Tree branch fell on my car

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Tirebiter
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Tree branch fell on my car

Post by Tirebiter »

While I was parked on a city street, my car was struck and damaged by a fallen tree branch.

Car: 2012 Acura TL. Only 60,000 miles on it. Kelly Bluebook value of $13,000.
Damage: Cracked tail light (still functions), scratches on bumper and top of trunk door. Damage is visible from 5 feet away. Not visible from 20 feet away. No loss of utility. Car still runs fine.
Body shop's estimated repair costs: $3,000.

I have comprehensive insurance on the car, with a $1,000 deductible.

Assuming that I can live with the unsightly appearance of the cracked tail light and small paint scratches, I'm trying to assess the situation from a pure cost/value perspective.

Is it worth paying the $1,000 deductible to repair the car now, to get insurance to pay for another $2,000 of repairs, in order to preserve the ultimate value of the vehicle? There's also the issue of how this would affect my insurance premium. I have a relatively low insurance premium rate and no history of filing substantial insurance claims.

I recognize there's no perfect answer here, but any thoughts from fellow Bogleheads would be appreciated.
quantAndHold
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Re: Tree branch fell on my car

Post by quantAndHold »

Option 3 is the insurance will just write you a check, and you can get it fixed or not.

If you ever sell it, the buyer will take the cost of the bodywork right off the top of the price of the car.

If you plan to keep it until it’s ready for the junkyard, just fix the taillight yourself, and be done with it.
Yes, I’m really that pedantic.
barnaclebob
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Re: Tree branch fell on my car

Post by barnaclebob »

quantAndHold wrote: Tue Jul 20, 2021 3:09 pm If you ever sell it, the buyer will take the cost of the bodywork right off the top of the price of the car.
Except as a car gets older minor defects in body work dont matter as much when going to sell. A big dent in a 5 year old car will affect the price more than a dent in a 15 year old car.

Id take the check if I were OP.
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lthenderson
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Re: Tree branch fell on my car

Post by lthenderson »

My insurance company rarely cuts checks for damages that won't get repaired. If they do, they stipulate that if you have another claim in the future and you pocketed the previous check without making repairs, they will deduct the amount of the first check from your second check. So I would do your homework before just accepting a check with no plans to fix the damage.

If it were me, I would probably buy a replacement tailight lends DIY that repair. Usually involves removing some trim and peeling back the lining in your trunk space to access. If the scratches went through the paint on top of the trunk, I would just buy some touchup paint and call it good. Assuming bumper is standard plastic, I wouldn't do anything for those scratches. Could probably do everything for less than $100. But where I live, car dents and scratches are just part of living so I'm pretty utilitarian around vehicles.
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RickBoglehead
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Re: Tree branch fell on my car

Post by RickBoglehead »

A comprehensive claim like that should not raise your rates.

A city tree, or any tree, that isn't properly cared for and obvious could result in the tree owner being liable for your damages.
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mhc
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Re: Tree branch fell on my car

Post by mhc »

quantAndHold wrote: Tue Jul 20, 2021 3:09 pm If you plan to keep it until it’s ready for the junkyard, just fix the taillight yourself, and be done with it.
This is what I would do.

I would also consider dropping collision and comprehensive insurace if you are able to self insure.

Who owns the tree that dropped the branch? The owner might have some liability.
Nebraska_Drought
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Re: Tree branch fell on my car

Post by Nebraska_Drought »

Was the tree owned by you or in the city "right of way" usually between the street and sidewalk? If so, I'd file a claim with my city and also have them address the dangerous tree as it may/will/can happen again if it has happened once.
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Tirebiter
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Re: Tree branch fell on my car

Post by Tirebiter »

Nebraska_Drought wrote: Tue Jul 20, 2021 3:52 pm Was the tree owned by you or in the city "right of way" usually between the street and sidewalk? If so, I'd file a claim with my city and also have them address the dangerous tree as it may/will/can happen again if it has happened once.
The tree is not owned by me. It is between the street and the sidewalk. It might be owned by the city (Santa Monica). I'm not exactly sure how to find out. Good advice though - this might be a way to address this without involving insurance. Although in the best case scenario I'm guessing the city would take forever to cut a check.
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gwe67
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Re: Tree branch fell on my car

Post by gwe67 »

lthenderson wrote: Tue Jul 20, 2021 3:34 pm My insurance company rarely cuts checks for damages that won't get repaired. If they do, they stipulate that if you have another claim in the future and you pocketed the previous check without making repairs, they will deduct the amount of the first check from your second check. So I would do your homework before just accepting a check with no plans to fix the damage.

If it were me, I would probably buy a replacement tailight lends DIY that repair. Usually involves removing some trim and peeling back the lining in your trunk space to access. If the scratches went through the paint on top of the trunk, I would just buy some touchup paint and call it good. Assuming bumper is standard plastic, I wouldn't do anything for those scratches. Could probably do everything for less than $100. But where I live, car dents and scratches are just part of living so I'm pretty utilitarian around vehicles.
The easy solution is to surf to another insurer, as you should probably do every six months anyway. Other than that, I agree with this advice.

Looks like you can buy the part for $134 with free shipping and install yourself.
https://www.ebay.com/itm/273617114753

Another alternative is that you could do a tort claim against the city for $1,000 and get it fixed right. But this might take forever and not be worth the hassle.
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finite_difference
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Re: Tree branch fell on my car

Post by finite_difference »

$3,000 for body work sounds steep based on the description of the damage.

But assuming it’s reasonable, I would pay $1k and get it fixed. I like to have a car that’s in top shape and that’s what insurance is for.
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quantAndHold
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Re: Tree branch fell on my car

Post by quantAndHold »

lthenderson wrote: Tue Jul 20, 2021 3:34 pm My insurance company rarely cuts checks for damages that won't get repaired. If they do, they stipulate that if you have another claim in the future and you pocketed the previous check without making repairs, they will deduct the amount of the first check from your second check. So I would do your homework before just accepting a check with no plans to fix the damage.
I’ve never had trouble getting them to just cut a check as long as the car was paid off, but yes, if you don’t fix the damage, expect it to be subtracted from any future claim covering the same general location on the car. Also, if you change insurance companies, expect them to inspect the car and not pay for damages to a location that was already damaged. Although the last inspection I had was pretty cursory. I parked with the damaged side away from the front door of the insurance agency, and she didn’t even go outside to look at the car. She just looked through the window and went, “that’s your car?”

My thought on this particular incident is, if you’re not going to make a claim, then you should cancel your comprehensive, because there’s no reason to have it if you’re never going to make any claims.
Yes, I’m really that pedantic.
jbmitt
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Re: Tree branch fell on my car

Post by jbmitt »

gwe67 wrote: Tue Jul 20, 2021 4:38 pm
lthenderson wrote: Tue Jul 20, 2021 3:34 pm My insurance company rarely cuts checks for damages that won't get repaired. If they do, they stipulate that if you have another claim in the future and you pocketed the previous check without making repairs, they will deduct the amount of the first check from your second check. So I would do your homework before just accepting a check with no plans to fix the damage.

If it were me, I would probably buy a replacement tailight lends DIY that repair. Usually involves removing some trim and peeling back the lining in your trunk space to access. If the scratches went through the paint on top of the trunk, I would just buy some touchup paint and call it good. Assuming bumper is standard plastic, I wouldn't do anything for those scratches. Could probably do everything for less than $100. But where I live, car dents and scratches are just part of living so I'm pretty utilitarian around vehicles.
The easy solution is to surf to another insurer, as you should probably do every six months anyway. Other than that, I agree with this advice.

Looks like you can buy the part for $134 with free shipping and install yourself.
https://www.ebay.com/itm/273617114753

Another alternative is that you could do a tort claim against the city for $1,000 and get it fixed right. But this might take forever and not be worth the hassle.
You do realize that there are databases that insurers subscribe to. Even if you move from Insurance Company A to Insurance Company B, Insurance Company B can see a previous claim for damages to the same area. Unless you can prove repairs, they will deny the claim for fraud as the damages didn't occur during the policy period.
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StevieG72
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Re: Tree branch fell on my car

Post by StevieG72 »

Take the insurance payout and touchup the paint / replace the tail light yourself.

I really don’t think the insurance company cares whether or not you repair the vehicle, and you certainly would not being doing anything shady by taking the payout and not repairing the vehicle.
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DoubleComma
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Re: Tree branch fell on my car

Post by DoubleComma »

Tirebiter wrote: Tue Jul 20, 2021 4:30 pm
Nebraska_Drought wrote: Tue Jul 20, 2021 3:52 pm Was the tree owned by you or in the city "right of way" usually between the street and sidewalk? If so, I'd file a claim with my city and also have them address the dangerous tree as it may/will/can happen again if it has happened once.
The tree is not owned by me. It is between the street and the sidewalk. It might be owned by the city (Santa Monica). I'm not exactly sure how to find out. Good advice though - this might be a way to address this without involving insurance. Although in the best case scenario I'm guessing the city would take forever to cut a check.
Careful about this, that area between sidewalk and street is called the parkway. Municipalities have become very clear in ownership of the parkway, sidewalks and landscaping; especially in California. In nearly all cases I'm aware of the sidewalk and parkway are included in the adjacent property deed; regardless if its residential or commercial. Additionally the landscaping and sidewalk are the responsibility of the property owner, regardless if the city has an easement and/or has codified what has to happen there.

This has no impact on if you make a claim and/or repair your car. I just didn't want you thinking the municipality would be culpable because in nearly every instance I'm aware its not their responsibility.

Personally I would fix the car and pay the $1k. I don't like having damage and scratches on my vehicle regardless of age. The $1k is just risk you took with that policy. If you have had it for a few years its likely paid off.
rich126
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Re: Tree branch fell on my car

Post by rich126 »

Check around and see if you can find a cheaper body shop. I know I have some friends who always seem to know someone who can do whatever. When it came to body work they knew some guys with a company in Phoenix. We went over there (I had my doubts) and while I'm not sure I would go there at night, daytime it was fine except in a neighborhood with a lot of junkyards.

Turned out two of the guys had worked 10-20 years for a luxury car body shop and started their own company. Apparently the other company sends them work they don't want to do or when they are too busy. They wanted the guys to return but they had no interest working long hours.

So ask around and usually you can find someone who seems to know stuff like this, unless it isn't worth your time.

$3K is actually pretty cheap since almost any kind of damage adds up quickly nowadays.
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gwe67
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Re: Tree branch fell on my car

Post by gwe67 »

[/quote]

You do realize that there are databases that insurers subscribe to. Even if you move from Insurance Company A to Insurance Company B, Insurance Company B can see a previous claim for damages to the same area. Unless you can prove repairs, they will deny the claim for fraud as the damages didn't occur during the policy period.
[/quote]

I'm not completely following you, but I did not suggest to switch to another carrier then submit another claim. Example: I had hail damage on a vehicle, chose not to repair, and took the insurance check as compensation for the loss of value. This happened long ago, and is no longer reflected on my CLUE report even though I still own the vehicle. I'm not aware of any other database the insurers are allowed to use. I probably could have submitted later claims for hail damage, but chose not to because that would just be wrong.

Also, in nearly 40 years of owning vehicles, I have never had an agent request to inspect a vehicle. Not even when switching from "no comprehensive" to "comprehensive" coverage. I haven't even had an assigned agent in the last 20 years as I have rotated among GEICO, Progressive, and USAA.
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OldSport
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Re: Tree branch fell on my car

Post by OldSport »

I'd get it repaired. That's what insurance is for. However $3k seems steep for the type of repair described. If I can get an authorized legitimate place to fix for $1.5k or less, I'd just pay OOP, and depending on my financial situation and available free time (e.g. time vs. value) pursue collecting against City of Santa Monica or not.

If multiple places come back at $3k, I'd just use the insurance. That's what its there for. The 2012 Acura TL is a great premium vehicle, not a junker.
carolinaman
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Re: Tree branch fell on my car

Post by carolinaman »

I would get it fixed and pay the deductible. I once did not get some minor damage to a car fixed and regretted it. I kept the car for several more years and grew very tired of seeing the damage.
miamivice
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Re: Tree branch fell on my car

Post by miamivice »

As a technicality, a person owns property clear to the centerline of the street. Yup, a homeowner who fronts the street is the proud owner of the land underneath the street. However, the street exists in what is called an easement that gives the city the right to put up the street, and also who has the responsibility to maintain the street. Whether the city is responsible for maintenance and also assumes liability for landscaping would be city specific.
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F150HD
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Re: Tree branch fell on my car

Post by F150HD »

Damage: Cracked tail light (still functions), scratches on bumper and top of trunk door.
edit: you stated 'scratches', which sounds like it won't require any new parts (unless its more then simple 'scratches'). Any decent shop should be able to buff out scratches and blend the clear coat unless this goes to the primer or base coat. Again, without a picture to see the extent of damage, giving advice is difficult.

taillight is DIY all day.
Last edited by F150HD on Wed Jul 21, 2021 10:31 am, edited 1 time in total.
Paradise
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Re: Tree branch fell on my car

Post by Paradise »

Your rates may not go up, but I am positive that if you ever change insurance, they're going to be asking about this and you'll lose out on any "no insurance file" discounts. Someone hit and run my parked rental car years back and I filed a claim. When I shopped around for insurance, even though it was no fault of mine, the premiums went up by a ridiculous amount.. I think it was going to cost me $3k extra in insurance premiums until it went off my record. You could likely get your old insurer to write a letter of understanding to detail that it wasn't your fault, but it's still a numbers game for them. You parked your car in a spot where something happened (damage, burglary, etc) and they had to pay. "Maybe we'd have to pay as well?" "Maybe the person doesn't park well?"

I feel like your best option is to take it to a body shop and ask them how much it costs to "patch it up" and not give it the full treatment. I've done this with several high end cars that were past their prime and a $3,000 replacement turns into a $500 paint job.. or glue in your case. That $3k price sounds like the quote to "restore to new," which I don't believe your 2012 car needs.

An aside: this is why I take the highest possible deducible. I only use car insurance if it's a major collision or total loss. Everything else I pay out of pocket. The cost of raised rates just aren't worth it.
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Reamus294
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Re: Tree branch fell on my car

Post by Reamus294 »

rich126 wrote: Tue Jul 20, 2021 5:28 pm Check around and see if you can find a cheaper body shop.
+1

I have older cars, so I usually look for the shady area of town with a lot of good Yelp reviews and dress casually when I go for an estimate. Some of these shops do better work than the higher priced shops.

When I would get a windshield replaced, there were two prices, one if you were using insurance and another if you weren’t using insurance. I’d let the shop know you weren’t going to be using insurance and see if you get a better price with cash.
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galawdawg
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Re: Tree branch fell on my car

Post by galawdawg »

If you plan to keep the car "until the wheels fall off", just repair what you need to yourself and forget about the claim. If you plan to resell the car, it could potentially be worth having insurance handle the repairs but even then you may not recoup your $1,000 deductible "investment" if you don't plan to sell within the next year or two and before the car gets to 100k miles.

As far as going after the city or property owner, be aware that as a general rule a property owner is NOT responsible for falling limbs and branches UNLESS they knew or, through the exercise of ordinary care, should have known that the tree or its limbs had visible damage or decay and was at danger of falling. In other words, absent obvious rot or decay to the tree that is readily apparent to a layperson viewing from the ground, it isn't their responsibility. Even if there is visible decay or damage, they could deny liability and your only recourse would be to sue them or have your insurance handle it.

Glad nobody was in the car and injured, that is the important thing! :beer
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gwe67
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Re: Tree branch fell on my car

Post by gwe67 »

miamivice wrote: Wed Jul 21, 2021 9:54 am As a technicality, a person owns property clear to the centerline of the street. Yup, a homeowner who fronts the street is the proud owner of the land underneath the street. However, the street exists in what is called an easement that gives the city the right to put up the street, and also who has the responsibility to maintain the street. Whether the city is responsible for maintenance and also assumes liability for landscaping would be city specific.
That's not at all how ownership works in my area. The city owns the street, as well as approximately the first six feet of land behind curb.
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miamivice
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Re: Tree branch fell on my car

Post by miamivice »

gwe67 wrote: Wed Jul 21, 2021 10:29 am
miamivice wrote: Wed Jul 21, 2021 9:54 am As a technicality, a person owns property clear to the centerline of the street. Yup, a homeowner who fronts the street is the proud owner of the land underneath the street. However, the street exists in what is called an easement that gives the city the right to put up the street, and also who has the responsibility to maintain the street. Whether the city is responsible for maintenance and also assumes liability for landscaping would be city specific.
That's not at all how ownership works in my area. The city owns the street, as well as approximately the first six feet of land behind curb.
Probably not. They probably just have an easement rather than actually owning the land fee simple. I obviously don't know every state but in general that is how it works.
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gwe67
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Re: Tree branch fell on my car

Post by gwe67 »

miamivice wrote: Wed Jul 21, 2021 10:30 am
gwe67 wrote: Wed Jul 21, 2021 10:29 am
miamivice wrote: Wed Jul 21, 2021 9:54 am As a technicality, a person owns property clear to the centerline of the street. Yup, a homeowner who fronts the street is the proud owner of the land underneath the street. However, the street exists in what is called an easement that gives the city the right to put up the street, and also who has the responsibility to maintain the street. Whether the city is responsible for maintenance and also assumes liability for landscaping would be city specific.
That's not at all how ownership works in my area. The city owns the street, as well as approximately the first six feet of land behind curb.
Probably not. They probably just have an easement rather than actually owning the land fee simple. I obviously don't know every state but in general that is how it works.
Well, I did my own boundary survey so I think I know what I'm talking about. If I owned to the center of road, I would be paying property taxes on that area, which I'm not.

Not the state or city I live in, but here is an example that is the same as where I live. City owns the publicly dedicated street right of way.
https://www.westwoodks.org/row

Only example of ownership extending to center of road that I'm familiar with would be in unincorporated areas.
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psteinx
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Re: Tree branch fell on my car

Post by psteinx »

F150HD wrote: Wed Jul 21, 2021 10:03 am
Damage: Cracked tail light (still functions), scratches on bumper and top of trunk door.
edit: you stated 'scratches', which sounds like it won't require any new parts (unless its more then simple 'scratches'). Any decent shop should be able to buff out scratches and blend the clear coat unless this goes to the primer or base coat. Again, without a picture to see the extent of damage, giving advice is difficult.

taillight is DIY all day.
I, too, think this repair may be done for well under $3,000. Scratches implies no bodywork, just paint. While it may go beyond buffing and require paint, assuming the paint job in general is a fairly normal one and not too faded, a good bodyshape should be able to paint just a limited section (maybe blending into/with the rest of the section) or a panel or two, and do this cheaply. I wouldn't be surprised if partial/full trunk and bumper repaint is in the $500-$1000 range, plus, say, $30-80 for DIY headlight glass replacement (or a bit more if you have a shop take care of it.).

No, you probably won't get these prices at your Acura dealer, but at a small independent specialist body shop, maybe. I have one nearby that specializes in minor repairs (dings and dents), probably doesn't do a lot for insurance reimbursement, but is quite reasonable price-wise, and gets great results.
Nebraska_Drought
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Re: Tree branch fell on my car

Post by Nebraska_Drought »

DoubleComma wrote: Tue Jul 20, 2021 5:23 pm
Tirebiter wrote: Tue Jul 20, 2021 4:30 pm
Nebraska_Drought wrote: Tue Jul 20, 2021 3:52 pm Was the tree owned by you or in the city "right of way" usually between the street and sidewalk? If so, I'd file a claim with my city and also have them address the dangerous tree as it may/will/can happen again if it has happened once.
The tree is not owned by me. It is between the street and the sidewalk. It might be owned by the city (Santa Monica). I'm not exactly sure how to find out. Good advice though - this might be a way to address this without involving insurance. Although in the best case scenario I'm guessing the city would take forever to cut a check.
Careful about this, that area between sidewalk and street is called the parkway. Municipalities have become very clear in ownership of the parkway, sidewalks and landscaping; especially in California. In nearly all cases I'm aware of the sidewalk and parkway are included in the adjacent property deed; regardless if its residential or commercial. Additionally the landscaping and sidewalk are the responsibility of the property owner, regardless if the city has an easement and/or has codified what has to happen there.

This has no impact on if you make a claim and/or repair your car. I just didn't want you thinking the municipality would be culpable because in nearly every instance I'm aware its not their responsibility.

Personally I would fix the car and pay the $1k. I don't like having damage and scratches on my vehicle regardless of age. The $1k is just risk you took with that policy. If you have had it for a few years its likely paid off.
You are correct about one thing, it is different by each municipality. Where I live in Nebraska, the area from the curb to the sidewalk is the cities, even though I have to mow and maintain it and it as part of my property owner responsibility. I have to get permission from the city to plant anything there and if I want a tree, not only do I need their permission, but it has to be one of the approved trees they will allow. With that being said, they are also responsible for tree removal/maintenance of any trees in this area as well as damaged caused by them. We recently had a thunderstorm with 80+ mph winds where several trees in this "zone" had large branches fall and hit/destroy cars. There was a whole segment on the local news about the claims being filed and that the city was liable as well as a side-story on how far behind the city is with their maintenance of these trees. It may take some time to dig into the local regs, but a phone call or two will set you straight. A local arborist/tree removal company would also know the regs and rules quite well and a call to them would be useful too as you never know if the person with the city really knows what they are talking about (depending on who you get connected to). Good luck
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Tirebiter
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Re: Tree branch fell on my car

Post by Tirebiter »

I think my next step is going to be to get a second estimate, as some have suggested. Once I've done that, I should have a better idea of whether I want to move forward with repairs myself, or go through insurance. I can tell that some of the commenters here are impressively handy; unfortunately I probably don't have the time or skill set to DIY much here, but still great perspective to have.

I am very grateful for the terrific insight you've all provided to me, on a variety of fronts.
surfstar
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Re: Tree branch fell on my car

Post by surfstar »

mhc wrote: Tue Jul 20, 2021 3:43 pm
quantAndHold wrote: Tue Jul 20, 2021 3:09 pm If you plan to keep it until it’s ready for the junkyard, just fix the taillight yourself, and be done with it.
This is what I would do.
another vote for this.
Doctor Rhythm
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Re: Tree branch fell on my car

Post by Doctor Rhythm »

For a 9-10 year-old car… I’m barely motivated to wash it, let alone spend a grand to fix cosmetic damage.
likegarden
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Re: Tree branch fell on my car

Post by likegarden »

Be careful with painting, might not match, especially when paint is silvery. I had swiped my 2017 Chevy on my son's Dodge in my driveway. No problem spraying some black paint on the little scratch on my son's car - perfect match. But spray painting the scratch on my Chevy, using the silvery paint from the dealer, looks cloudy. So I tried it 10 times and left it, did not ask my insurance for a $1,500 check, did not want to get my insurance premium going up, ... but might still bring it to a shop and pay it with my money.
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