tehloki and the angry inch
September 18, 2012 11:49 AM   Subscribe

Somebody has decided to remove most of my door handle in an attempt to get into my car, or in a fit of rage, or something. Will getting it repaired through my insurance make my rates go up? Should I try and fix it myself?

My car was intact when I drove it into the parking lot of work this morning. When I next saw it in the parking lot, I noticed there was something weird about the handle. Most of it had been broken off and was nowhere to be found. I told the person in charge of parking spaces at work, she suggested I tell our HR person, she suggested I file a police report and go to my insurance.

My door still works fine, even if it is slightly annoying to open. The lock works and my car doesn't appear to have been broken into successfully. Is this even worth getting repaired all the way? Should I buy a replacement door handle (1999 Toyota Paseo) on the internet somewhere and install it myself? Is there any kind of makeshift fix that would work with this kind of handle: http://www.andysautosport.com/toyota/1996_1999_paseo/exterior/accessories/door_handles/top_deal/tpdl00001598.html which is missing all but the rightmost inch or so?

Any advice on what to do will be helpful. I don't want to raise my insurance rates, as I am male, 25, and live in Hamilton, so they are already quite ridiculous (over $2000/year with a perfect driving record, and have been driving since 17)
posted by tehloki to Travel & Transportation (34 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
A key piece of information: what is your deductible? It's possible that replacing the handle at the shop will magically be right at your deductible or less, so repairing it through insurance just increases the hassle.
posted by muddgirl at 11:53 AM on September 18, 2012

Response by poster: I am completely ignorant about all matters of car insurance. I will ruffle through the papers in my glovebox and see if I can find that out.
posted by tehloki at 11:55 AM on September 18, 2012

You can call your insurance company and they will answer this question for you precisely, at no charge, and then you can get the answer directly from the horse's mouth. (Simply inuring with them will not raise your rates, either, if that is why you haven't yet made the call.)
posted by TinWhistle at 11:58 AM on September 18, 2012 [3 favorites]

You can call your insurance company and they will answer this question for you precisely, at no charge

Do you have a cite for this? I asked this specific question of a friend who works at a large national insurance company, and he told me that by calling in and telling them that an accident/incident happened, they have to record it in the system, which can in some cases cause the rate to go up. Maybe he was full of crap, but he's worked there for 10 years, most of it dealing directly with people calling in to the claims line, so I give it some weight. I'd love to see specific data proving otherwise, because I have been in similar predicaments myself in the past.
posted by primethyme at 12:01 PM on September 18, 2012 [2 favorites]

Regardless of what you do financially, let your employer know. They can ramp up security or warn others that there's vandalism in the parking lot. It also helps to make a police report so your city is aware there's crime in the area.
posted by damn dirty ape at 12:03 PM on September 18, 2012 [3 favorites]

Agree that you should call and ask, but as a data point--our car was parked on the street and damaged in a hit-and-run. When we asked if filing a claim would affect our rates, they told us that since neither of us were in the car when it happened, it wouldn't, while at the same time hinting that if it became a regular thing, it might.
posted by ferociouskitty at 12:04 PM on September 18, 2012

Couldn't one just call and ask, "What is my deductible? What happens if I make a comprehensive insurance claim and it is less than my deductible?"
posted by muddgirl at 12:04 PM on September 18, 2012 [6 favorites]

Best answer: Considering your car is a '99, here's what I'd do. Source the part, take it to a mechanic and get a quote on replacing it. It might be a $100 fix. Why take a chance with your insurer over this? Especially if they're just going to throw a deductible at you.
posted by damn dirty ape at 12:06 PM on September 18, 2012

Get this done yourself. Either personally or through a mechanic. It will be a tiny cost to just replace the door handle assuming there is no other damage (ie to the door skin where the handle sits or to something further than the handle).

It is inadvisable telling your insurance as it will be below the deductible anyway, almost certainly. If they don't know it can't affect you, and being as it is unlikely they will be needed, why risk it?
posted by Brockles at 12:21 PM on September 18, 2012

Agree with damn dirty ape, except I'd take a shot at replacing it myself first, then if I couldn't figure it out, that's when I'd take it to someone. If you manage it yourself, then it's a $20 fix. Stop before you break something if you find out you're in over your head, but I don't think this requires mechanic-level skill (your car may vary). I would not personally bother with insurance.
posted by sageleaf at 12:23 PM on September 18, 2012

Get some quotes (sourcing the part yourself) and some without. Get a dealer quote and a independent mechanic quote.

I know someone in Hamilton who may have a lead on a reliable independent. I'll ask him. If you really want to have a go yourself but are worried you'll get in over your head you could drive over to Oakville and I'll give you a hand - I'm away a lot at present, but maybe we can sort something out. I accept all major currencies (that have the words "Old Speckled Hen", "Abbot" or "St Peter's Organic Ale" in the title).
posted by Brockles at 12:26 PM on September 18, 2012 [1 favorite]

When my spouse's car was broken in to, we were told our premiums wouldn't go up. However, we switched insurance companies shortly after, so we can't confirm that. From what I remember, the new insurance company only asked about accidents, not comprehensive claims.
posted by muddgirl at 12:31 PM on September 18, 2012

Do you have a cite for this?

When I called my insurance company about an accident in which I was not at fault, my agent told me that if I didn't put in a claim through my own insurance company, my insurance would not be affected. This was Allstate, and as I said I was not at fault, so I was able to deal directly with the other person's insurance.
posted by DoubleLune at 12:39 PM on September 18, 2012

Response by poster: My deductible is nowhere to be found on any of the information my insurance company has provided me with, unless it is contained somewhere on this page and I am too thick to see it.

Here's a picture of the damaged handle in case it informs anybody who is recommending I try it myself: bam
posted by tehloki at 12:44 PM on September 18, 2012

As a former locksmith I can say that the inner part of doors are finicky, complicated things on the outside, and getting to the inside part of the door without utterly destroying it is going to be the first step in this repair, and takes a certain amount of finesse. I might consider checking around with locksmiths in your area, particularly if they are specialists in automotive work. While this issue isn't lock-centric, per se, an automotive locksmith is likely to have experience taking apart a door and may even give you a competitive quote compared to a mechanic. We did this sort of thing occasionally at my old company, mostly because the local mechanics loathed taking doors apart and we made a point of trying as best we could to make the door look like it hadn't been taken apart (all clips connecting, no broken trim, etc.)
posted by ottergrrl at 12:46 PM on September 18, 2012

Umm... if I read the document you uploaded correctly... you don't have coverage for this. See that section main section, where it says "Specified Perils," "Comprehensive," and "Collision or Upset"? That's where you'd get coverage for damage to your own vehicle, as opposed to damage cause by you to other people and vehicles.

There's nothing listed in that section.

So, uh, you might just be SOL here.* I'm not sure what the "Direct Compensation-Property Damage" bit means; we don't do that in the US.

More generally though, insurance companies are less interested in the number of accidents you have than in what's known as your "loss history" or "loss ratio." Having an accident does not, in and of itself, cost the company money. Paying losses costs the company money. They're related, but not strictly the same thing. Some carriers have a policy of basically ignoring the first accident you have with them, and some will even ignore one every three to five years, provided they're all fender benders and no one gets hurt. And you can have an almost arbitrary accidents in which the other party is at fault without affecting your rates much. Why? Because what the company really cares about isn't your driving record as such as much as the money you've paid v. the money they've paid. As long as the first number is bigger, you might be okay.

Even more generally, how this sort of thing is going to affect your rates is highly idiosyncratic, and anyone who says "Insurance companies do things this way" without qualification doesn't know what they're talking about.

*Also, if I'm reading that right, you have a $2 million limit for liability. That's enormous. Most commercial policies in the US are only half that, and personal lines policies usually don't go higher than $500k. I suggest you call your agent and say something along the lines of "I think I need to talk about my coverages. I'm worried that I have too much of some and not enough of others. Can you explain to me what all of this means?"
posted by valkyryn at 1:02 PM on September 18, 2012 [5 favorites]

I've replaced the interior handles of a 98 toyota corolla before and it was fairly simple. It didn't involve dealing with the lock in anyway. There were a ton of instructions online. If you're inclined to do your own repairs it may not be so bad!
posted by mandymanwasregistered at 1:09 PM on September 18, 2012

Having looked at the picture, it'd be a piece of piss to do. Which, if you are not familiar with UK vernacular, means 'easy'. It doesn't even have the lock barrel in the handle so it'd be easy to do. The only difficulty is getting the interior door panel off without breaking the clips. Patience usually sorts that.
posted by Brockles at 1:11 PM on September 18, 2012

ok, so it looks like more work (removing the exterior panel involves more steps) than dealing with interior handles, but it's possible


it shouldn't be an expensive repair if you pay someone
posted by mandymanwasregistered at 1:13 PM on September 18, 2012

Response by poster: Why do you guys keep mentioning the interior when the handle that's broken is the exterior handle? Is it necessary to remove the entire interior of the door to access the areas required to replace the outside handle? If so, there's no way I'm try this myself; I don't want to go from having a difficult-to-open door to a door that, say, doesn't lock.
posted by tehloki at 1:13 PM on September 18, 2012

This might be helpful?
posted by mandymanwasregistered at 1:20 PM on September 18, 2012

Response by poster: My insurance rep is on some kind of hellish 4-hour conference call. I think I'm just going to drive to the Canadian Tire service center nearby after work and ask "hey, if I gave you a new door handle, how much to replace my broken one?" ala damn dirty ape's suggestion.

Will post updates because I love you all
posted by tehloki at 1:21 PM on September 18, 2012

Don't bother calling your agent about this matter because it doesn't look like they will cover this - you only have liability insurance, which only covers the other parties in an accident.

Do call your agent at some other time and ask them to walk you through your coverage for the reasons valkyryn stated.
posted by muddgirl at 1:29 PM on September 18, 2012

Response by poster: Scored $15 handle + $5 shipping from ebay. handle I linked earlier would have cost $45.... god damn international shipping
posted by tehloki at 1:39 PM on September 18, 2012

Is it necessary to remove the entire interior of the door to access the areas required to replace the outside handle?

Yes. There are studs on the inner part of the handle that protrude into the door cavity. You have to take the inner door panel off to get to the nuts on the back. If you could take the handle off completely from the outside it would be, shall we say... less than secure!

It's not a major job, though, even if it sounds like it is. Bear that in mind when you get quotes. It may be more than your comfort (or hassle-factor) zone, but it is not a complex job for a competent mechanic.
posted by Brockles at 1:51 PM on September 18, 2012

Is it necessary to remove the entire interior of the door to access the areas required to replace the outside handle?

Not necessarily. My old car did not require this and only needed a screwdriver to release the whole handle unit, which took about 2 minutes to figure out.

Check a service manual for your car or ask on a car forum related to your model.
posted by wongcorgi at 2:09 PM on September 18, 2012

> Is it necessary to remove the entire interior of the door to access the areas required to replace the outside handle? If so, there's no way I'm try this myself

I've done this before and its a huge pain in the ass to get the fit and finish on the door back to how it was. Unless you do it perfectly, the interior stuff feels loose or comes apart easily. A lot of door paneling is attached with little plastic clips that can easily break during the removal process. Anything involving taking the interior apart, for me, is automatically a visit to the mechanic. I've replaced batteries, wheels, electronics, radios, etc but never doing interior stuff again.
posted by damn dirty ape at 2:10 PM on September 18, 2012

Sounds like a decent solution. But you should still call your agent to figure out your insurance.
posted by valkyryn at 4:00 PM on September 18, 2012

Response by poster: I found the rest of the door handle. Inside my car. Apparently whatever weird person who tried to break in decided to toss the broken handle in the ~inch gap i had left my window open. What the hell.

Also, when I told work they said I should file a police report. Is this kind of thing a pointless hassle, or do you think it's worth it? Would they really send a cop to patrol our parking lot because of a few break-in attempts? Apparently some of our staff chased off a knife-wielding burglar on Sunday.
posted by tehloki at 8:42 PM on September 18, 2012

Response by poster: Oh yeah, valkyryn. My agent got back to me. $1,000,000 of liability is the minimum, and would only save me about $60 a year. My demographics, they truly fuck my ass.
posted by tehloki at 8:43 PM on September 18, 2012

Unlikely police will take any action but a police report # gives HR/police a point and record in time to track any future incidents, should they happen. I wonder if they're building a case (e.g. another report for the burglar on Sunday?).
posted by olya at 12:26 AM on September 19, 2012

My demographics, they truly fuck my ass.

Actually... maybe not. By the time you hit 25, a lot of the increased premium for being a young, unmarried male goes away. It actually starts to drop pretty rapidly once you turn 20, and the difference, if any, is basically nil once you hit 25.

What may actually be hurting you is your geography, specifically your postal code. All postal codes are not created equal, and urban areas are almost uniformly more expensive to insure than rural or suburban areas. The rate of theft, vandalism, and accidents is just much higher. Shouldn't be too surprising, as there are by definition more people in cities. But the effects can be really pronounced.

A few years back I spent a year in Manhattan. I owned a car at the time. Before I moved, I was paying like $1,200 a year in insurance. If I had taken my car with me, it'd have cost almost double that. So I left it with my parents and insured it there.

From your profile, it appears that you live in a major urban area. That's just going to be expensive, no two ways about it.
posted by valkyryn at 7:56 AM on September 19, 2012

There may be fingerprints on the damaged handle that was put through your window. Hopefully you haven't touched it too much. The police may want the opportunity to examine it, especially if there's been someone with a knife hanging around the lot.
posted by Scram at 8:33 AM on September 19, 2012

Response by poster: I've touched it a lot. I washed it off because it was slightly muddy. Also the idea of getting my door handle fingerprinted at a police station just conjures up images of a jaded guy sitting at a desk laughing at me.
posted by tehloki at 11:07 AM on September 19, 2012

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