The mechanic said he had trouble finding replacement shock absorbers for my Mazda, but he could get them from the dealer and do all four corners for about $850. This is not completely insane (my fear was $1500 for the front alone) even considering that the dealer is charging a huge markup for the parts.
I can replace all four shocks/struts (a strut is basically a shock absorber plus its housing, in cases where they come as a kit). The OEM parts are about $300. I could get better shocks for sportier handling. There are a couple of third-party offerings, for example from Koni, for about $600 and up. I could also get the parts they put into the Mazdaspeed3 for $500. The speed3 is a hot car with great handling, though I certainly don't need the horsepower.
Wait a minute ... they're going to take the suspension off the car ... and then put it all back on with some new parts ... why not change out more parts ... and get the car I really want ... a mazdaspeed3 with less power and cheaper insurance. Various third-party springs are $200 for the set....
Money is tight and I'm a practical guy. I've been described as the king of self-denial. But the things I've posted in this blog, about the new way I'm trying to run my life, they tell me that I should make it my own. Maybe if I do, I'll keep the car longer - the fastest way to waste money on cars is to get a different one every two years. I am strongly tempted.