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Tales of body shops, insurance and ICE rentals

Discussion in 'Model S' started by notice, May 3, 2014.

  1. notice

    notice Member

    Aug 7, 2013
    (Crossposting from the forums)

    (Here's a long ramble - I conclude at the bottom with lessons learned for both current and future owners if you want to skip the story...)

    Back on a cold and snowy Massachusetts February day, I parked my beautiful gray/tan/pano S85 (delivered in September and now with only 5K miles) at my new office building on my third day commuting there... I didn't realize at the time that I had parked directly under a connector bridge between two buildings. Fresh snow melted on the roof of the lightly insulated connector forming giant icicles that fell about 50 feet crashing down on my hood all day long.

    My hood had two large dents creasing the aluminum and numerous smaller dimples. Fortunately, no other body panels nor the glass roof were damaged.
    I brought the car to the only authorized Tesla body shop in Massachusetts (Hollis Auto Body in Ashland) and was told that the creased aluminum was not repairable - the whole hood assembly would need to be replaced, the metalic gray paint would need to be blended with the fenders to match, and that it would cost on the order of $4,000. I also talked with Tesla HQ and the local Watertown service center who all concurred that damaged body panels usually need to be replaced rather than repaired.

    The insurance adjuster (Peerless insurance, a subsidiary of Liberty) came out to see my car and I explained all of this to her - that there is only one authorized Tesla body shop in all of New England and that's the only place I would have a brand new $100K car with less than 5K miles repaired; that their posted labor rates are $125/hour; that the aluminum hood can not be repaired and must be replaced; that the metalic paint would need to be blended with the fenders; that it would cost approximately $4,000. She said it "shouldn't be a problem".

    A few days later, I get a check in the mail from the insurance company for about $160. Apparently, this was for a $660 estimate that they came up with (based on a repair and $45/hour labor rates), less my $500 deductible. Say what? I went ballistic. I had my insurance agent (with whom I have numerous personal and business policies with) to go to bat for me with the insurance company in addition to personally talking to the adjuster and the person at Peerless handling my claim. I told them that they were off by an order of magnitude, that they ignored the facts, that like it or not Tesla repairs may not have a lot of competition so prices might be higher than they want to pay, but they did insure the car - and asked them how they were going to pay the many thousands of dollars the repair will require without litigation.

    But apparently this is all "normal". It's a game the insurance companies and high end body shops play all the time. It's a big colossal waste of everyone's time because in the end the insurance company will pay for the repairs one way or another. What ended up happening is I got the written estimate from Hollis (which came to about $4,250) and gave that to the adjuster. The same adjuster on a different case was already clued in to the high labor rates at Hollis (they do other high-end aluminum cars). I think the clincher was the insurance companies research asking a New York shop what they would charge for a hood replacement and that was closer to $10K!). So, finally got their approval. Body shop was busy (we had a very snowy winter!) so I wasn't able to bring my car in until this past Monday for the repairs.

    Hollis and Peerless both work with Enterprise rent-a-car and the insurance would pay $30/day for a rental. I asked for a compact/economy car and was told I would get the equivalent of a Toyota Corola, fine by me.

    On Monday, I ended up waiting for Enterprise to bring me a car for over an hour (they said they were on the way for a few minute drive but it took them over an hour despite several phone calls, annoying). Finally, they deliver to me a Hyundai Tuscon SUV. Worse yet, it had only 2 bars on the fuel tank gauge. I told the guy I hadn't had to buy gas since last summer, and he said I could return it empty. Fine. I start driving away not realizing the Tuscon's shifter has, in addition to "D=Drive", also has a position where you manually shift it up or down gears. So I'm suddenly listening to really loud first-gear engine noise n this giant gas-guzzling (20mpg) noisy smelly ICE car. Ewwww! Yuck!!! Finally got it in drive but still, what an awful vehicle.
    Shortly after driving away in the rental car, I my two bars of fuel dropped to one bar. Swell. So I looked up the mpg and tank size of the Tuscon, tried to calculate how much gas I would actually need to make my commute and return the car to Hollis, and determined I needed about 2.0 gallons of gas. I pulled into a gas station and got two gallons. I still only had one bar on the fuel tank! What? A gas gauge that doesn't give you a precise measurement of remaining capacity or range? I have to just trust the math? What is this? :)

    Yesterday afternoon (Friday), I finally got back into my electric baby. Hollis did a beautiful job, the car looks brand new, the paint was perfectly matched, and they did a great job detailing inside and out.

    1. If you are in the process of buying a Tesla and haven't taken delivery yet, or if you are shopping around for insurance, talk to your local authorized Tesla body shop to find out what insurance companies they like to work with and give them the least trouble paying for repairs.
    2. I didn't head Hollis' advice on this but wish I did - arrange for the insurance adjuster to see your car at the body shop so someone at the shop can begin providing authoritative knowledge about what repairs are likely to be needed and what they cost, starts the negotiation right away - they can also get the adjuster on the phone with their supervisor to get over the high labor rates demanded by high-end shops who have to pay for specialized tools and training.
    3. Don't park under bridges in the winter.
    4. Enjoy the Tesla, it's even better when you've had to drive an ICE! I'm never going back!

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