How The Internet Saved Me $780 In Five Minutes

How The Internet Saved Me $780 In Five Minutes - picture of person changing a tire

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Picture this.  I’m driving my awesome minivan to pick up my youngest daughter from daycare.  Big girl in the back.  The stereo bumpin’ some happy tunes.  My daughter’s cracking up and dancing in her booster seat and I’m thinking about what we should have for dinner.

Then, all of a sudden, it happens.

Thunk. Thunk. Thunk. 

My van starts making one of those sounds that no one ever wants to hear.  I pull into daycare and discover that my left tire is looking seriously F.L.A.T.  One of the other daycare moms feels sorry for me and suggests I try to get my van to a Firestone shop only a few blocks away.

“Will I make it?” I asked.

She looked at my tire and shook her head.

“We’ll see,” she said.  That didn’t sound very promising. 

A Wheel Costs What?

Fortunately, I did make it to the Firestone store.  Unfortunately, I needed two new tires – one to replace the one that was already flat and another to replace the opposite side.  But no big deal, right?  This is exactly why we have an emergency fund and why we are so careful with money to begin with.  I called my husband to pick me up and told the Firestone people I would pick my van up and pay just as soon as they were done.

But that wasn’t  the end of it.  Firestone called me the next day with some relatively bad news.

“Your whole wheel is cracked on the other side,” the gentleman said.  “We can’t replace your tire without a new wheel.”

My husband drove to the Firestone shop to check it out and quickly saw what they were talking about.  Apparently, I cracked the metal wheel on the other side without knowing at some point, and it looked awful.  Great.

With my tail between my legs, I called Firestone to order a new wheel and get on with it.   And that’s when they told me something absolutely crazy.

“A new wheel from the dealership costs $900,” they said, “but we’ll put it on for free.”


My front wheel is now slightly shinier than the rest, but at least it matches!
My front wheel is now slightly shinier than the rest, but at least it matches!

To put things in perspective, my entire minivan is probably only worth $4,000 or $5,000 tops.  I obviously didn’t want to spend 25 percent of its value on a stinkin’ wheel.  Obviously.

So I told the dealership I would call them back and immediately got on the internet to see if I could find some sort of cheaper option.  Because, let’s face it, even buying a junker minivan off craigslist and taking the freakin’ wheel off would probably cost less than $900!

Online Parts Providers Have Crappy Service

The good news was, there are plenty of places to buy new and used wheels on the internet.  Unfortunately, I quickly found that not a single one of them will answer their phone.  In fact, I called several providers repeatedly to see if the wheels they had in stock would match my minivan’s VIN number, and no one (and I mean no one) ever answered, even though I waited on hold for an entire hour with one.

I did eventually get one of them to reply to me via email, but only after being really annoying and sending several inquires.  And through that dealer I found a wheel that matched my minivan perfectly.  The cost?  $120.

Yes, you read that right.  One hundred and twenty dollars cash, and they even threw in free shipping.

The Internet Saved Me $780…And I Like It

Since that’s obviously a huge discount from the $900 the dealership wanted, I ordered right away.  And within three days, my bright and shiny wheel was sitting on my front porch.  The dealership offered to put it on for free too, so I didn’t pay anything extra out-of-pocket for cutting them out of the equation.  And in the end, my total bill for the new tires, an alignment, and a few other services came out to $320.

The bad news: I’m officially over budget for the month of November – and through no fault of my own.  On the other hand, I totally avoided the $780 in additional funds I would have paid as a tax for being a lazy-ass.  And for that, I’m extremely grateful.

How has the internet helped you save money lately?  Have you ever found anything significantly cheaper online?

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  1. Nice….that still was a major score! Great save. Most people would of just allowed the dealership to put on the wheel and not bother with seeking a cheaper alternative. Yes…frugality is a frame of mind.

    1. Glad I finally found something. It was actually pretty hard to verify I was ordering the right wheel since I couldn’t get anyone to answer their phones!

  2. Wow, that’s awesome! I can’t believe the difference was so huge! I could have guessed it would be cheaper, but not by that much! Were you without your minivan for a few days then? Strong work Holly!!

    1. Yes, I was without a vehicle for a week! It was inconvenient, but I survived. We just had to share our other car.

  3. Nice work! Isn’t it amazing how many businesses are absolutely terrible with something as simple as answering the phone?? That’s pretty much customer service 101.

    1. I know! Answer the phone for heaven’s sake! I honestly don’t think they were ever going to answer.

  4. We always get car parts from scrap places. Unfortunately it’s impossible to get info online as you know! At least we live close to a few yards.

  5. Holly! I am very impressed! I never thought the difference was that big and the major score was really interesting. Great save! You’re really frugal Holly! Keep it up!

  6. Win!! 🙂

    I never buy car parts from dealerships. I have an independent mechanic who I know and can trust, but I still check prices he offers compared to elsewhere on the internet. Almost always, he is the same (or cheaper) and hence why I’ve used him for so long.

    However, the prices at the car dealerships (especially the big makes) are usually marked up by 100s% and are an absolute rip-off.

    Good work on finding a much cheaper source. I bet your budget is pretty thankful!!

    1. Yes, definitely. My car is just not worth enough to justify paying $900 for a wheel!

  7. Nicely done! We got tires for our 18-yr-old minivan from a junkyard last year and saved an incredible amount over buying new tires. I don’t think our car is even worth the value of 4 new tires so we wanted something as cheap, but functional and safe, as possible. Long live old minivans!

    1. Yeah, my car isn’t worth it either. We did need new tires because mine were awful.

  8. Gotta love the internet! It has saved my butt often. Well done!!!! 🙂

  9. Wow, what a huge difference in price! It always pays to do a little research.
    I just found a pair of boots for $70 less at an online retailer. Of course now if I order them I’m going to feel like a giant jerk for not buying local. But it’s $70!!

    1. LOL. I don’t blame you. $70 is a lot to pay to support local businesses.

  10. Congrats!!! This is just like the time the interest saved my $4,000 – very similar situation that I wrote about months ago. Without searching for my car problem online first and discovering an extended warranty, I would’ve had to pay out of pocket. Instead I took my car to the dealer (which I never do) and had it repaired for free. Best internet savings I’ve ever had!

  11. Dear Internet, I sure do love you sometimes! I have been trying to find a few odds and ends for my vehicles online, but so far no luck. I did find the hub cab centre thing for half of what they wanted at the dealership, but we decided it still wasn’t worth the $25. Too bad we don’t know when it went missing, it was probably at one of the places swapping the wheels.

  12. That’s a big steal! I have lots of online savings by just being a little more patient in doing research. Hooray for the internet!

  13. I wish I would have gone your route! A few months ago, we were out of town and had to take the mini van in to replace a tire. They wouldn’t replace it unless we replaced all of them because they said they were all the wrong size. Unfortunately I just went with it. But from now on I will be sure to ask myself “What would Holly do in this situation?”

  14. Stupid dealership prices. There is no need for a $900 wheel, especially on a minivan. Glad you found one that matches. Hell, you could have replaced all of them with some sweet wheels for less than $900!

    1. Yep! The internet has changed my life in a positive way in regards to income too!

  15. Good call on the used wheel….I’m amazed though – $320 for the tires, and an alignment? Did that include the wheel too? I had to put two new tires on my van on Friday, and that alone cost $330 (although I did get good tires since we plan on keeping the van for quite some time).

    1. I got really cheap tires and the alignment was $74.99. I only drive a few times a week so I didn’t buy fancy tires.
      And unfortunately, the $120 tire was in addition to the $320 bill from Firestone.

  16. NICE, Holly! Plus, you are giving other people tips on saving giant bucks by doing a little research. Is it any wonder so many people are ditching their cars these days? Such rip-offs!

  17. Nice job! I am the Queen of Flats. Honestly I get a flat at least every 6 months from driving over nails. It’s more than frustrating. Thankfully most of them can be patched for $25 rather than a new tire and rim.

    My brother is my go to for parts. He’s a mechanic, so I can get everything “at cost and a casserole”. Basically he gets me his discount, I pay for it, and give him some prepared food because he isn’t a great cook. It saves me loads on parts – though it is a bit more difficult now that I’m 5 hours away. 20 minutes was way easier to schedule 🙂

  18. Nice save. Big market for used car parts. I use the internet often to compare prices, its not often that I need something immediately, so I do the research for the best price.

  19. I haven’t been making to many purchases, but Republic Wireless has saved me hundreds over the past year, sorry for sounding like an infomercial, but it’s true.

  20. We had a thing called a brake switch go out in our car. I knew that’s what it was because of research online, but the stealership still wanted to run a full diagnostic and it was going to be at least $300. One of our friends is a good mechanic so he ordered the part for $9, seriously, and it took him about 5 minutes to put it in. I wish we were smart about cars, but at least we know people!

  21. Man craiqlists is saving people from shelling out so much money lately. I give you a over the internet hand clap for not being an average consumer and just agreeing to the 900 dollar expense. Going Over budget is not bad when you saved so much.

  22. We reviewed online tire stores for MSP and I always wondered what the experience would be like. I can’t believe that a whole wheel would cost that much money from a dealership, but thank goodness for the internet!

    1. Yes, thank goodness. Yeah, a $900 aluminum alloy wheel is just crazy.

  23. Stories like this make me feel so blessed my husband is a mechanic! 😉 Side note: we bought a vehicle to “flip” and totally profited $2,000.00. Score! Anyways, I find some shopping to be cheaper online; especially through websites like ThredUP. We are planning to start a family soon, so I’ve already been looking at ways to find the best deals on maternity wear and other things that I know we’ll only use temporarily. KSL is always a great resource too!

    1. Nice 2K profit! That’s impressive. Never heard of “flipping cars,” but I suppose it makes sense in the same way flipping houses does.

  24. DH always looks up replacement parts online and orders it. Patience is often rewarding when it comes to such things. We are lucky to have a mechanic who doesn’t mind that we bring in our own parts. Way to go on saving yourself so much!

    1. Thanks! Yeah, Firestone was really nice about it too.

  25. That’s incredible and awesome Holly! I think you know about my experience saving a ton of money because of the internet. Roto Rooter tried to scam me into a supposed $7,000 repair for our sewer drain-out. We found a highly rated contractor on Angie’s List and he said it should be only $3k max, if not closer to $2.2k. He then consulted with the city (I didn’t ask him to, he just did it – in person!) and they admitted a water main broke 4 years ago and the contractor they had hired must have made a shoddy repair. The city paid for it as well as all plumbing bills ($1k) I had accumulated since discovering the issue. The internet is a consumer’s best friend.

  26. What a huge savings! I admit that I wouldn’t have thought to do that but I will from now on. I had a friend who had a similar experience and she ended up paying almost $1000 to replace two tires too. It was so expensive but she was panicked so she just said yes. Good thing you were able to keep you head – you saved big time! Wishing you and Greg and the girls a wonderful Thanksgiving! 🙂

  27. catherine says:

    What was life like before the internet?

    1. No idea! I am glad Facebook wasn’t around when I was a teenager.

  28. Wow, that is an impressive swing! I’m going to purchase some major car repairs in the next couple months and this is a great reminder to shop around. Thanks for the inspiration!

  29. Hooray for pricing comparison tools! Transparency in consumer pricing is something we take for granted these days. It wasn’t that long ago that trying to get that kind of comparison was a real pain, and involved a ton of work.

    1. I honestly don’t know what that would be like. I’m 35 so the internet has existed for basically the entire time I’ve been an adult. I definitely take it for granted. I guess before the internet you just called around and hoped for the best?

      BTW, I told my daughter that they didn’t have personal computers when I was little and she absolutely does not believe me.

  30. Wow, $900 is crazy just for a wheel! I wouldn’t have paid that, either. I’m glad you were able to get one for way less. I always look online to see if I can get a better deal somewhere else. When we were replacing my car’s tires, I was going back and forth between three or four different sites trying to find the cheapest (and most reliable). When it comes to car parts, I usually order them myself and take it to the mechanic, as it can be less expensive!

  31. That’s awesome! What did you drive in the meantime? That’s always the hardest part when you only have one car to use…time isn’t on your side and public transportation in LA? Yikes!

    1. We just shared for the week. It’s not a huge deal for us since I work at home. It just requires some planning.

  32. Saving $780 is a win in my book! While you can’t stop life from happening, you can control the way you deal with it. Way to stop and take a minute to check online before making a move.

  33. $900 for a wheel – that’s beyond nutty! But, very nice on the savings. We’ve had similar dealings with parts providers in the past when my Dad has helped us fix some things on our cars. We did save $250 on my new laptop a few weeks back by checking on my phone before making the purchase. They weren’t too keen about it, but said they matched prices so I was more than happy to not fork over the extra $250.

  34. I recently went through the wheel buying experience, but for a different reason. I wanted a set of four for my snow tires so swapping every fall and spring would be easier. Even though you saves $780 compared to buying a new wheel from a dealer you still paid too much. Get familiar with local salvage yards. I found wheels in the range of $35-50 each buying directly from the yards. I would expect to pay more for a newer car but not for a common model of minivan. I ended up paying $120 for 4 aluminum wheels for my Chevy Astro. At $16 per wheel for a garage to mount and balance tires my break even point will be net fall. Sooner if you figure the hassle of scheduling an appointment with the garage and dropping it off. Now I can do the job in my driveway with a jack and lug wrench.

  35. $900 for a single rim? For a mini van?

    Highway robbery!

    Glad you didn’t fall for it. I’ve bought entire sets of nice new rims for that much.

    I had similar savings buying my wife’s wedding set. Huge savings buying the rock online over the jeweler, and then a 6% cash back rebate on top of that. The internet never ceases to amaze me, and I help build it for a living. For the uninitiated it can feel like magic.

  36. Oh, the power of the internet. I love this big huge place. But seriously, that is some great savings. I can’t imagine spending THAT much on my car, either. It’s worth a decent amount (Maybe $8500?) but that’s still a chunk of change.

  37. I’m really curious about what make of minivan you’re driving? A $900 wheel sounds insane. I just ordered wheels for new snow tires and I think they were $75 each–from a tire store.

    1. It’s a 2007 Dodge Caravan. I have no idea why it was so much from the dealer- serious craziness. My car is only worth around 5K.

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