Ed was not entirely alert as he pulled into his parking space at the office Monday morning, which is probably why he pulled just a bit too close to the retaining wall, scraping the right side of his front bumper and knocking his fog light askew. To make matters worse, the impact jarred Ed’s coffee cup out of his hand. It landed on his lap, spilling hot coffee all over his brand-new tan slacks.

That evening at home, Ed tried spot removal treatment and numerous washings in a vain attempt to remove the coffee from his slacks, which cost $40. Ultimately, the stain did not come out, and he discarded the slacks. After all, nobody wants to go to work wearing pants with a big coffee stain.

But what about Ed’s bumper? After all, Ed’s car cost significantly more than his pants. Nevertheless, each day, he just glared at the scratched bumper before hopping in his car and trying to forget about it as he drove to work. If only Ed had a friend in the auto body repair industry. The friend could have explained three important facts to Ed, and Ed could have gotten his bumper repaired right away instead of driving around in the automotive equivalent of stained slacks for months on end.

Fact 1: “Minor” Damage Affects Resale Value
Even purely aesthetic damage can bring the retail value of a car down significantly, as Brian Malone, owner of Wholesale Auto Connection in Bend, Oregon, will attest. Malone says even a small scratch or a dent can take hundreds of dollars off a car’s resale value, while major damage, such as damage to a panel, can lower a car’s retail value well beyond what it would cost to simply repair the damage.

Fact 2: It Doesn’t Pay to Wait
It’s generally a bad idea to delay collision repairs. A few months after Ed’s incident at work, inattentive driver Sue backed into the other side of Ed’s bumper at the grocery store. Ed figured it was just as well he hadn’t gotten the earlier damage repaired – this way, Sue’s insurance would pay.

Not so, said Sue’s insurance adjuster, citing the “prior damage” limitation on Sue’s liability. Adjusters are trained to detect prior damage, so this adjuster was quick to note that the damage on the right side of the bumper could not possibly have been Sue’s fault…she backed into Ed on the left side. The estimate for the bumper was $1,800, and Sue’s adjuster remained adamant. So Ed finally picked up the phone to talk to his insurance agent.

In general, reporting claims promptly and repairing damages as soon as possible will save you unnecessary complications down the road.

Fact 3: Cheap Premiums Don’t Save You Money
Now, as luckless as poor Ed seems, he really does have good common sense. That’s why he has always been skeptical of the mega-insurers whose TV ads claim you can save lots of money by switching and paying lower premiums. Ed has always done business with a local, independent insurance agent because he understands the old adage: “You’ll know if you have good insurance when it comes time to file a claim.”

Ed’s story has a happy ending: he received a pleasant surprise when he finally spoke to his agent. Ed had forgotten that his particular collision policy does not surcharge for collision claims under $2000. So his premiums were not affected by the claim for the bumper. In fact, the repair only cost him the amount of his deductible –roughly the equivalent of a few pairs of slacks plus a few cups of coffee. Ed felt very sheepish for having waited for so long to have his bumper fixed, especially when he got so much enjoyment from stepping out of the house each morning & seeing his bumper restored to its former glory.

The Moral to Ed’s Story
Bob Hoar, an independent insurance agent at Oregon-based Northwestern Insurance Group, says that if you really want to save money in the long run, you should consider the “cost of not having the right insurance.” In the auto body repair industry, we see many instances of damage caused by under-insured or un-insured motorists, meaning that driving without protection against such motorists is taking a big risk that could cost you a fortune in the long run. So when you’re shopping for the best deal on insurance, be like Ed. Seek the guidance of a well-informed agent who can meet with you in person and explain your coverage options in detail.

Until next time, drive safely! And remember, if you ever have an “Ed” experience – forget about your pants. Call your insurance agent, then drive straight to Precision Body & Paint in Bend or Beaverton for a preliminary estimate – no appointment is necessary!

Author Ron Reichen is the Chairman of the Society of Collision Repair Specialists (SCRS) and owner of Precision Body & Paint.