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Do It Yourself (DIY) and Save Money

Written by Nickel - 17 Comments

Do It Yourself (DIY) and Save Money

We recently bought a new car and I’m interested in increasing the cargo capacity. Remember, we have four (rapidly) growing boys, so space is at a premium. As it turns out, this particular vehicle doesn’t come from the factory with roof rails installed, but you can get them as a dealer add-on.

Not surprisingly, if you have the dealer install them, you’ll pay a premium. Yes, you can typically negotiate these sorts of add-ons, but I prefer to keep the actually vehicle purchase as simple and straightforward as possible. So how much will it cost to have the rails added after the fact? Roughly $420. Yes, really.

This includes $210 for the rails and $210 for the installation. As it turns out, we can buy original Honda rails online for about $165 and the installation is pretty straightforward. I’ll need a few extra tools, but even if I have to buy these new, I’ll come out ahead — and I’ll have the tools for future projects.

If I follow the instructions to a T, I’ll need an air saw (around $80 from Amazon) for cutting a couple pieces of trim, a couple of Torx screwdrivers (around $20 total), and a trim tool for popping of said pieces of trim (around $10).

So, ignoring the fact that I could get by with a hack saw (instead of the air saw) and my hands (instead of the trim tool), I’m looking at roughly $110 in tools to do the job. So I’m looking at saving right around $140 (on parts + labor) by doing it myself — plus I’ll have those tools for future jobs. Even if I bought the parts online and paid the dealer just for the install, I’m still nearly $100 ahead (not counting the tools I get to keep).

Sure, but what about the value of my time? Well, having skimmed through the install instructions and watched a YouTube video showing how its done, it should take me 30-45 minutes tops. Considering that it would take longer than that to drive to the dealer, check the vehicle in, pay once the work is done, and drive back home (and that’s assuming I don’t wait around while they work) I’m actually coming out ahead time-wise.

It’s a no brainer, right? So why don’t more people do things like this for themselves? I think it’s mostly due to a combination of laziness and fear. People don’t want to be troubled and would rather spend half a day driving around and waiting so someone else to do the work instead of doing it themselves.

Add to that the fact that many (if not most) people are intimidated by anything remotely mechanical and you have a recipe for paying someone else to do just about everything. Don’t get me wrong, there are times when it pays to hire a pro, and you need to know your limits. That said, there are tons of seemingly complex things that the average Joe (or Jane) can do themselves without professional help.

And the best part is that the more of these projects that you tackle, the more tools you’ll have on hand and the more comfortable you’ll be doing even more complex things in the future. So the next time you need something done, stop for a moment and at least consider doing it yourself. If you’re not sure, do a bit of research — YouTube can be a great source of how-to videos. You might be surprised to learn that it’s easier than you thought.

Published on July 11th, 2012
Modified on July 27th, 2012 - 17 Comments
Filed under: Automotive, Frugality

About the author: is the founder and editor-in-chief of this site. He's a thirty-something family man who has been writing about personal finance since 2005, and guess what? He's on Twitter!

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17 Responses to “Do It Yourself (DIY) and Save Money”

  1. 1
    Lance @ Money Life and More Says:

    Youtube has definitely saved me a ton of money on do it yourself tasks. Youtube taught me how to hang new doors so I could get rid of the slab pine doors and put in the six panel doors :)

  2. 2
    John Says:

    I think the reason some people don’t do it themselves-besides fear of breaking something- is because they really don’t know how. They are all thumbs, they are not good with their hands and they really cannot do it.

  3. 3
    Ken Says:

    I did the same recently.
    I wanted to upgrade my basic rearview mirror for one with an auto-dimmer and homelink for the garage door of the house I’m buying.

    From the dealer: $300 for mirror + $150 for instalation

    Myself: $90 for mirror off eBay + 30 minutes of my time

    Savings over the dealer: $350. It’s a no brainer when it’s fairly easy and you’re a handy person.

  4. 4
    Erik Says:

    If you are using an air saw, don’t forget to factor in the cost of buying an air compressor. Wide range in price, but well over $100. Use a hack saw or buy an inexpensive jig saw (electric) instead.

  5. 5
    Nickel Says:

    Erik: I already own a compressor (from a previous diy project) so that’s a non-issue. I’ve used it quite a bit since having bought it for that first project, so this will be just one more handy use. But otherwise, yeah, that would make it more costly — and would be a big argument in favor of doing it the “hard” way with a hack saw.

  6. 6
    Steve Says:

    You also risk damaging the part, your brand new car, and/or your person. In that case you definitely risk costing yourself far more than $140.

    Plus with that large of a gap I am quite sure you there was a lot of room for negotiation. When I got a truck hitch on my first vehicle, even with my poor negotiation skills I was able to get them to install it for free. They were satisfied with the profit from the markup on the part. If you did manage that deal, then doing it yourself only saves $50, and that’s if you already own the tools.

  7. 7
    Kevin R. Says:

    I’m a huge fan of DIY, but mostly because I had the time but not the money for many things in life. However, I’ve also seen many disasters with DIY. Remember that professionals don’t just have more tools, those you can rent or purchase, it’s hopefully a mastery of the skill. In trades there is apprentice, journeyman and master concept, while all may be doing the same work, there are items a Youtube video will not tell you, because those type of experience is passed over the course of doing something and the advice shared during the process.

    My advice is to go for it, but recognize there is a learning curve and you are not a master at that trade. So maybe the brand new car is not the place to start — I suspect Nickel has a few other places he’s DIY, especially with “more tools” comment. Yet, until you start, you will never gain the experience/confidence to DIY. Recognize you are an apprentice and those masters who charge a lot of money do so because they have the knowledge, muscle memory, skill of a master, so if the task matters the first time and you have zero experience in that trade, maybe better to pay for the skill, however, if something can be re-done or is where not critical, then try to DIY — even if you have to pay a professional to redo the work, it’s only a waste of money if you never try to use that skill again, else it’s like college tuition, a cost you paid along the way to gain a skill.

  8. 8
    BG Says:

    I’m a DIY type of guy too. But this is probably one job I’d let the dealer do. Think of the price difference as an insurance policy: dealer will replace your roof if the job isn’t right or leaks in the rain.

    Your car insurance will likely not cover this if it leaks and trashes your headliner.

  9. 9
    BG Says:

    Just watched the video…ignore my comment above. I thought the cutting involved sheet metal, not little plastic trim pieces which aren’t involved in the weather barrier.

    Definitely a DIY job, have fun!

  10. 10
    curtis Says:

    There are hitch haulers or cargo carriers that are easier to load and unload than a roof top rack. Plus the aerodynamics on top compared to the hitch mount carriers.

  11. 11
    Queeb Says:

    In this case, does DIY make any factory warranties you may have on the car invalid?
    Also, you see signs at car washes that state they are not responsible for any damage to accessories that are not factory installed.
    I am a fan of DIY, but not in this case.

  12. 12
    Nickel Says:

    All: Thanks for your concerns. As it turns out, this is a completely non-invasive job. The trim pieces in question are essentially snapped onto the outside of the vehicle. The roof rails bolt onto anchors that are already present and covered by the trim. I basically pop off the trim (a long piece of black plastic, measure and cut (so it will no longer block the anchor points), pop it back on, and then bold on the rails. Very easy.

  13. 13
    Nickel Says:

    Curtis: Thanks for your thoughts on hitch vs. roof carriers. We’re frequently in and out of the tailgate when we’re on the road. While they make hitch haulers that swing away so you don’t have to unload to access the cargo area these are much more costly. They’re also not as large, and many are basically just platforms that require you to provide your own containers. On top of that, they stick out the back and are hazards in parking lots, etc. Bottom line: I’ve considered them, but have decided that a good car top carrier (one that’s as aerodynamic as possible vs. those big square-ish box types) is our best bet.

  14. 14
    Derek Says:

    I like the DIY projects too… not only can they save money, but you also learn something in the process. Many times, you learn something about yourself. It’s always good to get the help when you need it, but with the right instructions (and tools) many things can be done on your own… especially the easy projects.

  15. 15
    Momma and boys living on a budget Says:

    That is great-my husband is pretty good with cars so we have been able to DIY with cars. I don’t know if he would tactial this one or not.

    Luckily, my husband has learned alot from my father in doing alot of big projects that we needed to do.

  16. 16
    Kris Says:

    I love DIY projects, but not on my car. I can fix lots of things but I don’t like touching an engine. But, if you have the motivation, you can learn lots from youtube-ing (is that a verb yet like “googling”?).

  17. 17
    Alice Cornelios Says:

    D-I-Y projects are so much in these days due to our economic status in the country. That is why the need for people to blog or post about what they know to deal with practical ways of things rather than paying for someone to do it for you. Youtube and Google are great e-tools and e-learning even for our kids. It is all the matter of finding a relevant post.

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