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How screwed am I?
October 27, 2011 10:56 AM   Subscribe

How much am I about to pay a body shop?

I had a moment of brainlessness this afternoon that led to a brief, one-sided confrontation between my car and a support pillar in an underground parking garage. End result: a vertical dent a couple of inches wide in the driver's side of the front of the car (about ten inches back from the corner of the bumper) that also shattered the cover of a small turn signal.

This is the first time I've had any appreciable body damage to a car I own, so I have only anecdotal knowledge of what I'm in for, price-wise. And complicating matters is that I just went through a few months of unemployment and underemployment and am planning a wedding, so money is tight. Any advice/warning people can offer would be appreciated.

One thing: I know paint is a big part of the cost of dent repair, so is it reasonable to ask about getting this work done with no repainting? My car is painted silver to begin with, so I'm not worried about a glaring mismatch. I wouldn't even be worried about fixing the dent immediately if I didn't need the body of the car in its proper shape to hold that turn signal in place so I can pass state inspection.
posted by Holy Zarquon's Singing Fish to Grab Bag (12 answers total)
 
It's really hard to tell on your description, the make and model of your car and a picture could give a much better idea. If it's a relatively small dent they can sometimes do dent repair and not have to replace the bumper or quarter-panel. Those type of dent repairs tend to be on the cheap side, under $200. If the paint has been damaged then it will require a repaint, which could be a few hundred. If the quarter-panel or bumper need to be completely replaced, then you are looking towards $1000+. Cost for getting a piece painted can vary greatly. You might be able to get something painted cheaply, and watch the paint flake off in two years, or you might spend more money and have it last the life of the car. Car paint jobs are one of those things that the cost matches what you get.

As for the light replacement, it again really depends on your car's make and model. I replaced a damaged housing for my car's headlight/turn signal and it cost me $60 for one I got out of a junkyard that was in good condition and replaced it myself. Those housings can be cheaper or more expensive depending on the car model.

It never hurts to take the car to a couple of body shops to get estimates. Estimates are typically free. Also: if you have full coverage insurance on the car, this generally falls under comprehensive. Check to see what they say.
posted by Mister Fabulous at 11:06 AM on October 27, 2011


I have comprehensive insurance, but I'm afraid of getting my rates raised as until now I've never made a claim. Is that something I should be concerned about? (I have State Farm)

Car is a 2004 Kia Optima. I don't have anything that'll take a picture of it at the moment.
posted by Holy Zarquon's Singing Fish at 11:11 AM on October 27, 2011


Get estimates. Ask these questions at that time. Even if you're not putting this in through your insurance, you want to get at least two quotes.

It's so hard to say, and with front quarter panels it could be a fix or it could be a replace and someone would have to look to tell you. I just had to replace a front bumper and hood on a Toyota Prius and it was a little under $6K with Toyota parts (could have gotten cheaper ones) at a Toyota body shop (could have gone elsewhere for the non-Toyota parts). The accident was my fault, insurance paid all but the $500 deductible.

Don't just go drop your car off somewhere, because you will be billed like a sucker. Get work estimates and understand your options, if you're not going to go through your insurance make sure the body shops know that you're paying cash because that makes a difference.
posted by Lyn Never at 11:14 AM on October 27, 2011


Re rates: they might go up, but they probably won't go up as much as the work you need done. A lot of times you get the first ding free, and it's multiple claims that make a difference. But it's a bad mindset to not use your insurance because the rates might go up. That's what it's there for. If your rates go up more than you find acceptable, go get insurance from someone else.
posted by Lyn Never at 11:16 AM on October 27, 2011


State Farm touts their accident forgiveness, don't they? Your rates might not go up at all, especially if you haven't made any claims.
posted by litnerd at 11:26 AM on October 27, 2011


That's Allstate, unfortunately.
posted by Holy Zarquon's Singing Fish at 11:30 AM on October 27, 2011


As a rule of thumb here in rural Virginia:
* painting a body panel correctly is a few hundred bucks to maybe five hundred. Difficult paints (metallics, etc.) can easily double that if you need a perfect match.
* small dent removal is also a few hundred bucks
* large dent repair can be anywhere from a few hundred to a few thousand. It's an art.
* replacing the turn signal cover (almost certainly required to pass inspection; if you can see white light through any part of the lens, it'll likely have to go) is highly dependent on make and model. For my old 97 Civic I can buy an entire side taillight assembly for a hundred bucks because there are eighty billion Civics of that era in the world. For a less common car, parts like that can hit $500 or more. Labor would be another couple hundred dollars.
posted by introp at 11:38 AM on October 27, 2011


Honestly, for a 7-8 year old car? I'd be inclined to replace the cover of the turn signal, but --- assuming it doesn't affect the car's drivability! --- just learn to live with the dent.
posted by easily confused at 11:43 AM on October 27, 2011


The only thing I'm concerned with in terms of the dent's effect on the car's practical value is that since it's runs directly through the side turn signal (which is a tiny light less than an inch high and maybe three wide), the new cover might not stay in place if I don't fix the body.
posted by Holy Zarquon's Singing Fish at 12:00 PM on October 27, 2011


It's the little turn signal, not the headlight/turn signal assembly? It's a cheap part, definitely under $100 for it, and probably closer to the $20-40 range. I would take it to a body shop and see if they can pound it or use the dent suction device. They should be able to provided the paint isn't damaged.
posted by Mister Fabulous at 12:08 PM on October 27, 2011


Looking at a picture of a 2004 Optima, it would appear that the side marker light is actually the one that mounts in the side of the bumper cover itself rather than the fender ('quarter panel' is usually used to refer to the side panels at the rear of the car).

Is the damage limited to only the bumper cover? Is the bumper cover ripped, torn or broken, or was it only scraped? If the damage is limited to a scrape plus related paint work, you should expect the repair to come in between $400-600. If the bumper cover is ripped it will likely require replacement, which will add $200-300 to the cost. Damage to the metal fender above the bumper cover could add quite a bit more depending on the amount of damage done.

Given that money is tight, if the damage is limited to the bumper cover, I think installing a replacement side marker lens is the way to go. Any semi-competent repair shop should be able to affix the lens so that it will stay in place. And if the damage doesn't include metal work to the fender, and therefore no risk of rust, you could always have the bumper cover repainted at a later date if you're motivated to do so.

One final thing to consider would be the use of used parts from a salvage yard. Most body shops will have relationships with local used parts vendors and going this route may offer some substantial savings over new (and you will still be getting factory parts).
posted by Diginati at 12:22 PM on October 27, 2011


If it's the little side marker light in the bumper cover are you sure it's even required to pass inspection? Once upon a time they weren't. I don't know about today.

I'm seeing replacement side marker units for your car on Google for under $20 all over the place.

I don't know how particular the inspectors are in your area but, it looks like the unit just pops in and out of the bumper cover. At the price they are charging for the unit I'd probably try to pry to broken one out and then connect up the new one and just jam it back in. Might require a little glue and look like shit but, for under $20 bucks...
posted by Carbolic at 3:04 PM on October 27, 2011


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