Every single automotive deal on Black Friday is more expensive than in the past. I’m not talking about the Black Friday deals from the days of yore. I’m looking straight up the tailpipe of prices that were offered only a month ago:
Motor oil? Filters? Wipers? Brakes? Floormats?
Yep, all more expensive.
If you want cheap plasticized parts that are a better fit for a four-year old’s Little Tikes Cozy Coupe than your own daily driver, go for it—there maybe the odd deal for you. But for everyone else, let me offer you the brutally blunt reality behind all the car-related Black Friday hype: It’s just that, marketing hype, designed to trick you into spending your hard-earned cash thinking you’re getting a steal.
Here are some examples, and ways that the savvy buyer can still scoop a few real bargains:
Motor Oil: The best Black Friday deal is the $20 Pep Boys Pennzoil Platinum oil change package that apparently may be cheaper if you can buy it at Walmart. This Pep Boys offer is is a perfectly fine combination for the DIY car owner who changes oil on a 7500-mile oil change interval. Now take a deep breath, because you are going to need to jump through those annoying rebate hoops in order to drive the cost of this deal even further—all the way down to $5.
First, you have find out if your local Walmart has the “Purolator Classic filter” in stock for your vehicle, and if the store will honor the Pep Boys price. (Walmart.com won’t price match Black Friday deals.) If you get the green light you can add a $10 Pennzoil online rebate and a $5 Ibotta coupon: making this a $5 oil change special.
$5 would be a killer price, but not so fast. Now you have to figure out whether you will be using another $5’s worth of Ibotta coupons since that’s the only way the Ibotta rebate can be redeemed. “Gotcha” policies and rebate busywork are why I genuinely hate all things Black Friday when it comes to cars.
The Better Solution: Go to Rockauto.com and buy some quality clearance filters that are usually in the $1 to $4 range along with non-fluid items that have a long shelf life: wiper blades, engine and cabin air filters. Just stick to those maintenance items that will be needed for the next two years, and only the next two years. To avoid wasting your money on unused parts, I do this deal every other year and typically save about $50 with one online order. The best motor oil deals are usually available in October when you can add an online rebate (avoid the paper rebates) from Mobil, Pennzoil, and Quaker State to oil that’s always cheaper in the fall due to cooler weather. Autozone also usually has a clearance on discontinued oils in December.
Other Oils And Fluids: These are tough. I prefer to just buy one batch every three to five years for my family vehicles (brake, power steering and transmission fluid) and use a $20 off $50 coupon code at Advance Auto Parts. Don’t have an Advance nearby? If you get bored on any given workday, you can go to Amazon and get an even better price if you have Amazon Prime.
Tools: Avoid the discount parts stores like the plague. Also avoid the cheap tool sets that offer 200+ parts when the aspiring mechanics among us will likely need only six or eight at most for basic maintenance work. I find excellent deals throughout the year. Harbor Freight, Menards and Amazon are among the best, but tread carefully. Even if the online reviews are good, don’t take those seductive words for gospel. Companies have been known to hire folks who post phony reviews for cheap. Instead, ask around.
Tires: Black Friday can be a good time to buy them. But so are certain holidays that have a patriotic theme (Memorial Day, Presidents Day, Independence Day). I like to layer on an online price match with multiple rebates from the tire retailer and add the retailer’s credit card. Here’s one example. Just make extra sure to set up automatic payments with the credit card and don’t use those cards for anything else. I recently got a $400 set of Continentals for only $112 on Labor Day thanks to this plan, and with two tire purchases during the year, the credit card will usually save over $100. If that isn’t worth it just skip the credit card option altogether and follow through on everything else.
You’ll notice that I’m leaving out a ton of cheap aftermarket parts. The reason is simple. Even yours truly, a car dealer and former part-owner of an auto auction, has never used any of these items unless I was facing an extreme situation—like needing an inverter to add a flat screen TV onto a 20 year old stretch limo that was formerly owned by a Miami strip club. Everything else you need to maintain your car is pretty much a Youtube video, an Alldata DIY program, or an auto repair manual away.
My advice is to buy well, buy infrequently, and avoid the Black Friday hype.
Photo: Steve Rhodes, via Flickr