Cost of a Speeding Ticket

I got my first speeding ticket shortly after buying a car back in 1999. I was pulled over on college grounds by campus police for going ten miles over the limit. I pled guilty and paid a fine. Somehow this traffic violation never showed up on the driving record so my insurance stayed the same. That worked out because I could barely afford to keep a beater Toyota Paseo on the road as is. This experience caused enough anguish to never want to be pulled over again. Almost twenty years of driving later that first ticket is still my last (knocks on wood). Continue Reading

It’s a Blur!

A problem with having an oversized two-car garage is that it’s oversized enough to comfortably store other things besides the two cars that we have. Most of our neighbors don’t even park inside their garages – their cars can’t fit because of all the junk in there! We’re talking 3,000 sq. ft homes with 4-5 people living in them yet somehow the stuff ends up taking over the garage. I guess we’re doing a decent job keeping the stuff contained since our garage is reserved exclusively for our cars, bikes and tools. Continue Reading

Replacing Rear Shocks on a Mercedes-Benz Ultimate DIY

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You don’t have to be rich or go into debt to drive a luxury car. Anyone that can afford a used Honda or a Toyota could own a BMW or a Benz if they are willing to a) drive an older model and b) get their hands dirty. Today we’ll address the latter with a step-by-step DIY on how to replace the rear shocks on a Mercedes-Benz. This post is based on a Mercedes-Benz C-Series, AKA “W203”, but the general approach is similar on other Mercedes models as well as other car brands. For illustrative purposes all pictures were taken while replacing the rear shocks on a 2003 Mercedes-Benz C320.  While there are other guides on the internet, I found them lacking some important details – stuff that “I wished I knew” before I started. I decided to document the procedure in the most straightforward fashion to crate a definitive one-stop guide on the subject! Continue Reading

When it Pays to Shop

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Black Friday and Cyber Monday are over and the packages have been appearing on our doorstep daily this week. I don’t shop a lot but some deals are just too good to pass up this time of the year. I’d never drive out to a store to fight over some trendy consumer product but I’m all about doing a bit of shopping from home. Continue Reading

The Perception of Old

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If you’re serious about getting ahead financially you probably don’t want to be driving a new car. Most self-made millionaires, the ones that had to work for their money, drive older cars. It’s common knowledge yet most people prefer a short-term thrill of buying a new car over a long-term reward of becoming financially independent. Where I live, the majority of cars on the road look like they just came off a showroom floor. Sure, you see cars from the 90’s and the early 2000’s but it seems that they are a minority nowadays. Continue Reading

MAXI Cooper – First Steps

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From time to time I’d browse the local Craigslist ads to see if I can find a cheap pickup truck for sale. Not the Tundra-RAM-1500-F150-king-cab monstrosities clogging the American roads but those smaller Tacoma-Ranger-Frontier varieties from the early 2000’s. Something with a 4-cylinder engine and as simple and as economical as pickups get. I was thinking that I should be able to find a small pickup truck with under 100K miles in good condition for around $5,000. Turns out that’s not really possible based on all the ads I’ve seen. Continue Reading

What a Ruckus

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“What are you gonna do with this thing?” asked my wife.  A valid question indeed.  One freezing day in January a Honda Ruckus moped was dropped off in my driveway as a result of a $900 Craigslist transaction that took place earlier that morning. A 2009 model with 4,160 miles and a tendency to stall after a few minutes of riding. It looked like a kids toy next to my Honda Nighthawk motorcycle. A bug-eyed chihuahua to your German shepherd if you will. Continue Reading

Fun and Savings on Two Wheels

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Some of my earliest childhood memories flashback to the time spent at my grandparent’s house in a small village within a 2-hour ride from a big city where my family lived. My parents would drop me off in June and pick me up in late August. They would visit on weekends, but most of the time I’d be left alone to do whatever it is that kids used to do before Internet. My grandmother had a small “farm” with some livestock, fruits and vegetables. I’d be expected to help which meant sneaking a few strawberries without getting caught, at least in my mind. Continue Reading

Diagnosing RPM Idle Issues in a MINI Cooper

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Back in 2012 I bought a 2009 MINI Cooper hatchback to replace the aging 2004 BMW 330i ZHP that was rapidly approaching the point where a bunch of expensive work would be needed on a regular basis. Bimmer was a wonderful performance car but at 130K miles it was definitely a liability. I wanted to replace it with something sporty yet “frugal” and after multiple test drives of different makes and models I decided on an R56 MINI Cooper with a naturally aspirated non-turbo N12 engine and a 6-speed manual transmission. If you search for “MINI Cooper problems” you will find enough to run the other way. However, if you do a bit of digging you’ll find that most issues discussed ad nauseam on various forums are mostly for a Cooper S i.e. turbo engine. Since I wanted something reasonably reliable and easy to DIY, I decided to go with a base model known as “Justa” as in “Just a Cooper”. After 4 years of ownership the car proved to be as reliable as a Toyota Corolla…until now. Continue Reading

Top 10 Things I Learned About Driving in Costa Rica

My sister’s rented van navigating the hills around the Arenal volcano. It looks a lot worse and steep in person!

It’s been three weeks since we came back from our epic trip to Costa Rica. I must say that it was a quite an adjustment to go from the pura vida lifestyle in Costa Rica to the one we designed for ourselves at home. Work, daycare, errands and the ever-present feeling of having to get stuff done all stand in stark contrast to the Costa Rican vibe. I can spend hours talking about it but I’ve already done that, at least to some extent, here and here. Today I actually wanted to talk about something else – another example of why you can’t just go by what you read on the internet. In this case I’m talking about renting a car and driving in Costa Rica.
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