How I Managed To Lose $4k In Las Vegas


Random Observations / Friday, May 4th, 2018

This story is long overdue and I didn’t know how to best to tell it. It’s always hard to talk about one’s own misfortunes, especially about how a person would manage to lose $4k in Las Vegas. I decided to talk about it anyways due to another post I came across (maybe on Twitter).

An older post by Tawcan back in 2017 about losing money in Vegas, resonated with me of my own personal experience of my recent journey.

Spoiler: Unlike Bob (aka Tawcan), I actually did lose money and saw others do the same.

During our visit, my girlfriend and I witnessed a lady gambled away her whole social security check on slots before I was even able to finish drinking my root beer.

House almost, always wins – even if you don’t gamble.

Backstory:

Being located in California, driving to Las Vegas was a very doable trip.

At the time, it seemed like a good idea to drive my small economy car to save on gas and paying for a rental car while we were in Vegas.  My Chevy got about 33-38 mpg on the highway.

Driving our own car would also allow us to visit my girlfriend’s parents on the way back after Xmas since they were located in Northern California.

Our goal was to check out locations near Vegas like Henderson and Summerlin. We wanted to see the place which even Paula Pant would choose to live.

Everything just made sense at the time – in our heads.

Where our plans derailed

Our journey started early morning due to concerns of heavy traffic. I think we officially left at 2 am.

We had to make it to our AirBnB in Vegas by 5 pm so that we can drop off our stuff and attend the Vegas Golden Knights hockey game. It would be our first time in the arena as they are a new expansion NHL team.

We had places to go and stuff to do.

near Excalibur hotel in Las Vegas
Approximately the spot where we broke down

The driving went like usual, hitting up packed rest stops, naps, and food breaks. I was able to drive through the desert while managing to stay awake – mostly. The drive was pretty damn BORING.

Abandoned businesses and desert plants were generally the landmarks along the way. If you’ve played a Fallout game, that’s pretty much the scenery.

It’s no wonder that Penn and Teller made the game, “Desert Bus”, as a joke/troll. Old-school gamers know what I am talking about.

As we entered Vegas, it was only about 4:30 pm and we were on the highway about to pass the Excalibur hotel and casino on Dean Martin Way.

Then it happened, my car suddenly would not accelerate above 5 mph. It would not shift out of 1st gear.

My car broke down at the absolute worst spot, as it was one of the busiest merges of the highway during rush hour traffic – before the Christmas holiday. I tried a couple of tricks I knew in hope of fixing the car, but it still would not accelerate above 5 mph.

This is a huge issue as hundreds of cars tailing you to give casinos their money. Drivers are not patient in Vegas.

Before causing more issues for myself and creating a pileup, I gave in. We called AAA for a tow.

I was only 5 miles away from the Airbnb.

The “repair” shop

AAA driver was nice and made sure that we did get hit by cars (much appreciated) when he was putting our car onto his towing bed.

The danger was no joke as one of the cars navigating the freeway ran over his cone and nearly clipped him. He wasn’t phased at all. Guess it happens all the time.

Remind you, this was a day before Xmas eve and only one repair shop was still opened at 6 pm. The tow driver got us to the repair shop and went on his merry way.

Since it was holidays, no one would be able to even look at the car until after Xmas holiday and New Years. We were literally stranded in Vegas.

The service manager ensures that they would look at the car ASAP. Trying to find out more about our backgrounds, he asked where we were from.

After he found out we were from California, his eyes lit up with enthusiasm. Never a good sign. It’s one of those gazes similar to when someone finding a winning scratcher on the ground.

He would then explain to me about how they have “payment plans” available, for our convenience of course. You know that when someone is offering an “easy” way to pay for something before even knowing the total cost, they are going to squeeze you for every dollar they can.

I knew right then there, this was going to be costly. At that moment, there wasn’t much I could do until I knew about the actual cost.

Vegas Slot Machines

The waiting game

It’s a bit hard to enjoy yourself when you have a sense of impending doom lingering over you. We ended up doing the usual tourist stuff like hit the buffets, casinos and seeing Penn & Teller.

As we had no car, it was hard to go see the other parts of Vegas where locals generally lived. Uber and Lyft drivers did give us a lot of insights on moving to Vegas though. It seemed that everyone there was a transient.

After waiting 3 days, I finally got word on the condition of the car. Total damage amounted to $4500 for replacement of the transmission.

The service manager, of course, was delighted to tell me such news as he knew I was between a rock and a hard place. I needed to drive home and get back to work! (he wasn’t wrong)

What to do?

I knew I had to stall him to store my car in order to come up with a strategy to minimize my losses. The service manager thought that I simply had no choice, so agreed to store my car until I go in the next day.

The car did have an extended warranty when I purchased the car years ago. Didn’t take too long before I found out how useless it was. Guess I shouldn’t have been surprised.

Many of those extended warranty companies love taking your money. The moment you have a claim, they will find every way not to pay out on it. After all, that’s how they make their money.

I tried calling around for a couple of quotes, but prices were similar or they were not able to get the repair done quickly. This was around the holidays, so they were still working on the cars that were stored over the Xmas holiday.

Plan B

Knowing that I was already screwed, I had to come up with a plan that wouldn’t waste more good money after bad. It needed to have a quick turnaround as I needed to return to work soon.

At that point, I’ve decided, not to repair the car – it just wasn’t feasible. What if the shop did a crappy job and it broke down again on the drive back to California? I didn’t want to take the risk.

Having nowhere to safely store the car, I befriended the front service counter and got him to store my car for a few more days at the shop. It was definitely lucky that we both happened to be hockey fans and we just clicked.

I used that to my advantage and gave him some of the items from my hometown hockey team as a “bribe” for him to store my car for a few extra days (for free). I also had a case of water in the car I gave to all the mechanics. They were most appreciative. I guess it was another reason that no one made a fuss of my car parking there overnight.

It worked out perfectly, as this helped get rid of the majority of items in my car. I packed everything I wanted to keep in my carry-on and trashed the rest I couldn’t give away.

My real plan was to sell my car in Vegas unbeknownst to the service manager.

At this point, he wanted to close the “easy” sale. He was laying on the pressure for me to commit to the repair as if he was trying to sell me a timeshare. He would even knock off $600 if I did it right now! (what a deal, NOT!)

In that meantime, I flew back to California using my frequent flyer miles. Immediately went home to get my car title and flew back to Vegas the next day. I had the title in hand and was ready to sell the car.

The sale

Online services offered super low ball pricing that was almost an insult. I could part out my airbag and received more than what they were offering. That option was not going to happen.

Apparently, in Vegas, there was a huge market for good condition cars with minor mechanic issues. I guess tons of people knew how to fix cars.

They would buy them, fix up for resale. People side-hustling in action.

I set up a meeting with the buyer and sold the car for $1700. The buyer was a lady tow truck driver who was buying it for her husband to fix. It quite a loss to me since my car was still worth about 7k on Bluebook – “if it worked” and the darn thing was paid off for a while already. Still, I was glad that I was able to get rid of it for a decent amount considering, with a minimal headache.

The service manager, Raul, saw all this.

I could tell he was pissed off that I choose not to repair my car at ripoff prices. Guy thought he “had” me and it was going to be some easy money for his shop. As I say to most people in my life, “sorry to disappoint”.

Raul forced the front service counter to try to charge me for “inspection” and “storage”. My hockey soulmate in Vegas only ended up charged me $20 and told me to forget about it. He thought that I’ve been through enough already!

Easily one of the coolest guy I’ve ever met!

Sketchy Math

  • Bluebook estimated value with issues: $6000
  • Car sold: $1700
  • Total losses: $4,300

Total distance traveled:

And that’s how I managed to lose $4k in Las Vegas.

Epilogue:

Jackpot

I went to the casino with the $1700.00 and double down on black. It landed on red and lost it all. The casino gave us comps for the buffet.

That part was purely fictional, but it would have made for a nice story.

slot machine jackpot

However, I did play some slots and won almost $400 on a small jackpot. The awesome part of the story was that I used the money that someone forgot to cash out.

Lady luck was there with me after all.

In terms of the hockey game, we did make it to the game thanks to an Uber driver who was another huge hockey fan. The dude understood my urgency. Hockey is life.

Vegas Knights defeated the Washington Capitals that night for those who care.

Takeaways:

  • Being nice to people will help you out tremendously at times. Some will empathize with your situation.
  • You might feel stressed when you feel that you are in knee deep, but this is when your emergency fund will come to the rescue.
  • Be creative when it comes to solving your problems. The answer could be right in front of you.
  • Don’t be cheap, but frugal. Buy a common, reliable car. Buy a Toyota.
  • A few bloggers to tell you not to buy extended warranties. Listen to them. Even if the warranty covers your repair, it’s a pain to file your claim.
  • Learn to cut your losses quickly and move on.

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17 Replies to “How I Managed To Lose $4k In Las Vegas”

  1. This was not what I was expecting! I HATE taking my cars to mechanics. My dad did my repairs forever and I know enough now to know that they are usually trying to rip you off. Especially if you are someone like me, and young(ish) girl who appears to know nothing about cars. Little do they know I can just call Daddy and say “Do I really need this?” Lol. Suckers.

    1. That’s why I learn to do it myself for some of the stuff. It’s like with anything, if you are not informed, they will take advantage – finance, cars, house, etc…

      One of my goals near FI is to move to a city with viable public transportation. No more driving or car ownership! Huge savings and way less headache.

  2. the biggest gamble was owning that chevy. i rented an aveo on vacation once and it had about 400 miles on it and still felt like it was going to come apart in the napa valley hills. that’s some tough luck. i was hoping from the title it was gonna be a drunken bender with 100 dollar blackjack hands. now i gotta finish handicapping the kentucky derby.

    1. Imagine driving something similar to the Aveo through the desert. My arms were jello from the shaking. Definitely last time I am owning an American brand car. At least it didn’t catch on fire like my old Ford Taurus.

      I am too conservative (and frugal) of a person to go on a drunken bender. Due to my addictive personality, I try to stay away from gambling.

      Once, I witness a grown man ball his eyes out to me due to gambling away his bonus money. He was up 10k at one point too! It’s a good thing that his wife didn’t know about the bonus money.

  3. I thought for sure there was going to be some blackjack or slots involved in this story. Sounds like you made the best of a bad situation. What type of replacement car did you get?

    1. A used Toyota coupe.

      I had to do some of the work myself to get it into tip-top shape. It should easily last me a decade.

      Tried to go one car for a week – doesn’t work in California.

  4. This is so timely for me. Yesterday I was a hundred miles from home going 75 mpg on the interstate when my engine blew in my ten year old car. Smoke filed the car interior and I did the AAA tow thing, 20 miles to a dealership. It won’t make sense to repair it at all but I also think the sale value will be nothing since replacing the engine is much wise than a tranny like you had.

    1. Yeah, it’s unfortunately when cars just suddenly go out like that. However, at least when your car is paid off, there is much less of a headache in taking care of it. At the very least, you can sell it to a scrapyard. I feel sorry for those who has payments on a car they can’t even drive.

      One funny story I heard from our AAA driver. He once had to tow someone’s car from Vegas back to California. The guy had the platinum membership, so it was up to like 200 miles. The tow truck driver asked what’s wrong with the guy’s car. The guy said nothing, just lost all his money in Vegas and didn’t have enough gas money to get back to California.

  5. That’s like my worst nightmare to happen on vacation. Nice job making the most of it; I probably would have caved and hoped for the best after stalling. Why is it that it’s so hard to find anyone that touches a car (dealers, mechanics, etc) that’s isn’t about to try to rip you off?

    1. Thanks for checking out my post!

      I definitely got lucky the way things turned out. At first, I wasn’t certain on what to do. I just had a feeling that the shop couldn’t be trusted to fix it correctly and went with my gut. Being around Xmas time just made it worse since everything was closed, except for casinos.

      If you ever find a good car mechanic, dentist and doctor – hold down to them for dear life. They are so hard to find.

  6. That was definitely some creative problem solving. Most of us, when faced with some kind of emergency, tend to see only the option in front of us, even if that option is terribly expensive. We should really explore all our options and make a calm, informed decision like this. Sorry for your loss, but at least you had this story to tell!

  7. Snappy title! Totally reeled me in. 🙂

    I’m glad the loss wasn’t the more typical Las Vegas story, but can imagine it must have still been painful to kiss the equity in your car goodbye. And being stranded in a strange place is no fun! I had a similar episode episode in Gallup, NM. Totally surreal.

    1. 🙂 Tried to make it less click-baity title, but I couldn’t help it.

      You might have had an even harder time in Gallup than I did in Vegas.

  8. Great, creative way to deal with your car problems. Based on the title, it was not what I was expecting! 🙂 Must have felt nice to stick it to the service manager by not getting it repaired! I think the only time I bought an extended warranty was for a Mazda for DGal. They said they would refund the money spent if we didn’t claim against the warranty. Sure enough, after the extended warranty was over (7 years later), I was able to get all of the money back (and pretty easily). Of course technically inflation ate into the amount but I am ignoring that part!

    –DGuy

    1. Heh, I just don’t like being pressured and getting ripped off.

      The warranty I had wasn’t a dealer one, but a 3rd party one. Terrible decision I made when I bought it (and probably the car too). Totally useless and added to my troubles when I actually needed to use it. I think I’ll take my chances in the future. Seems like you made out on yours.

      At least it’s over and done with. Live and learn I guess.

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