you look at the fine print, that price usually includes no pre-and post-op care and is based on a -1.00 prescription. If you have a prescription like most people who want LASIK, it’s much higher than that, and you’ll get charged extra for each unit of correction. Make sure your quote is for exactly the same product or service.
Value Your Time
I had a family that I used to see in my office whose employer changed vision plans. The nearest provider was now in Greeley, an 8 hour drive. Since there were four of them, they made the drive to get eye exams. It did save them about $400 in exam fees and contact lens costs, but they ended up having to stay two nights in a hotel, plus gas and food expenses. Greeley isn’t exactly a family vacation town unless you like to visit cattle slaughterhouses. I guess it’s up to them to say if it was worth it, but I would not have taken three days of my life to save the small amount that they did. Also if you have to use your vacation time for something like this, would that be a good value? Not for me. Sometimes your time is more valuable than saving money.
As I’ve said before, I sometimes will choose a good customer service experience over a bad one, even if it costs a bit more. Cheap usually comes with a price, and that price is usually service. Everyone knows how much they can and can’t afford, but sometimes, having good customer service is worth paying more.
How Much Did We Really Save?
In the end, we decided to go out of town to get the better deal on tires. I wasn’t expecting much, but the place was really nice and clean. They gave us bottled water to drink while we were waiting. The service was promt and professional.
It was 140 miles round trip. The truck gets about 20 miles per gallon, and gas was $3.39 a gallon (thanks to our Safeway value card). Our travel expenses were about $24 in gas, so leaving town saved us about $250. We tend to be in this area about every three months, so we’ll be able to take advantage of the free tire rotations. Overall, I was pretty happy with the deal, and it certainly paid off to shop around in this case.
What is the farthest you’ve ever traveled for a deal?