How I Saved $1,100 on Car Repairs, Part 2: Dude, Where’s My Van

Last time, I shared that I just saved $1,100 on car repairs for my van – a Chevy Venture – which had a broken thermostat and a blown head gasket.

Unfortunately, my van got stolen in the process!

The Recap:

Our van overheated about 40 miles away from home, and I limped it over to a shop that was going to charge me $1,700 for the repair.  I decided to get a second opinion, so I called my usual repair shop at home and they said they could do it for $850-$900.

Gratefully, I had towing coverage on my auto insurance policy, so I had the van towed to the mechanic that I regularly do business with – a friend from church. My friend had been off work for two months because of some serious health issues, and came into the office last Friday for the first time since then to give me a call.

“The good news,” he said, “Is that we got the van fixed for you yesterday.  The bad news is that our guy who took it for a test drive yesterday afternoon hasn’t brought the van back yet.  We haven’t seen him or heard from him since 4:30 yesterday.”

Dude, Where’s My Van?

I’ll admit that I was both stunned, and relieved, at the same time. At first, I thought he was calling to give me some bad news like the repair was going to cost $1,700 after all, or that the van wasn’t worth fixing because they found a bunch of other things that were wrong.

No, it was none of those things.  Our van had been stolen. From the repair shop.  No one knows where it is.  Or whether it is coming back.

I started laughing.

What else could I do?

I know, some would say that getting your van stolen by an employee of the repair shop where it’s being fixed would be enough to make a preacher cuss.

I’m a preacher.

But I didn’t cuss.

I laughed.

And I had a thought.  A wonderful thought. A “what if this is a blessing in disguise?” kind of thought.

What if the van was gone for good?  What if it is found in a lake or river some day?  What if it ends up being wrapped around a tree?  Or chopped up for parts?

Having my van stolen, from the repair shop, just might be a blessing in disguise – a chance to get rid of a 12-yr old rusty van with a newer one, compliments of the shop’s insurance company!

Is it wrong to admit that I began to pray that our van would never come back?

I told my friend, the shop owner, that I wasn’t worried at all about it, and that I hoped that this situation wouldn’t cause him any stress that could impact his health. “We’re all just along for the ride, so to speak, I guess,” I told him.

He asked me for the van’s VIN and license plate number so they could contact the police to report the situation.

And I called my auto insurance company to let them know that my van had been stolen. By an employee. At the repair shop. They apparently had never heard that one before.

Later that day, the repair shop rented us a van so my wife would be able to leave the house again, since the van had been in the shop for a week now.

And we began to wonder what kind of adventures our Chevy Venture was having.  Was she still around town?  Was she on her way across the country?  Who knew?

What I did know was that I wouldn’t mind if it never came back and we had to replace it.

The Van Came Back

48 days to the work you love Grand Rapids, Michigan

Alana Mokma, Kimanzi Constable, Joe LaLonde, and me (L to R)

The next day, Saturday, I received a call from the guy who was running the repair shop while my friend was off.

He had bad news.  I mean, good news, I guess.  “My employee, uh, ex-employee brought the van back this morning.”

He said they checked it over mechanically, and everything looks OK.  He wanted me to come in as soon as I could to check it over.

I told him we couldn’t come on Saturday because I was attending WordCamp Grand Rapids, where I met some great people like Kimanzi Constable, Joe LaLonde and Alana Mokma. We somehow got connected online, and met up at WordCamp, because we were all big fans of Dan Miller’s 48 Days to the Work You Love.

By the way, I’m a 48 Days life coach in Grand Rapids, Michigan, and I love working with pastors, home school dads, and anyone else who wants to create more freedom, purpose, and fulfillment in their life and work.  

Reunited ‘Cause it Feels So Good

Save Money on Car Repair

Mixed emotions about the return of our van.

On Monday, we went to the repair shop to pick up our van.  We checked it over, and it seemed like everything was fine.

We learned that the now ex-employee who took our van for a really long test drive didn’t drive it too far.

He said he drove it to a bar and left it there until he brought it back to the shop.

We were told that he has some personal issues to work through.

Apparently so!

The silver lining in all of this is that the repair shop wanted to give us a discount on the work they did which was already going to be a huge savings off the $1,700 that the first shop quoted us.

We got the repair for $600, which means we saved $1,100 in car repairs!  That is a huge financial blessing for our family.

Some friends have asked if we’ll go to that repair shop again. Absolutely!

They’ve always been generous and have taken good care of us and other pastors from our church and friends I’ve referred.

And we’ve had some good laughs over this situation, and an interesting story to tell.

So yes, we’ll be back. After all, there’s always that chance that our van could disappear for good next time!

What would you do if your mechanic called and said your vehicle was missing?

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About the author

Rich Rich writes on personal finance from a pastor's perspective here at Money Wise Pastor. He loves In-N-Out Burger (and has the t-shirts to prove it), urban living, homeschooling, Gungor concerts, helping people succeed in life and work, camping, dreaming with his wife, and equipping his five children to become financially faithful and free. Find him on Twitter and Facebook.


  1. Rich, I don’t know if I should say congratulations on the return of the van or that’s a bummer dude. Good to hear the guys at the shop cut you an even better deal on the repair. That second opinion and extra long test drive paid off, huh?

    And it was great meeting you this weekend. Looking forward to where God’s bringing all of us. Should be a fun ride!

    • Joe – yeah, it was an interesting situation! I’m really glad we could meet up on Saturday. Looking forward to connecting again!

  2. Hey, i just have read your post and found interesting. Keep posting similar experiences.

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