So a while ago my car had a bunch of lights suddenly turn on. It was driving normally but I thought I should get it checked out never the less. After a long day of testing, it came back that it was a faulty Skid Control ECU unit, quoted at $2700! Basically it is a computer component and what it does is take control of the braking system when it senses the car is skidding. At the time, the weather was still nice so it was still safe to drive since I shouldn't be skidding. So I took it back in order to discuss with my husband what to do with this huge hit. As with weighing any big car repair, it's hard to know whether it's worth investing into or not. In order to help us, I thought I'd go to the internet to see what people said about this issue. THIS WAS MY BEST DECISION! And what I will always do now with big repairs (See my post Save Money on Car Repairs)
First I found out that a new skid control unit is about $1700 new, I don't know where he got $2700. But that's still a high price. The issue was rare but those that did have it said to buy a used one on ebay. So I went to ebay . . . and found one for $40 with a 2 week free return period and 30 day warranty. Done. That's $1660 saved right there.
Once I received it, I scheduled an appointment to have it installed. The mechanics were skeptical about putting in a used part from ebay, but I trusted the many posts and threads I had read about all the previous Prius owners that had had that issue and solved it this way. They said it would take a full day or two since it involved a lot of reprogramming so I planned it around my days off. I brought it in on Tuesday 9/13.
Later the next day I had still not heard anything so I called for an update. There was another issue. When they had turned on the car, another major warning light had come on. This was before they started the install of the skid control but they were checking and rechecking everything with that to make sure it wasn't something they had done because what it was reading was a transaxle fail. This one comes in at a whopping $7,000 new.
After a few days of testing, and resetting they determined that the used skid ecu I got was fine and had fixed the problem but I indeed did need a new transaxle. They actually recommended used on this one and estimated to get that for $700. I could have probably found a cheaper one online, but I was needing the fastest way out of this as each day without a car is very difficult (we were getting very creative with meals as we hadn't gone grocery shopping in so long!) and that price was a huge reduction already. Plus he said since they had just done a major repair, they would give a discount on labor.
So it took a few days for them to get a part and then install it . . . but that one was faulty. So they had to get another. More than a week had passed by. I wasn't hearing many updates from them, so I would have to call and I know they got tired of hearing from me and they were tired of trying to fix my car since they were surely loosing money on it. After a couple weeks, the owner finally asked if this was our only car. When I told him yes, he actually made the offer of paying for a rental car saying about $30/day. He felt bad for how long it was taking them.
I looked at getting a rental car, wow they are expensive (not $30/day when you add it all up more like $50)! We were getting by with using Uber, Lyft, and BART. I actually had a code for Lyft of $5 off 30 rides so the timing of that discount couldn't have been better! So that was still cheaper than getting the rental car.
Finally on 9/28 the car was ready to be brought home. When I went to pay the bill he asked about a rental car. I took a risk and said we had gotten one and my husband had it at work (don't look at me like that, we were paying for transportation that we wouldn't have just not through a rental car!). He asked how much per day it was and I said about $32/day (I just took his number and added a little, that's still way less than what it would have actually been). Then he asked for how long. And I said, well we brought this car in two weeks ago yesterday. "Wow!" he said. He worked out the math -- $448. Of course they couldn't take all of that off, I wouldn't want that anyway. But he said how about we take off $200? Sure! (After adding up our expenses for transportation in those two weeks, we spent about $173 so we saved there too!)
Skid Ecu $40 ($1660 savings)
Transaxle $700 ($6300 savings)
$200 off for transportation ($27 less than what we spent)
a few hundred saved on labor
Lesson: Do your research first, go with used parts when you can, and if it's your only transportation, ask for a discount since you have to pay for other transportation!