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2500-mile trip results in scratched Model S


2020 Model S LR+ Owner
May 3, 2015
New Mexico, USA
I recently attended a conference in California, and decided to drive my S (why? because Tesla) the entire way instead of doing the sensible thing like, oh, flying from New Mexico to San Jose.

Anyway, I drive all the way out there, staying overnight in Mojave, CA near the supercharger there, and get to the hotel in Santa Cruz where the conference is happening, park the car, enter the lobby, check in, get my room key, and walk back to car.

That is when things got weird. As I am walking back I see some lady standing next to my car, writing on a sheet of paper. IMMEDIATELY I thought, oh crap, she's leaving a note for the owner of the Model S she just hit. Oh crap oh crap oh crap. So I ran over and went up to her and said, hi, um, leaving a note for me? And she apologized and said she just hit my car while parking her big Nissan Pathfinder ICEmobile.

Long story short, she hit the right rear corner of the car, both the bumper and side panel. Lots of scraping and scratches, no dents.

Here's the photos I took immediately (note the car was really dirty after a 1200-mile drive through snow, road salt, dirt, rain, sleet, slush, mud, etc):


In this next photo, the finger is pointing to a "pit", a hole in the plastic or whatever the bumper is made of, that is new and caused by the impact of the scrape with the Nissan Pathfinder:

This is the parking lot at the hotel where I parked. You'd think it'd be easy enough for anyone to navigate. Nope.

This is the diagram I created for the other driver's insurance company, with whom I immediately filed a claim (I'm the blue car):

Now, in New Mexico, there is only one body shop in the entire state that is certified by Tesla, and it's one in Albuquerque, an hour away. I've tried for days to set up an appointment for an estimate and got nowhere, no replies, no return emails, nothing. So I emailed the CEO of the company and he replied saying someone will be in touch on Monday. We'll see.

I'm curious: what do people think? Is this a buff-the-surface-and-all-will-be-well kind of job, or do they have to put on new bumpers and side panels?
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P85 & M3
Feb 28, 2012
Irvine, CA
Are you sure the rear quarter isn't dented? Use a good light from different angles to make sure the panel is smooth and even. If the panel is clean then it looks like a basic paint spray and blend job. Any shop should be able to do it.

I would even go to a detailer to get an opinion if they could touch up and correct the paint. I'm assuming you didn't have protection film on your bumper?


Jun 7, 2013
San Francisco
Sorry to hear and see the damage! I don't think they'll replace your bumper. They will just buff, repaint it and will order the parking sensors if it's damaged. Most likely, they will remove your bumper and check the inside if there are internal damage.

Go with the certified Tesla body shop. As long as you're insured, you should be good.


Active Member
May 13, 2012
Sorry to hear this. At least the woman had the decency to leave you a note. No one did that when they gouged out my wife's quarter panel at Whole Foods. (Good people there.)

It's hard to tell from your photos. Often in these minor accidents there is just paint transfer from one car to another. In this case, you can try some mineral spirits, TarX or Goof Off to see if any of the paint is removable. A quick run with a dual action polisher and some polish (first) or compound might take the rest of it away.

If you clean the paint and run your fingernail across the scratch(es) and if your fingernail catches any of them, you may need to have the area wet sanded and/or repainted.
My sentiments exactly - I'm sorry that your car was bumped, even with the insurance fixing it up the incomvenience of it all is a right royal pain in the "rear quarter".

Accidents do happen and at least the lady had the decency and honesty to leave you a note

<rant> I'm in Australia and it appears that if no one is around to see you scrape someone then you just drive off ... I've had it happen in Sydney, Melbourne and Perth - I'm not saying that Australians don't own up to things ... just that there seems to be a trend and it makes me justifiably annoyed </rant>


Active Member
Jan 31, 2014
Brea, Orange County
I'm curious: what do people think? Is this a buff-the-surface-and-all-will-be-well kind of job, or do they have to put on new bumpers and side panels?

I went to different shops here that are Tesla certified. I had a similar damage. If the quarter panel needs to be replaced it's anywhere from $8 to $12k. Not sure how much the rear bumper is. I remember reading someone here posted his was $1500 to be replaced. They said it takes about 10 days to fix.


2020 Model S LR+ Owner
May 3, 2015
New Mexico, USA
So the body shop finally got back to me after many emails and calls and days of waiting.

One thing they're claiming is that the insurance company is only offering $21.63 per day for a rental car. That only pays for the tiniest sub-compact economy car in Enterprise Rent-a-Car's inventory -- something I probably won't even be able to fit in (I'm 6'4").

This seems rather unfair. Tomorrow morning before I do the hour trip to the body shop, I'm going to talk to the insurance company and see why they can't get me something a little bit more reasonable as a rental considering what kind of car THEIR client crashed into and admitted to crashing into.


Well-Known Member
May 3, 2015
Snohomish, WA
Ughh, that sucks. Hopefully the repair is timely.

I also went to Santa Cruz (among other places) during the week of thanksgiving, and had something similar ALMOST happen. In my case I was lucky in that I saw the person pulling out and immediately knew they were going to hit my car. So I ran up to it and banged on the window to get the driver to stop. Even after he stopped he acknowledged my complaint, but kept backing up. So I had to hit the window again to convince him to drive forwards (to correct it) then back out properly.

I was so thankful I made it out of California with my car intact.

There was that incident on Hwy 1 after I had stopped to take some pictures
There was the craziness of Hwy 17 to get down to Santa Cruz. People we're averaging at least 15MPH over the speed limit on that twisty road during the darkness of night. Sure it was fun, but an extremely narrow lane at times.
There was trying to navigate massively busy/crazy parking lots to get to superchargers at Outlet malls on Black Friday (I picked black Friday of days to drive home).
There was my own ineptness in failing to make sure the supercharger handle was secure when putting it back. It wasn't so it fell on my rear lights scratching it slightly

Technically my car did experience some paint damage during the trip, but that happened on the start of the trip in my house. So maybe that was a bad omen. I double pressed the wrong end of the Tesla key and it opened the rear (I wanted to open the frunk). When the rear opened it hit my garage door (a metal support piece). I tried to order touch up paint, but it's not available yet for the deep metallic blue (or any of the newer colors).


2020 Model S LR+ Owner
May 3, 2015
New Mexico, USA
Called the insurance company this morning regarding the tiny per-diem rate they were going to pay for a rental car, the tiniest econo-car Enterprise offers. They were reasonable and upgraded me to a full-size car, fully paid. Which translates to about twice the per-diem rate.

I travel down to the body shop, wait for a long time, guy shows up, and he says the "Tesla specialist" isn't there and doesn't come in until later in the day (WHY didn't he tell me that when scheduling the appointment!?) and wants me to sign a release giving the car (and the keyfob) to the shop. I said, nope, I am not going to leave here without someone taking a physical look at the car, because I don't believe it's going to require any parts orders and I don't want to discover I won't have the car until perhaps mid-January. So the guy follows me out, inspects the car, confirms my suspicions that it's cosmetic repairs only.

He told me what they'd do is remove the bumper, buff it, heat it up (?), to re-shape it and repair the little pitted hole that's part of the damage, repaint, and it'd be good as new. No new parts. He said it'd be ready Thursday. So I said ok and he took me to the Enterprise rental desk. (Nice little keiretsu body shops and rental car and insurance companies have going on, I tell ya.)

Happily, the Enterprise system reflected the upgrade to full-size that the insurance company had offered in the morning. The guy asks what happened to my car, I tell him, and tell him it's a Tesla, and he brightens up and goes, "Ohhhhhhh! A Tesla! Oh my, a fine, fine car!" and then right on the spot offers to upgrade me AGAIN to an SUV. (Basically, they had very little inventory outside, and it was either the SUV or a VW Passat, and I went with the SUV, a generic midsize no-name Chevy model.)

No here's how the visit ended:

Get in the SUV, start driving out, notice some lady has just pulled in REALLY REALLY close, as in inches, to my Model S driver's door, and she gets out and if she wasn't so tiny (90 lbs?) no way would she have been able to not hit my car. I park, go in to the body shop, and ask if they could please move my car out of the customer parking area now, and not later, as I'm really nervous it's going to get dinged right in your own parking lot, given how tight the spots are and how bad the drivers are.

I wait a minute, then a guy comes out and carefully squeezes into my car, thanks to the lady's car being parked so close. Now he's in the driver's seat, fidgeting around. Lights go on. Lights go off. The REAR LIFTGATE OPENS! Lights go on again. Real liftgate closes! Lights go off. He's flailing around inside, clearly has no idea how to operate a Tesla.

I'm watching the whole thing. So I go over, he says, "I don't know how to start it." (!!!! Only Tesla-certified body shop in all of New Mexico!!!! :cursing::crying::eek:)
I show him how to operate the car. He rather sheepishly rolls away, to points unknown.

I pull out onto the street and realize the gas tank is EMPTY, as in FUMES. Sigh. Stopped at one of those CO2/pollutant distribution retail establishments, put my credit card into the kiosk, plugged the pump into the SUV, and listened as highly flammable liquids poured into the mysterious chamber at the bottom of this ICEmobile, for imminent, hopefully-controlled combustion moments later, followed by release of greater-than-zero pernicious emissions from the tailpipe. I felt like I'd traveled back in time.

Now it is hours later, I am home. I just checked the car. Remote control still on, hours later. Car interior 72F. Nice. It must be inside, cuz it's cold as hell out. I'm guessing it's safe for tonight.....
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Aug 20, 2015
@tinm, great narrative. Sorry to hear about the damage to your baby. I hope the repair goes better than the other repair stories I've read about on the forums.

Mark Z

Active Member
Mar 12, 2013
North Orange County
Last year I had a one mile per hour tap in the same location. Looks similar. Doesn't take much to scrape the paint.

My clear bra has saved the majority of the car from damage. Unfortunately, Tesla Motors didn't put clear bra on the rear corners when it was a factory option. That learning lesson will help me when the next car needs protection applied.


2020 Model S LR+ Owner
May 3, 2015
New Mexico, USA
Update and closure on this whole thing.

On Thursday night they left the car out with the sunroof open a little bit. Outdoors. Check out the interior temperature:


I picked up the car on Friday. Interior has a nasty industrial glue smell, real strong VOCs. Still there on Sunday.

Total amount came to $1369, all paid by the other driver's insurance. They had to take the bumper off as well as the rear right quarter panel, heat, reshape, buff, paint, and clearcoat both. Happily, that kinda forced them to wash the car too, so it looked great when I picked it up.

What was once again disconcerting is that the guy who went to fetch the car out of the lot and bring it over to me for deilvery, could not figure out how to operate the Tesla. Didn't know how to "start" it, or put it "in gear," or in reverse. Not only embarassing but geez, it's dangerous. Imagine them stupidly suddenly moving the car, hitting something nearby, IN THE PARKING LOT OF A BODY SHOP. Sigh.

Anyways, all done.

I tell ya, it was WEIRD getting back into the car, after spending a few days driving a gas-guzzling Chevy ICE SUV. The clean, futuristic feel of the inteior dash and screens of the Tesla... why it was like doing a first-time test drive all over again. I was like, THIS IS MY CAR? WOW! COOL! and had a Tesla grin the whole way home.
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