Welcome to Surfwrench's Official Blog!

Used Car Review – Land Rover Discovery

Non-Starter at the Disco

Image via Wikimedia, By OSX, Public Domain

You know it’s always weird when I get to plug Surfwrench at the beginning of a used car review. That should be your first red flag. It’s even funnier when I get to plug Surfwrench to the poor sap trying to sell their car before I even drive it. Well, that’s the most stereotypical beginning to anything ever about a near 20 year old Land Rover Discovery — but I’m going to keep going on this because unlike most people, I genuinely like older, unreliable British cars.

I figured, since winter is bearing down on us like an army of white walkers, it was time to start driving some stuff with AWD that could qualify as a winter beater. One of the real marquis names in being able to go anywhere is Land Rover. That and I had never actually driven one, so I started looking for something beat, cheap, and British. Those are a series of statements that are bywords for reliability and quality — said no one ever.

Died in the Afternoon

Right away, I found one on the side of the road and knocked on the door. The owner said that it had some issues, and the price reflected that: a mere $1500. Normally, $1500 for something with leather seats, a V8, and a renowned 4WD system would be a screaming deal — that is, if you can get it to work. The owner said that he hadn’t run it in a while, but for the time that he had it it was his daily driver. He must not have owned it for very long, because it only had 99k miles on the odometer, which in retrospect probably didn’t work. Additionally, it looked like he had driven it into a lake given the amount of rust on the suspension components and musty, moldy smell of the interior.

Honestly, one of the things that has always drawn me to the older Discos is the looks. Yes, they are big, boxy people movers, but much like the Nissan Xterra, they look more capable than their contemporaries, even if they really aren’t. However, the Land Rover does have something that the Xterra doesn’t — some serious pedigree. However, pedigree doesn’t make a car run, because this one didn’t. It wouldn’t start or turn over. It had power, and that’s about it. Even after attempting a jump start, the lethargic 4×4 wouldn’t budge.

Dying is the Most Fun a Land Rover Can Have Without Leaving the Driveway

Undaunted, I started scouring the back end of our little app to see if there was anyone who could help me out. Immediately I found that all of our Land Rover guys were out in Buffalo and Albany. Seeing as that wasn’t going to fly, I remembered that BMW owned Land Rover for a short time. Unfortunately, they owned it later, taking over operations and giving them engines and transmissions in 2000. So this was a real, honest-to-God Rover, and seeing that we don’t get those in the United States, we didn’t have any Rover Techs.

Not wanting to waste any more of my afternoon, I thanked the owner and wished him the best of luck — right after putting his Disco on Surfwrench free of charge. I honestly expect to see this vehicle at the salvage yard shortly, because parts are not cheap and there is really any number of things that could have been wrong with it. They are notorious for very complicated electrical problems, and even using Surfwrench it would have cost much more to fix than the car was actually worth.

I Write Car Reviews, Not Tragedies

So there it is, a used car review without ever even driving the car — kind of a bummer because I was looking forward to driving one of the best names in the business of rugged 4WD.

Sending Your Kid Off to College?

Our App Gets Them There & Back Again

So, your child is going to college.

This often conjures up images of loading up the family car, and slowly unloading it in a non-parking spot on a warm early fall day in a small town that you have never even heard of. However, there are different options. More kids have their own cars these days, so they now have the option of bringing themselves. We just made a guide for students on weather or not to bring your car to campus, so now we’re going to tackle the other side of the equation.

Should you encourage your child to bring their car to campus? The short answer is yes, however there is a lot of uncertainty. Oftentimes, the car that your child uses is an older, higher mileage age vehicle. Oftentimes this means that it is less than reliable. Luckily for you, there is a new solution. Even if you are dropping your child in a strange land, there is a service that can get them home in one piece.

Surfwrench is a new crowdsourcing application that allows people to post their car, their car problems, and have local, independent technicians and auto repair shops bid on their work. They choose based on price, availability, and previous feedback- so they are always getting the most trustworthy technicians at the best price. This allows young people, especially broke college students to get to where they need to go with less drama, less hassle, less stress, and by paying less money. This service was built by college students, for college students- because we know that you need to get where you’re going and don’t necessarily want to spend all day on the phone figuring out how.

So…does your kid really need a car?handing over the keys

Do they need it? Are they going to be safe with it? Is it going to be wrecked? Is it going to be more trouble than it’s worth? These are all some of the common questions that the parents of incoming students have had. Once again, the answers are as diverse as the students.

Does your student need their car on campus? The most basic answer to this question is probably not. Odds are they can get around fairly well, and most colleges are extremely accommodating with their public transport. However, if you want them to be able to do thing on their own terms, a parking pass is a good back to school gift. One of our marketing operators had an interesting solution. “That is what my aunt did for my cousin every semester. He would buy books with his part time job savings, and my aunt would front a parking pass.”

Is your child going to be safe with a vehicle on campus? This depends entirely upon how they were with it while they were in high school. If they were reckless and foolish with a car while you had your eye on them, why would they act any differently when there is is less personal surveillance, and way harsher legal ramifications? Seriously, University Police and small town cops make their living off of careless college students. Conversely, if they are responsible drivers, this will allow them to go on great adventures and give you great stories for the Thanksgiving and Christmas family get togethers.

Is your child’s car going to get wrecked if they are driving it around campus? Yes. In our experience, a lot of the people on a college campus are in a major hurry. When you are in a major hurry in confined spaces, you’re going to run into stuff.

As our Marketing Director put it, “every single car that I had in college had dents from being backed into, bumped into, door dings, spray from plows, and a myriad of other body damage. But, that’s ok in my case, because I didn’t care. I never paid more than $1000 for any car that I had in college, so it was all good.” However, if you plan on sending them with something nice and newer, you might want to make sure that they’re not duking it out over on street parking — fork over a little cash for a parking pass.

Is having a car on a college campus more trouble than it’s worth? This is something that parking services will tell you is gospel, but don’t act so quickly. Having a car on campus is having the ability to have adventure at your right foot. It is also the ability to get home on your own terms. For many parents, this isn’t the first thing that they think of, but it is important. Having a car on campus for some students is a silent reminder that despite being quasi on their own, they still have the ability to return to something they find familiar. It also gives them the ability to do the right thing in being a designated driver, or visit friends and family not near enough to walk. Overall, despite the cost, most people that we have talked to who have brought their cars on campus have found that the benefits far outweigh the cost.

So overall, we feel that you should encourage your son or daughter to bring their car on campus. It will open many doors of friendship, employment, and adventure: which is what college is all about. Moreover, if your worried about them having problems with their car, there is now a simple and cost effective solution — your friends at Surfwrench. We keep college students on the road to success, and keep more of their precious few dollars in their pockets.

Back to School, Get Your Ride Ready

Count on Surfwrench for Your Car Repair Needs

Around this time every year there is an audible buzz around some of the small towns of Upstate New York. Towns that have been lying dormant since the end of spring suddenly burst forth with a nervous energy that starts with a whisper, but soon grows into a familiar chant, “the college kids are coming back.” These tiny towns: Brockport, Fredonia, Geneseo, Oswego and many others have their entire calendars punctuated by the arrival and departure of several thousand young, semi-nomadic minds. Minds that come to their towns to better themselves, spend their money, and embark on lifelong friendships and adventures that will be remembered for a lifetime.

Rest assured, this is still a car blog — just wanted to let you know how people feel. Most “townies” as we call them, genuinely don’t like the college students. They prefer the peace and solace of the town during its hibernation. However, businesses and service providers who make a living off of helping these young people on their journeys love the college students. They love the fact they are there en masse, they love the fact that they have to spend money, and they love the fact that repeat business is often in a 4 year cycle. We fall into the latter camp.

How Can We Help?

You see, when it comes right down to it, college students typically don’t have a lot of money for nice new cars that are still under warranty. That means when they break, they are going to want them fixed with the smallest budgets humanly possible. Luckily for them, we are really good at that. Our system lets people post their cars, what problems they’re having, and allows independent shops and technicians to bid on their jobs in order to give our customers the best prices, choices, and overall customer experience. They then provide feedback on their shops and technicians so other customers know if they are going to get good service.

Our technicians often have kids, family or friends that are or were until recently, broke ass college students. Our system allows them to give them a break where possible, which is a lot of the time. We had a recent grad tell us about a Surfwrench Technician that waived all but $50 of a labor bill that, at a shop, was quoted at $2500. We have had examples of students designing new signage and business cards for our Surfwrench technicians in exchange for repairs. Rest assured, this is the sharing economy pumped full of amphetamines. However, one of the major questions that students still have is, “should I bring my car to campus?” And the answers are as varied and situational as the people who walk the halls of these institutions.

Slumming it in the Res Halls

Should you bring a car to school if you live on campus? Well that depends entirely your school. Some campuses have ample access to public transport and specialized student transport that will allow you to get around pretty much wherever you need to go, whenever you need to get there. Additionally, parking passes can be more expensive than books (pending you don’t buy used through Amazon, in which case Surfwrench really isn’t for you).

Other campuses, it’s a four mile hike, uphill both ways through the frozen tundra.

Your Friends Off-Campus are Your Best Friends

girls lounging with laptops
We wish our dorms were this cool…

Many campuses don’t let freshmen bring cars to campus for simple numbers reasons, but let’s be real, that makes them more likely to bring one.

However, if you have friends off campus more than likely they are going to have some sort of parking available to stash your car. This is a go-to for many freshmen and on-campus students who don’t want to pay the extortion that is a parking pass, for what is sometimes only a few week stay. However, it is prudent to make sure that the alarm doesn’t randomly go off at 3 AM, while they are letting you park for free.

Despite being in a self-enclosed ecosystem, realistically you’re going to have to go off campus once in awhile. Social life, shopping, and skipping school are all completely valid reasons for bringing a car. Realistically, it’s only going to take you a few weeks to get cabin fever and need to get off campus to go exploring. Yes, a lot of student governments do a good job of getting you out and about to events, but let’s be real — the world is more interesting when you’re off the beaten path. Ask anyone who has been there.

Plus having a car in a dorm really helps build camaraderie. It means that you escape the surly bonds of campus and go on better adventures with your friends. Let’s be real, riding a bus with 15 Wegmans bags isn’t anyone’s idea of a fun afternoon. However, piling 4 of your friends into your beater, blaring some of your favorite music, and buying everything except the paper towels that you needed isn’t just practical — it turns something mundane into an adventure. That’s really the whole point of college isn’t it? Taking learning, which you’ve been doing for the better part of 15 years, and making it more interesting.

Off Campus (Non-Commuter)

Old BMW 5 Series
This is actually 100x cooler than 99% of cars we’ve seen on college lots….

These are the people who we really identify with. They are a bit older and a bit wiser than their underclassmen comrades. Often times, they are driven off campus by the absolutely insane price of housing and have sought refuge in the lower-end apartments of their given municipality with a small squad of their closest friends. For most of our team, this is the part where college went from routine to insane overnight.

Because you don’t have so many people watching over your every move, your moves are more at your own pace. This is the part of life where you find out exactly who people really are. This is also the part of college where you need your own transport the most. Because you’re no longer functioning on anyone else’s schedule, your logistics need to be able to reflect that.

Oftentimes by this point in a person’s college career, they have external pull factors as well. Part time jobs require a way to get to them, and most internships are off campus as well. This means that your vehicle has to work on someone else’s timeline, so needless to say, it has to work. We sympathise with these users the most because it’s where a lot of our marketing team was not so long ago. With the way that we use interns as well, it is a constant reminder of the uncertainty of life at this point in a person’s college career. While a lot of your friends are starting to become flakes, we know that you have one friend that has to work and has to get you where you’re going: your aging, brittle car.

You want to make a good impression at your jobs and internships. Showing up late because your car didn’t start isn’t a good way to do that. Ask anyone who works for us, if they miss a meeting because of car problems — we fix their car for them free of charge, but we rip on them the entire time that we’re under the hood. We do this all in good fun, but simple problems can cause massive headaches if left untreated.

Commuter

You really, really need your car. Commuter students are our bread and butter. While public transit is a completely legitimate option for many, for some its really just easier to use their car. This is especially true in the SUNY system, with the notable exceptions of the downtown campuses. However, many schools offer only limited classes at their metro centers, and it falls to the main campus to pick up the slack.

We love the practicality of commuter students. This is a waste-not, want-not way of operating that we have embraced as well (we still work in a garage for f**k’s sake). The only downside of this is, while if you’re off campus on your own, the fun can come to you. If you live with your parents it’s quite hard to throw a raging toga party, unless of course you have REALLY cool parents.

So yes, you should bring your car to campus:

Whether you live on campus, in student housing off campus, or you’re commuting – – a car is a useful tool. It can get you to class, get you around your small college town when the public transit isn’t as good as it could be, or all of the extemporaneous adventures along the way. While they are fun, we know that car problems in college are very stressful. Luckily, we are here to help. We built a site specifically for college students to be able to keep their cars on the road and get where they’re going.

Tinker, Beater, Uber, Spy

Uber driver
Tinker, Beater, Uber, Spy: Would you use your personal car as a livery?

Crowdsourcing is a fickle thing. As more companies arise to fill in gaps by providing job sourcing opportunities, many people are finding ways to make a few extra dollars by using the things they already have — cars, apartments, technical skills, and so on. However, for some users, the crowdsourcing economy simply asks for too much.

AirBnB asks you to open your home to strangers. Likewise, ridesharing companies (Uber, Lyft, etc) ask you to open your car to strangers. This raises a lot more questions than answers: is it a good idea to use your everyday car as a livery? What does that mean for your insurance? And if you’re not willing to use your car as a livery, would you pick up a car specifically to use for ridesharing? Is it even possible to find a cheap car that will fit their standards?

In order to find the answers to some of these questions, we asked around. First, we went around our office and asked everyone if they would drive for a crowdsourcing app. The results were as varied, diverse, and colorful as the personalities that make up our dysfunctional little family. Unsurprisingly, almost no one was game to do it with their daily drivers — James being the most vehement detractor, going on a 15 minute long diatribe about why he wouldn’t let drunk people into his completely immaculate 3 Series BMW. However, the people of Surfwrench think outside the box, and almost all of them said they would try it — if it wasn’t their daily driver.

Secondly, we asked people on various points of the internet such as Facebook, Twitter, and Reddit. This yielded more diverse answers. Mostly, people thought that it would be impossible to find a vehicle that would fit the parameters and be clean enough to pass a ridesharing company’s inspection. That sounded a lot like a challenge, so we put a few interns on looking at cars that could be picked up on the cheap — repaired, cleaned, put on the road, and pass an inspection for less than $2000. That was a rough shake, but they actually pulled it off!

More on that later.

Continue reading “Tinker, Beater, Uber, Spy”

Used Car Review – Corvette Summer

corvette wings logo
Image by Source, via Wikimedia Commons, Fair Use

Admittedly, Rochester NY isn’t the best city in the world to have a sports car. Between the changeable weather, road conditions, and short season- If you’re going to have something to enjoy for the summer, you might not want to spend a lot of money on it. Because let’s be real, if you really like it, it’s going to spend most of its time in the garage.

This brings up an interesting market observation. In our travels to various clients, contacts, and events we have been noticing something very positive: there are a hell of a lot of Chevrolet Corvettes roaming the 585. This makes us happy, because old Corvettes have a habit of ending up on Surfwrench.com with various problems, and when they do, they often get fixed without breaking the bank like an exotic sports car would.

So, to see what all the hubbub was about, we went out and test drove some of the cheapest 3rd-6th generation used Corvettes we could find. The results we’re as varied as the styling of this classic piece of American culture and ranged from absolutely terrible to utterly sublime. However, what they do represent is a clear evolution from “basically a barge” to “serious performance machine”. So basically, here’s 4 shorter, less flowery used car reviews.

Continue reading “Used Car Review – Corvette Summer”