advice and tips car finance

Switch to Ting wireless, mistake on car insurance

I decided to switch my wireless carrier again, from H2O wireless to Ting. I stayed with H2O for over a year, mostly satisfied, except recently I started using its per minute data, which seems burn my money quickly. I heard about Ting from friend before, but I forgot to do the referral. 🙁 Anyway I switched my wife’s T-mobile prepaid to Ting last week, and I just did mine this evening. The only thing Ting needs is the IMEI number of iPhone, the account number or the pin from the older carrier. In the case of t-mobile, it’s last 4 digits of phone number; the the case of the H2O, it’s the last 4 or SIM card number. Here is how to find it on iPhone: Settings => General => About => ICCID number. IMEI number can be found in similar fashion.

By doing this, essentially I combined my phone and my wife’s phone into one account. Besides that, my wife also gets some data usage, which she does not have previously.

Car accident and the rental coverage in car insurance
I used to have the rental coverage in my car insurance. But in recent review, I decided not to keep it for my 2012 Sienna to save some money (about $13.25 per 6 month), as I thought the extended warranty (service contract) will cover in the case of repair. A mistake on my side. Yesterday my wife got into an accident while driving sienna, and I need to bring it to car bodyshop, which also means I need a rental car. The cost is about $30 per day from Enterprise. So I think I will shell out about $200 (assume 7 days) while trying to save $13.25. 🙁

Also, looking back I really should not have bought the extended warranty (EW) for the used certified Sienna. For 3 years besides the routine maintenance, the main cost is to fix the squirrels chewing the cables, and replace four tires. Both were not covered by the EW. Obviously they don’t cover accident either 🙁 I would put my money in my own pocket next time.

PS: the minivan is already in shop. It’s a bit surprising that I mostly used the Geico app for appointment and status checking.

PS2: it appears Ting is using T-mobile network, the signal is not as good as AT&T which is used by H2O wireless. There is network degradation or no signal near my work place 🙁

advice and tips car finance fun

So after all my gas gift card was NOT stolen

I purchased a $100 Circle K gas gift card via eBay a few weeks ago, a few days ago I started to use it, and I found the initial balance is $75 instead of the $100 as advertised. See below, I spent $12.xx on the gas (imagine that a few years ago), and I saw $62.xx remaining.


So I was worried the card is stolen, and I filed a claim on eBay and whined about it on wechat. This afternoon I decided to cash out the card via other gift card, and to my surprise, it has the correct value: after I bought $75 other gift card, it still has $12.xx remaining. I was wrong. The reason I worried it could be stolen is I saw people talked about stolen gas card (same brand), and it’s not too hard to crack a 16 digit code.

You may wonder why I just pay credit card for gas, and go through the trouble of buying gas gift card, and had to use it at a specific store, also keep track of balances. Well, there is some savings, to be short. Basically I can get some rebate via eBates (going to eBay), I also get some eBay bucks, plus sometimes I buy $100 eBay GC at $95. Last but not least, I paid $95 for $100 gas card. So the savings add up. I spent somewhere between $85 and $87.5 for a $100 gas card. On the other hand, nothing is truly free, with the savings comes with risk. I think from now on, I will stick to credit card: this quarter I can use either Chase Freedom/Discover Cash Bonus for 5% cash/points back, and in normal times I could use the Sam’s Club MasterCard, which also gives 5% cash back (in a check issued once a year).

advice and tips car fun


Commute is a meaningful part of our work life, for me in my 15+ years work, I had commute most of time except in 2 cases: 1) I lived very close to work for 1 year; 2) I worked from home for 15 months. St. Louis rush hour traffic is not as bad as Los Angeles or Beijing, in my case my commute usually takes between 15, 20 min to 35 min (10 to 25 miles) one way. Also I am lucky in the sense I was against the traffic most the time.

toyota camry 2012 blue


Initially I listened to NPR, e.g., morning edition, all things considered when driving, it helped my English listening comprehension. Since last June I listened more podcast or music for the 30+ min drive.


I got into one accident at riverport drive about 10 years ago. Someone went to work in a hurry at around 5 pm, and she hit me at red light. To make things worse, she drove away after the accident. The second day I was able to find her car, and called the police. But it does not help my out of pocket expense (insurance deduction), as she does not have insurance.

Car pool

I did car pool in 2 cases, both not long. Once I did it with my coworker, we took turns drive, I park my car at his place when he drove. The thing is he is an early person, I had to get up early for the car pool thing. Another time I car pooled with my roommate. He worked at another company at earth city. Another downside of carpool is when I don’t drive, I don’t have the car to go out for lunch, had to pack lunch, go to cafeteria or go to Burger King which is in walking distance.


Any significant snowfall will make the commute miserable. I caught into this once partially due to my poor judgement. I took I road I don’t drive normally, thought it would be less crowded. Dumb mistake. It was less travelled and the crew did not get to it, huge snow pile. Near my home I made the same mistake again, I tried to drive uphill, but my car slipped. I got some help from the people nearby and was able to drove over the hill. After couple more dumb mistakes trying to make short cuts and almost got the car stuck in snow, eventually I was able to make it almost home, I only needed one left turn on the drive way. And my car got stuck in snow. My neighbors tried to push the car, we still cannot get out. So we had to left the car there. After that incident I think I had much more respect on snow, in terms of its effect on driving. As one of my coworker said, highway 70 is a giant parking lot. True. We as human beings are just powerless in the face of Mother Nature, be it snow or flood. This Jan we just had a major flood in the area.

Remote work

A few years ago I did work from home for a full time job for 15 months. The results is mixed, I think it has both plus and minus. Working from home or flexible work has becoming more popular these days for many white collar jobs. Many companies support this idea and some form of remote work days. But as the way most companies setup and human interaction go, I think we still need to go to office and work with coworkers on some of the days. Not to mention many jobs that require people go to office. In other cases, working from home crowd sometimes miss the chitchat at office, and we have the co-working place popping up. So I think commute will still play an important role in our daily work life. As time goes we will have more fuel efficient cars, or maybe even driverless cars. In the latter case we can watch YouTube while go to work. Let the computer (or robot) do the driving 🙂

advice and tips car

Our car seats

Now we have 2 kids (one 7 month old baby, one almost 5), we also got quite a few car seats. First the infant car seats, we got a Graco snug and ride car seat for Serenity our old daughter. Something like this one, the seat has travelled to China and is still at her grandpa’s home. We are reusing the base with similar Graco car seat we got for younger daughter Sophia.


Looking back not buying the travel system like we got for sophia is a mistake. Because travel system is quite handy.


For toddler car seats, we got 2: the cheaper evenflo and the more expensive britax.



We like both: the former is smaller and easy to move around, the latter is sturdy. All these seats are easy to fit in my cars: 2001 nissan altima, 2006 subaru forester, 2012 camry and sienna.

I will talk about boost seat in the future 🙂


The rodents are back to my Sienna Minivan

I talked about this last year, in this post and that post. The bad news is, they are back. Couple weeks ago, when I went to dealership and install the new battery on Sienna, the service advisor mentioned there are some biting on the cables, and I said “yeah I know, last year I have been here 3 times to fix the squirrel biting cable problem”. Looking back they already visited this year (2015).

My wife noticed the problem on Thursday afternoon when she saw the check engine and “Trac Off” light are on. So I brought the minivan to dealership on Friday, and they were able to fix it on Saturday. Needless to say, I am annoyed again. Service advisor’s advice is to put moth ball in the hood. This was essentially what I did last year. Not fail-safe and there is this moth ball smell which could be harmful to human. I did a little more research and reading (1, 2, 3), but I have not seen a perfect solution. Another possibility is the laundry dryer sheet, or spicy sauce. I may try the dryer sheet tomorrow. Here I wanted to summarize some of the possible approaches to prevent the rodents coming back. I hope this might be helpful for people in similar situation like me, last year once I recall the service advisor told me a customer came back multiple times due to this problem, in other words I am not alone.

1) Use repellent such as spicy sauce, moth ball (this is unproven and has side effect according to some);

2) Power wash the engine compartment, to get rid of the smell from rodents’ previous visits. Note there is different opinions on this topic (see one discussion here). I also noticed Waterway Car Cash offers this service. I never did that before and don’t know how they do this.

3) Don’t park in the same spot when parking outside. Keep in mind do this both in winter and spring: the rodents get in in winter because it’s warmer inside, and they chew the cable for fun, in spring it’s mating season for squirrel, the make nest there.

4) Last but not least, trade in the problem car or minivan. I did give it some thought, and I think if the problem persists, and since I could not buy a townhouse/single family house with car garage, that’s one option I may pursue.