Have you ever struggled with a decision, and been unsure about what’s best to do? (Who hasn’t, right?) While this story talks about my car, it’s really about choosing what works for you — about having the guts to go for what you really want. Even if it doesn’t work out, you’ll at least know that you tried. And that’s worth quite a bit.
When my car hit a tree a while back, the rough estimate to repair it was $8K. I spent a lot of time debating between repairing it or replacing it. No one I talked to thought I should repair it. No one. Even though I loved the car and the alternatives I checked out were in the $30K-$35K range, most people thought I should either go buy a new car, or at least replace my current car with something similar. The body shop itself told me I should send it to the junkyard.
Not worth it
The common refrain was that it wouldn’t be worth it to repair it.
After all, it was old. (22 years old, to be exact.) It had a lot of miles on it. (About 227K.) I couldn’t even look up its Blue Book value online because of its age, but I’m guessing it would have been $900 or less. (However, the 90 Miatas we found for sale within the US ranged from about $3K to $15K.)
I also agreed that $8K would be kind of crazy to spend, but I wasn’t ready to give up. For me, it wasn’t just about the money.
So I talked to the shop about the possible worst and best-case scenarios. While my car didn’t have a lot of obvious mechanical damage, and the shop could only see one bit of structural damage, they couldn’t tell if other things might be wrong with it until after they made some of the repairs. They warned me that they could get into it and find a whole lot more wrong, and then I’d either have spent thousands of dollars for nothing, or would need to spend a whole lot more to keep going IF what they found wasn’t an irreparable safety issue. Best case, of course, was that it would be limited to the damage they could easily see.
So I spent like 10 days agonizing over this. I loved the car. I wanted to get it fixed. I literally cried at the thought of sending it to the junkyard. I knew I was being irrational, but…I still wanted my car back if it could be safely fixed. (Most of the obvious damages were things like needing a new fender, hood, and bumper.)
I probably called the body shop a dozen times. They assured me that they did things like this all the time on $40K+ cars, that things had changed in 20 years, and that it was perfectly safe to fix. Just expensive, and not worth it in my case. My normal mechanic told me the same thing. That it used to be a real pain and not always successful, but that with the new equipment they had available to use, it was fine.
I liked the Minis and a BMW, but…really wanted my Miata.
Not a life-changing decision
It finally dawned on me that this was not a life-changing decision, and it didn’t have to be an either or kind of thing. I could get my car fixed and get a new car, if I really wanted to. There’s no rule that says you can only have one car. I could put a few thousand dollars into my car and see where we were then. I could just keep walking. I could take my car home and let it sit there for “someday”. But whatever I decided, it didn’t have to be a permanent choice, so long as I didn’t send it to the junkyard.
And a lot of life is like that. Sure, you want to make the “right” decision, but…if you don’t, or if it turns out not to be the right decision for you, you can often change your mind. Looking at the worst-case scenario is a good idea to do in instances where you’re debating between options. In this case, worst-case would be that I’d have spent a few thousand dollars for nothing.
Well, I could live with that. I also knew that I would always regret it if I didn’t try.
So I decided to give it a shot.
I explained to the shop that I realized it wasn’t the logical thing to do, but that I really loved my car and wanted to at least try and get it fixed. What was the bare minimum we could do to see if there was other damage? How could we keep costs down? Could I fix some of it myself?
They pointed out that the biggest expenses were OEM or aftermarket parts, and professionally painting each individual body part. I sure didn’t need to do that. I could just get the whole car painted later at someplace like Maaco instead. They charged me their cost for parts, and worked with me to find used parts for it, going so far as to send someone after hours to meet me at a junkyard to pickup the parts. They agreed that I could surely fix some of the things myself. They gave me discounts on labor.
My car is home now. Its used replacement body parts still need to be painted to match the rest of the car, so it looks pretty rough, but it actually seems to run and drive better than it did before. It rattles a lot less, and drives straighter and smoother. I lucked out, and there was no additional structural or suspension damage. And I paid about $3500. Not $8K+. You can bet I will be recommending the shop to anyone who needs collision work done, and writing them some glowing reviews.
A happy ending, either way
Sure, this story has a happy ending. But while I would have been ridiculously sad if it hadn’t turned out well, I still would have been glad that I tried. That’s because I made the decision that was right for me. I know from past experience that every single time. I’ve gone with my head over my gut, I’ve regretted it. I went with my gut, and my gut said to give it a shot.
So sure, seek advice. Get opinions from experts and people you trust. But in the end, choose what works for you — whether or not that makes sense to the majority of people you know. They aren’t you. You’ll be glad you stuck with what was right for you.Posted in Emotions & Money on 05.21.12 with 20 comments.