Dear Tom and Ray:
We have two cars that got dinged up pretty badly in a recent hailstorm. Although none of the dents actually cracked the surface paint, our insurance company generously gave us $5,000 for each car to replace the roof, trunk and hood, and to repair the doors and fenders. What we do with the money is up to us. We suspect that $5,000 is more than one of the cars, a 2005 Toyota Echo that cost us $12,000 new, is worth. Other than resale value, which we do not care about since we intend to keep the cars for many years, is there any reason to actually make these repairs? Do the dents affect the structural integrity of the panels, and hence, perhaps, our safety? Will bad things happen later if we don't fix the dents now? — Daniel
Ray: No, nothing bad will happen, Daniel. If you don't care how the car looks, or how much appeal it has to a potential buyer, then there's no reason to fix the dents.
Tom: If the hail had broken the paint, then the paint eventually would start to flake off, and the cars would start to rust. That eventually would create a safety issue — if it started to rust through — not to mention a "breeze" issue. But since the paintsurface is intact, you can just keep driving it.
Ray: And there may even be advantages to leaving it like that. First of all, you'll never have to worry about it getting dinged in a parking lot.
Tom: You'll always be able to find your car in a stadium lot full of similar cars.
Ray: And it may even drive straighter. Hey, it works for golf balls!
(Car Talk is a nationally syndicated column by automotive experts (and brothers) Tom and Ray Magliozzi. Write to them at the Car Talk website.)