By on April 2, 2013

Ed writes:

Hello Sajeev,

Recently my GF and I became the owners of a 1999 Buick Regal with about 225k miles on it. We weren’t in the market for a Buick, but when a limb dropped on its roof from a dead tree was combined with a higher deductible and a desire to keep the claim off our homeowners policy, the natural thing to do was buy the dented car for the $2500 asking price. Now our question is what is the best way to get most of our money back from this “investment”?

A roof panel goes for 125-200 from the yards near me. I could cut out the old dented one, and set up the replacement to be welded in. I’ll be in it for the rear window, replacement panel, something for the welding and something to get it painted. I’m guessing $750ish, which doesn’t seem worth it. Now on the other hand, I could bang out the roof so its straight enough to get a rear window in there and buy some white vinyl and make a half vinyl top for it and try to get what I can for it. I’ll probably only be in it for an additional $300 max I think and would ask 2k or best. Or I could just cut my losses and take the $4-500 from a scrapper for it. Its got a 3.8 and still runs good. Whats the correct solution here?

Sajeev answers:

Quick answer: I’d fix the dent decently enough for a new rear window/headliner and go the full padded roof route instead. No half-vinyl tops on sedans without significant B-pillar trimming to make it work! (1980s Panthers, for example). Depending on where you live (i.e. the American South, anywhere with old people, etc) there’s a decent market for old school Buicks with even more old school styling. I’m talkin’ the moden NeoClassic, FWD General Motors’ family sedans dressed up like Super Fly’s sweet, sweet ride.

I’m talking 84s; SWANGAS on SLABs…son!

And, in the case of a white Regal with a gray(?) interior, make the roof material a contrasting color: dark blue, maroon…or money green if you got the balls of a baller. I see red and blue actually improving resale.

Ed replies:

Thanks for the quick reply, going with a colored top is a great recommendation. (No shit, really? Wow! – SM) I see a dark blue or dark maroon cloth instead of vinyl. It will probably cost a little less, they have some outdoor fabric at the fabric store, and the sewing machine we have will be able to handle it. I can put a couple of seams in there and make it all fancy :). I’m in RI, we have a good helping of older folks and urban folks that might like an older Buick. There are one or two other minor things to do, but the car runs strong. Just driving it around the block the pickup was enough to make me pop the hood and check for a blower, no super charger, just the NA 200hp there. The other good news is rear windows are $45 per car-part.com. If I can get this done for $125, that’ll be a victory in itself.

Any idea or links what/where to get foam padding? I’m thinking just some Home Depot insulating foam sheets if its thin enough, but I haven’t looked yet.

Sajeev concludes:

You are on the right track! I don’t know a good way to trim the material around the end of the C-pillar and base of the A-pillar, so I’m curious to see your solution! The aftermarket tops (installed by dealerships, or their sub-contracted accessory outfitter) have a custom metal trim with big, shiny screws to mount to the sheet metal, but maybe you can fab that up too.

Padding?  See what’s used in outdoorsy camping equipment, find that raw material at a fabric shop.  Even better, a fabric shop that sells Marine grade fabrics.  If all else fails, perhaps some sort of high density, high-grade packing foam will do?  You just want to make sure the stuff won’t turn into dust after a few years of heat cycling.

You have a real opportunity here: turning an American hooptie ready for the scrapper into a proper American Icon for a subculture that both creates and demands respect.  Be it for old people or, uh, young people.  We all like the same shit…and if you pick up a set of chrome rims for cheap, you’ll definitely remember the time you made lemonade out of a serious Lemon. That’s a seriously worthwhile memory.

Any way you dig this one: respect to you.

 

Send your queries to sajeev@thetruthaboutcars.com. Spare no details and ask for a speedy resolution if you’re in a hurry…but be realistic, and use your make/model specific forums instead of TTAC for more timely advice.

Get the latest TTAC e-Newsletter!

36 Comments on “Piston Slap: Why dented roof, Regal? BECAUSE S.L.A.B....”


  • avatar
    cargogh

    Can you believe the tree threw a limb at one with a sunroof?
    I think fake black glass may be the new full padded vinyl.
    If the marks at the top of the C-pillar buff off and are the majority of the damage is within the seams/rain drip rails, maybe the fully padded version can be skipped. Some 1/8 or 1/4″ masonite templates could be scribed with a compass off another intact roof and cut with a jigsaw to get the roof back into correct shape. A 4×8 sheet is $9-$15, but some places sell 1/2 sheets. Four 6″ slices measured from the windshield and spaced out, starting at the sunroof to the back glass, would allow you to get the metal straight enough to fit the glass and help the sunroof to seal. After bondo, primer and Rustoleum, a shiny black sheet of vinyl would look sweet between the drip rails, plus it matches the all the glass tint.

    I saw this on Amazon:
    HEXIS Gloss Black Vinyl Car Wrap Film Sheet 4ft X 5ft (48″ x 60″) 20sq/ft
    by HEXIS HX2000
    5.0 out of 5 stars See all reviews (2 customer reviews)
    Price: $46.99

  • avatar

    I LOVE this! This is what it’s all about. (exactly what I cannot say right now, but yeah!)

  • avatar
    Toad

    In my corner of the American South (Carolinas) the only cars with padded roofs are driven by tranplanted Yankees, usually from the NY/NJ area. They are a blight on the roads (and the only cars that seem to use their horns). I imagine these monstrosities may be popular in Florida, but again with the NY/NJ transplants.

    Sajeev’s experience in Texas may be different.

  • avatar
    KixStart

    Why are you buying insurance if you don’t make claims when appropriate?

    • 0 avatar
      TEXN3

      Homeowner’s insurance has a higher deductible than car insurance, his must have been higher than the car’s value.

      However, I was under the impression that anything related to an “act of God” could be covered by the car insurance…hailstorm, animal. I need to check my policy, but maybe it’s only if the car is in motion.

    • 0 avatar
      28-Cars-Later

      The entire insurance industry is built on the idea of persuading you not to use your coverage unless its absolutely necessary, and even then there’s a ding.

    • 0 avatar
      mountainman_66

      agreed.
      if i understand this properly, this wasn’t the writer’s property until he decided to buy it after a limb fell upon it.
      if that were me , it would be a matter of going to court over the issue. the car’s owner would deal with my insurance company. that is why I pay homeowners insurance , which has a liability clause in it. this situation is clearly different than one where a deductible would apply; typically deductibles are for losses that the insured suffers, not those claims made against an insured. have a house fire, you are obligated to pay the deductible…..your dog bites a post man…..post man goes to court, eventually wins, your insurance carrier pays the awarded damages to the post man.
      in most states this might be an ‘act of god’ situation, except for he possibility that the tree was not maintained properly (dead wood pruned back).
      again, why have insurance if youre just going to cover the loss yourself?

      • 0 avatar
        corntrollio

        “again, why have insurance if youre just going to cover the loss yourself?”

        The same reason people who have insurance get cars fixed themselves. Sometimes it’s not worth making a claim. If the tree branch had done $50,000 worth of damage, you can bet the OP would have made a claim on his insurance.

        For $2500, it’s not worth paying an extra $500/year for the next 10 years and possibly having a harder time switching insurers. OP made the right call here.

        • 0 avatar
          mountainman_66

          WHO is your insurance company? again, people buy into the myth of “dont make a claim, my rates will go up….” All the while the trashy broad at Progressive is laughing all the way to the bank. Rates dont go up as much as folks think after a claim………..like the time insurance company X bought me a new roof. No rate increase secondary to that event. Nominal increases over the past 20 years, nothing more. They love folks like you. Me, I dont bother them with little things, my deductibles are quite high. I even have a liability policy wherein the deductible is a percentage of the total claim. But I make them hold up their end of the bargain.

          • 0 avatar
            corntrollio

            It is well-known that making too many petty claims is a good way to get non-renewed because insurance companies might find you to be a higher risk. There is a database for insurance companies to track claims, so even if you apply for insurance with another carrier, they will know what your claims history is, generally.

            Furthermore, you seem to be confusing types of insurance and not really giving relevant comparisons. Was your new roof claim a *liability* claim? What was the size of the claim? Is that the only claim you ever made in 20 years? In this case, the OP would be making a liability claim — i.e. that OP was liable for negligence due to failing to take down a dead tree for a piddly sum of at most $2500.

            I see it as short-term/long-term, and you don’t, and I’m happy to agree to disagree, but don’t try to pretend that you have some special knowledge here due to your non-applicable experience.

          • 0 avatar
            joeveto3

            Hey Mountainman, Please do not disrespect Ms. Flo.

    • 0 avatar
      danio3834

      One claim can have a lasting effect on premiums. Beware thy insurance company!

  • avatar
    Conslaw

    In many states, if not most, you aren’t liable if part of your tree falls on a neighbor’s car. It’s considered to be an act of God. There are some exceptions.

    This post brings up the age-old philosophical question: If a tree fell on a Buick,and there was nobody around to hear it fall, would a vinyl top still make the car ugly?

    • 0 avatar
      Thinkin...

      The “act of god” clause only applies if the tree is living. If the tree is clearly dead, any damage that results from it is the responsibility of the owner of the tree. Basically, allowing a dead tree to stand in a populated area is considered negligence, and indeed dangerous. It’s tempting fate – a dead tree is always going to fall down within a few years, so if it is near buildings, cars, or people, the owner needs to fell it one way or another. Yes, tree professionals are expensive, but if you choose to leave it to its own devices, the end result is your responsibility.

      • 0 avatar
        rodface

        Tree professional (arborist?): great career?

        • 0 avatar
          Toad

          Cutting and trimming trees is dirty, loud, dangerous work. All the dangers of being a lumberjack, along with using an industrial sized wood chipper and/or stump grinder, plus power/phone/cable lines, buildings, and cars to contend with.

          Not a great career for most people. Hard way to make a living.

        • 0 avatar
          el scotto

          It’s so difficult for shrubbist to find work in these tough economic times.

          • 0 avatar
            markholli

            Roger the Shrubber: Are you saying Ni to that old woman?
            King Arthur: Um, yes.
            Roger the Shrubber: Oh, what sad times are these when passing ruffians can say Ni at will to old ladies. There is a pestilence upon this land, nothing is sacred. Even those who arrange and design shrubberies are under considerable economic stress in this period in history.
            King Arthur: Did you say shrubberies?
            Roger the Shrubber: Yes, shrubberies are my trade. I am a shrubber. My name is Roger the Shrubber. I arrange, design, and sell shrubberies.

      • 0 avatar
        Skink

        ‘Act of god’ is BS. It doesn’t appear in current insurance policies.

    • 0 avatar
      revjasper

      When a tree dropped a very large branch across the roof of my first Saab 9000, the homeowner’s insurance wouldn’t pay squat. (Wife’s godmother’s house for Christmas. Hey, who wouldn’t want a new car for Christmas?) So, I was stuck with going through my insurance company. After $500 deductible, they gave me a whopping $1300. And they didn’t think that the thousands in maintenance changed the value at all, even with receipts. Ended up with a crappier Saab out of the deal, a new friendly mechanic and a new insurance company. So, not all that bad.

  • avatar

    Solid color roofs are hella whack. Blue? Red? Green? Please. Let’s get creative. I’m thinking camo. Leopard print. Zebra. Polka-dot. White canvas with a checkered repeating Andy Warhol Campbell Soup Can. The possibilities are endless, and all sure to increase resale value for the right buyer.

  • avatar
    segfault

    Did the limb fall on a neighbor’s car? Generally, your homeowner’s policy does not have a deductible on liability to others (e.g., for a dead tree dropping a limb on someone’s car), only on casualties to the house or contents itself. You wouldn’t be out of pocket, but it would still count as a claim, though.

    • 0 avatar
      mountainman_66

      segfault, you said it!
      people have a clear lack of understanding regarding when a deductible applies…..smash your own stuff, pay a deductible (simplified, of course). smash another’s stuff, no deductible. anything else is BS on the part of an ignorant consumer.

  • avatar
    Kyree S. Williams

    I don’t think you were liable for that one, mate. But since you’ve already bought the car, you really should be careful about welding new roof-panels in. It isn’t always structurally sound, and it looks as if the dent also affected the top of the side panel as well. You could try and pound the dent out, then put a vinyl cover on it, but since no one made a claim, it won’t show up on the history report…so be honest and disclose it to the buyer…

    • 0 avatar
      rodface

      A guy at my work makes a hobby out of “fixing up” salvage title vehicles. One example that stuck with me was a pair of X5s (one with front-end damage, the other a rear-ender) that he cobbled together into one shiny whip. He sold it, full disclosure. With that in mind, I don’t think anyone’s going to shy away from a bit of roof damage…

      • 0 avatar
        Kyree S. Williams

        Ha! I hope he didn’t literally cut the X5s into halves and weld the good parts together, because if he did, they’re probably rolling death-traps, lol

        • 0 avatar
          rodface

          Well, what do *you* think? :)

          • 0 avatar
            gator marco

            One of my good friends made quite a good living building 1 good car out of 2 totals. He would typically find a late model 4 door GM car that had been in a front end accident, and then find a matching car that had been stolen and stripped. He frequented rental car auctions in South Florida looking to make the match.

            Re: the vehicle in this article. I don’t know what state you are in, but your homeowner’s policy shouldn’t apply a deductible for damage to a third party. I do appreciate you wanting to keep a minor claim off your record. I don’t think this car is ready for the scrapper. Just put it up on some ad sites with full disclosure and you may get $1K or so, better than the $500 from the scrapper.
            If you are not in the repair biz, trying to hide the damage on this car is just opening you up to more hurt down the road.

  • avatar
    Lorenzo

    Well… that model/year is worth a couple hundred more than $2500, so if that’s what you paid and you want to recover the most with the least effort, sell it for $1800-$2000 as-is and let somebody else do the hooptie job on it. I’d also set aside some of that recovered cash to have the dead tree removed before you have to buy enough damaged cars to need a dealer’s license. Consider yourself lucky – a later model car and/or a less agreeable car owner could have made this event a VERY expensive experience.

  • avatar
    markholli

    @OP

    Keep us posted on how this project turns out. I would love to see the final product!

  • avatar
    daveainchina

    is this a late april fools post?

  • avatar
    CoreyDL

    I can’t see this car being valuable enough to A) buy B) fix or C) put much thought into creative solutions. Very few people want a 225K Buick with a landau. What, some 70 year old super poor man?

  • avatar
    Skink

    It’s an auto insurance comprehensive loss, not a homeowners property loss. Get a better agent if you were told otherwise.


Back to TopLeave a Reply

You must be logged in to post a comment.

Subscribe without commenting

Recent Comments

New Car Research

Get a Free Dealer Quote

Staff

  • Contributing Writers

  • Jack Baruth, United States
  • Brendan McAleer, Canada
  • Marcelo De Vasconcellos, Brazil
  • Vojta Dobes, Czech Republic
  • Matthias Gasnier, Australia
  • W. Christian 'Mental' Ward, Abu Dhabi
  • Mark Stevenson, Canada
  • Cameron Aubernon, United States
  • J Emerson, United States