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A Dilemma – Repair the car yourself or go to to a garage

The weather forecast that night was calling for 40mph to 50mph wind gusts. It was around 2am when I heard a loud sound coming from outside.  The noise was loud enough to wake me up from a sound sleep.

In my 2AM stupor I dismissed it as something in the backyard, and I fell back to sleep. The next morning I found my five year old son’s plastic picnic bench laying up against the metal fence in the backyard.  The mystery noise was solved!

As I walked to my Honda Civic which was parked underneath a tree, I saw a small 3 foot branch about 5 feet from the back of the car. It was not a thick branch but enough that it would do damage.   In looking at it from a distance I thanked God that this hadn’t’ hit my car.  Or so I thought

When I came closer I saw that this branch put a dent in my trunk. Sometimes with a dent one can pop it back out, but this kind of dent wasn’t one of those.

Wind that snaps a tree branch or knocks down the entire tree on a parked car is a typical peril that is covered by Comprehensive. Fortunately for me I carry such coverage on my car with a $500 deductible.

I’m not one for putting small claims under my auto insurance. To me insurance is there for the big events like if the entire tree fell down on my car.  I’m somewhat mechanically inclined, I like to fix things, and I thought I could fix this car for what’s under my deductible.

The car part was not a critical car component. The trunk was held on by four 10mm bolts.  It was very easy to remove and replace if needed.  But first I did an investigation of my options.

I took the car to a reputable auto repair shop in my town. They gave me an estimate of $730 to fix my car.  It would take three days to repair.  I would need to rent a car in the meantime so I could get to work.  A car rental was going to cost another $150.

By the way as a total aside here, did you know that the Honda Civic car label costs $31.00? That seems like a lot of money for a piece of plastic that’s held on by double stick tape.

Another option I tried was to check with a local junk yard. A local yard had a trunk for the same year and make of my car but in a different color.  The cost was around $325.00.  I could buy that and get it painted to match my car.

What the junk yard did which I didn’t know they could do was check with another yard that they work with. They found another trunk of the same color as my car for $400.00 and they could have it in their shop in three days.

The new trunk was in great shape. Just a little wash, some clay bar to remove impurities, a little wax, and this thing looked like new.  I hopped on YouTube and found a video, created by a junk yard in California, on how to remove the trunk.  One hour later I had what looked like a brand new trunk.

But replacing parts like what I did is not for everyone. In fact there are some car parts that I would never replace such as a front or rear bumper if the bumper has sensors in it. 

More new cars today have sensors in bumpers that can read temperature, help park a car, and detect the presence of other cars. What may appear to be a simple crack to a bumper could be more than that.  Buying used bumpers from a junk yard may already come with broken sensors that the untrained eye may not detect.

So exercise caution if you do decide to take repairs into your own hands.

Scott Harrigan

About Scott Harrigan

Scott started his career in insurance in 1988 and joined Rue Insurance in 2004 as a Marketing Specialist focusing on creating effective risk financing and risk transfer programs for companies and non-profit organizations. In addition to this he is a member of the Rue Insurance educational team that provides ongoing professional development in critical insurance concepts and programs to Rue employees. About Scott | More Posts by Scott