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How a small dent can total a car....

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Posted on April 5, 2021 at 14:52:36
Rod M
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Posts: 13411
Location: So. California
Joined: March 1, 1999
Contributor
  Since:
March 1, 1999
A while back, my son got hit in a parking lot by a jerk that took off without owning up to it. The hit and runner tagged the driver's side quarter panel with about a 5" diameter dent that pushed in the quarter panel about an inch or so and broke the joint that connects the bumper around to the quarter panel.





I'd been after him for a while and finally got him to take my truck to work so I could go over to the shop and see what they could do. We've known the owner for over 20 years and his son was friends with my son, so we always get the friends and family service. My thought was if it could be done for a couple thousand, maybe we'd just pay for it to avoid the insurance claim as our deductible is $1,000. Unfortunately, it needed a whole new bumper skin and the quarter panel had a some tweaks in a couple areas that would be hard to fix without a ton of bondo which they don't like to do and they felt it wouldn't be that great a fix. But, if we made a claim the first glance would put it at about $4,000, so we decided to make a claim.

Three weeks later, USAA totaled the car. The problem is that inner quarter panel is part of the unibody structure and it's dented and tweaked at the bottom right, under the gas fill area. Also, the line is off for the wheel well. (That skinny tire is just something they use to make it easy to work on, his wheel is just fine)





To make matters worse, you can't just fix that inner quarter, you have to cut it out along with another piece and the pillar structure on the left of the gas filler and all of it has to be welded. Now, if the outter quarter panel was like the olden days and bolted on to a frame, no problem. But in this case, the quarter panel has to fit perfectly to the inner panel and the bottom part is actual glued, not bolted to the inner structure. The estimate escalated to $8,100 and a decision to total the car.





All of this was complicated because the regular adjuster was on vacation and the shop had to deal with a new guy that had little incentive to do much when it's not his territory.

So, after arguing over the valuation of the car and the ratio which seems to be about 65% of the value, I got a number of $7,500 would work on Friday and talked to the shop and they agreed to trim their hourly rate and get there.

Then, I get a call Friday night that he was totaling it anyway. His justification was that it's a safety issue and that the shop can't do it for that price, and more BS.

Finally, this morning I went back to the shop and got a PDF of the estimate at just under $7,500 and the owner's son emailed the new quote to the adjuster. While drafting a nasty email and preparing to attach the PDF to the adjuster, lo and behold, he calls, we've been approved for the shop to move forward to buy parts and do the work!

I always wondered why a lot of seemingly minor accidents result in totaling cars. It's all about unibody construction that makes it very hard and expensive to fix. Today fenders are not made of steel and bolted on, but rather are thin aluminum or plastic glued on to the body.

So far, this whole process has taken 3 weeks and it'll be a couple weeks for the shop to actually do the work and get it done. Luckily, I got off the hook because my son was really disappointed and was wishing he just left it like it was with a little dent.

As an aside, I'd called the adjuster first in the morning to find out what the salvage value of the car was. It was awfully high at $4,538, but I figured that we could fix it and perhaps, pocket a few grand. Whether the adjuster now knew that he wouldn't get car for auction had any impact of the decision to fix, I'll never know. Still, you have to be a bulldog with insurance companies.

-Rod

 

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Doesn't take much., posted on April 5, 2021 at 15:00:58
ghost of olddude55
Audiophile

Posts: 16584
Joined: July 14, 2017
My car is at the point that an airbag deployment would be enough.
Nice pics, BTW.

The problem is not that there is evil in the world, the problem is that there is good. Because otherwise, who would care?

 

Yep, it's all about insurance companys and panel shops making a killing!, posted on April 5, 2021 at 15:09:15
JDK
Audiophile

Posts: 15806
Location: Sydney
Joined: June 26, 2000
We had a similar thing - While our renos were happening we had to park up the street at times and Shaz's PT Cruiser got hit and runned in the rear RH quarter.
Due to the giant size of the replacement quarter panel and the way it blends into the roof turret and the door arch, they wrote it off.

Shaz had a heart to heart with the insurance assessor (including tears, because she loves her PT) and they reviewed and gave the repair the green light :-)


Keep Your Hands Clean,
John K

 

RE: How a small dent can total a car...., posted on April 5, 2021 at 15:27:36
AbeCollins
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Posts: 37778
Location: USA
Joined: June 22, 2001
Contributor
  Since:
February 2, 2002
Wife's 2013 Honda CR-V was "dinged" in a parking lot early this year by an uninsured motorist. The young girl was backing out of a parking spot (rather abruptly) and smashed the front-right portion of wife's bumper, cracked the headlamp and the fog lamp further down.

Police report was taken and the uninsured girl was not allowed to drive her car home. She had to take an Uber. If the accident happened on a public street her car would have been impounded.

Called USAA immediately. Sent photos to them and our body shop same day. Initial estimate was $1400. Took it into the body shop next day and the revised estimate was $4700 due to damage behind the bumper that was obviously not visible from the exterior photos.

USAA paid for the rental car and repair but wife had to pay the $500 deductable.

USAA asked several questions about what happened and we sent them a copy of the police report and more photos. USAA has a "recovery department" or something like that for pursuing the other insurance company but since this girl was uninsured, good luck with that. They told me they will sometimes pursue the uninsured in court. They will also try to recover the $500 deductable that my wife had to pay. Not holding our breath.

BTW, nice photos and I love that color on your son's Mazda.


 

I have the 2020 hatchback - is that a hatch? Man, hope I avoid dents. nt, posted on April 5, 2021 at 16:37:35
Rick W
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Posts: 14024
Location: NJ
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March 22, 2002
nt

 

RE: How a small dent can total a car...., posted on April 5, 2021 at 17:30:26
pictureguy
Audiophile

Posts: 14197
Location: SoCal
Joined: October 19, 2008
Welcome to the Wide World Of Unibody.

Would have been 'routine' if body on chassis construction.

If it had been say......Aluminum or maybe even Fiberglas? could have been even MORE $$$$
Too much is never enough

 

RE: How a small dent can total a car...., posted on April 5, 2021 at 19:47:46
Green Lantern
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Posts: 15660
Location: San Diego, Ca
Joined: November 12, 2002
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June 17, 2003
wow amazing, can't imagine going through that over a small dent!

Great lookin' lad you have there too Rod-


 

RE: How a small dent can total a car...., posted on April 5, 2021 at 20:13:36
pictureguy
Audiophile

Posts: 14197
Location: SoCal
Joined: October 19, 2008
The technical term is SUBROGATION.

Best of luck with THAT.

Good news, which doesn't do YOU any good, is the person at fault in the accident will be put in an Assigned Risk program and charged A LOT for insurance. This will go on for several years until they've extracted their Gallon Of Blood than you can get 'regular' insurance. Or not.

Wife is appalled that I personally demand to be insured well OVER legal minimums...The minimums required under law are laughable....If I drove to Mexico, I'd even have Mexico Insurance.

My last 'shunt' with insurance? Somebody stole my Cat Converter and It cost 2000$ to fix. I paid the deductible and went on.
Recently, the cops in SoCal were FORCED to do something besides eat at Taco Shops and use lots of gas driving around when one of the thieves dropped a car on himself and perished. OOOPS! another one ran from cops and was stopped with stolen cats in his car and tools. In a later raid, hundred or more cats were recovered AND 190 grand in CASH.
they could have gone on for YEARS without the cops doing anything except for some bad behavior.
I'm not even sure what they did is illegal any more.
Too much is never enough

 

RE: Doesn't take much., posted on April 6, 2021 at 03:08:10
dark_dave56
Audiophile

Posts: 3415
Location: Ohio
Joined: August 29, 2019
Yep--you're absolutely right about airbags. Many a good, solid, even low-mileage, late-model vehicles in the scrap-yards thanks to airbags. Yes--airbags save lives and/or reduce injuries/medical expense claims, but each airbag module runs $1000-1500 to replace, should they deploy.

A fairly late-model car/SUV may have upwards of 8-12 airbags, and when deployed, they ALL deploy at once. You can easily be looking at $10-20K in "damages" before you even start to look at the "scratch" on the front or rear bumper cover.

Modern unibody construction is complex and tricky as well. Every body panel (or under-the-skin panel) is utilized as part of the overall structural integrity of the vehicle, and they are easily "tweaked". Add into that, the intentional "weak spots" that are incorporated as "crumple zones" to absorb impact and protect passengers, and you've got a pretty fragile structure.

A "less than reputable" body-shop could/would have just "skinned" Ron's son's Mazda, and made the outer panels "fit" and look decent--seen it done. However, that rear wheel and suspension would never be aligned correctly. The average person would probably never realize--until it started shredding a tire every 5K miles. You can replace the plastic "bumper covers" on many vehicles without repairing the impact absorption materials/structural elements behind them and make it "look good", but the vehicle is not going to be "safe" in the event of a subsequent impact.


"So I talk to the night, I head for the light, try and hold it on the road. Thank God for the man who put
the white lines on the highway"--a very dear friend for decades Michael Stanley (Gee)--RIP

 

My brother's Infinity., posted on April 6, 2021 at 04:29:51
ghost of olddude55
Audiophile

Posts: 16584
Joined: July 14, 2017
Don't know the model designation, but it was a 2014 sedan, twin turbo V6.
His daughter was driving, dude made a left into the front of her car. Damage wasn't much but all the airbags deployed. Some of them burst out of the leather seats, so not just the airbag but the seat had to be replaced. If the parts are even still available.
So, yep, it was totaled.

The problem is not that there is evil in the world, the problem is that there is good. Because otherwise, who would care?

 

That is crazy., posted on April 6, 2021 at 04:50:17
srdavis2000
Audiophile

Posts: 7058
Location: Deep South
Joined: January 11, 2003
Reading through all of the comments, it sounds like "totaled" or not is a bit arbitrary.

 

RE: How a small dent can total a car...., posted on April 6, 2021 at 06:47:06
Inmate51
Industry Professional

Posts: 14577
Location: Dallas Area
Joined: July 6, 2005
It's possible that he'll get the full "total" value if he turns the car in, but get a lesser amount if he decides to keep it. He should inquire regarding what that amount would be.

My '99 Maxima was "totalled" because of its market value at the time, but insurance gave me $2,500 AND let me keep it. I would've gotten more if I had let them have it. So, it's still got hail damage, and I still drive it, and I got $2,500. Win-win. I understand there's a huge difference between hail damage and actual functional damage. Still, it's worth weighing your options.

:)

****

We are inclusive and diverse. But dissent will not be tolerated.

 

RE: That is crazy., posted on April 6, 2021 at 12:59:35
Rod M
Web Geek

Posts: 13411
Location: So. California
Joined: March 1, 1999
Contributor
  Since:
March 1, 1999
Arbitrary? It sure seems like it.

At times, I thought that the shop was in cahoots with the insurance company. If the car is totaled, the insurance company sends the car to auction and can get up to $6K or so for the 2017 Mazda 3 with minor damage and is perfectly fine mechanically. The shop then gets paid for the tear down and estimates and a storage fee which may be more profitable than fixing the car.

The worst part is air bags which someone else mentioned. Due to cost of replacement and the damage to the car when they explode, you can bet that the car will be totaled regardless of the cost to fix any thing else.

-Rod

 

Let's not (ahem..) bash unibody too much: , posted on April 6, 2021 at 13:39:13
tinear
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Posts: 61699
Location: Kansas City, KS
Joined: April 9, 2006
Contributor
  Since:
April 8, 2006
"Because it doesn't rely on heavy steel rails like those of a body-on-frame vehicle, unibody construction cuts significant weight out of the vehicle, allowing for better fuel economy. It also offers better handling and ride comfort and is safer, since the entire body can absorb the energy forces in a crash." autonews.com

How much is your life worth, anyhow?

 

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