Staggering Estimate!

Staggering Estimate!

So my car was hit last week while parallel parked. I was at lunch when it happened but judging from the damage it looked as if the car in front of me backed up travelling at a speed of 5 mph or less. There is only one Tesla approved body shop in the Orlando, FL area and I just heard from my adjuster that their estimate for a new hood painted and installed is over $10,000! Naturally the adjuster is balking at that. The breakdown is approximately $2000 parts and $8000 labor. They will be negotiating and hopefully I will not be charged any more than my deductible. I may be without the car for I don't know how long - all this for a small dent that you could barely see! It would be nice to get a loaner but I am not feeling that either. I will not be bringing my Tesla to lunch anymore and parking on the street!

Skotty | 21 April, 2014

Insurance may indeed be a Tesla killer, if this is a real problem that Tesla can't find a way to mitigate. Insurance is scary. Insurance on a new tech car where the price is jumping around like crazy, and mostly going up, is extremely scary. Insurance rates going up by $100 a month or more? Can we add that to the cost of ownership calculator?

It's especially irritating for good drivers who don't get into accidents and don't try to ride insurance companies for every little ding. I have never in my life had to make a car insurance claim. Every dollar that goes out to the insurance company is basically the same as flushing it down the toilet.

This is the one thing that may block me from buying a Tesla. I hope it doesn't happen. But it can. If insurance ends up being $3k+ a year instead of the usual $500 I'm used to on my other cars, that's going to be a huge problem, and a huge consideration. Even worse if I hear reports of random premium increases.

I'm seriously thinking of writing a letter to Tesla about this. Maybe they need to take body repair in house and have Tesla service centers do the work. | 21 April, 2014

+1 Pungoteague_Dave

Agree 100% on getting parts to existing customers.

Skotty | 21 April, 2014

I'll just add that I hate car insurance companies. They are evil. They are the most evil businesses in existence. I hate them with a passion. Their rates are based on profiled demographics, and not much on personal responsibility of the person being insured. They discriminate in ways that would make many people feel sick, simply because it hasn't been made illegal to do so. Like higher rates if you live in a trailer home. I know. I used to work in the industry. They are deceptive in court cases. They raise rates for reasons outside of the insured persons control. In a difficult part of my life I was briefly unemployed and my car insurance company cancelled my policy because I was unemployed.

I'm getting angry just writing this. Oh how I hate them. I really really hate them. If there is a hell, I guarantee most car insurance executives are going there.

Tesla needs to deal with this carefully. Tesla is an honest company with pure intentions. Evil will attempt to destroy them, and few things are more evil than car insurance companies. I really believe that. It's a real danger.

Mathew98 | 21 April, 2014

Guys, let's relax and take a deep breath before y'all fall off the cliff. You have been reading issues from an owner's experience from a year ago.

There were issues with long wait time for MS parts initially due to the huge backlog of pre-ordered vehicles stretching back three years. TM has caught up with the old back orders last year.

Things are flowing quite differently now. The factory is shipping parts very quickly to local service centers. Sometimes they are shipped over night while the rest arrived in 2-3 days.

Insurance are like a box of chocolate, you never know what you're going to get unless you shop around and file a claim.

I have full coverage with $100/300K and $500 deductible for $1k per annum with Liberty Mutual in NJ. My liability only coverage for my hybrid which costs third of the MS costs 50% more. How does it make any sense?

TFMethane | 22 April, 2014

@ Rocky H: Delivery March 2013. Order placed 12/31/12. I asked about it, and they told me to call Solar City, but they didn't initiate the issue. In addition, when I took delivery, they didn't ask me what adapters I might need (I later found I could use a Nema 10-30). In retrospect, this was dumb and naive of me, but I guess I assumed it would charge ok on a regular port. I wasn't waiting 2 years for my car and voraciously digesting all the forum data.

I think my experience more closely approximates the normal Tesla buyer going forward... They won't have been planning for this wonderful day for 3 years.

TFMethane | 22 April, 2014

@Red Sage

Agree with @Mathew98, the statement about parts delay was from a year ago. I had the same problem with delays back then, and it's a fixed problem now.

I toured the Tesla Factory in Jan 2014, and they had ridiculous numbers of body panels of all sorts stacked up. It seemed like way more than was needed for even a weeks production. In the beginning, they were retooling and redesigning the factory line (you can see the changes in the magnetic tape stripes that the automated body trolleys travel on). If they made a change to one panel, they would have to throw out all of their existing production and stamp all new ones. No longer a problem.

They have a lot of it moving like clockwork now, and stamping parts is no longer the rate limiting step. It looked to me like welding is now the rate limiting step. As long as that's the case, you should have your parts available.

Brian H | 22 April, 2014

As someone commented, the injury and death costs are likely running much lower, and are the big ticket items. Much bigger than aluminum panels. And remember: NO engine or transmission repairs. Just that wee overworked starter motor!

ye | 22 April, 2014

Mathew98 said: "My liability only coverage for my hybrid which costs third of the MS costs 50% more. How does it make any sense?"

I don't know why it's more, but the price of the car isn't relevant for liability coverage. All that matters is how much damage or injury they expect you to cause to other cars or people.

TFMethane | 22 April, 2014

@ye In general, I agree with you. However, I think insurance companies use actual data on how much a particular car and a particular "type" of driver will cost them to determine the liability.

Indirectly that takes into account a bunch of things, including how recklessly people tend to drive a performance car (for example), and how much the "other party" to an accident might sue you for if they see your $100K car.

Rocky_H | 22 April, 2014

Oh, yeah, that is pretty early on, ordering in 2012, when they didn't have the processes as refined, I guess. I still don't get this part:
"I assumed it would charge ok on a regular port."
Did you try it on a regular outlet and it wouldn't charge?

Brian H | 22 April, 2014

And, per accident, I'm sure Prius occupants suffer far more injuries etc. than Tesla occupants!

tanj | 14 June, 2014

Slow speed collision in a driveway, dents in rear quarter panel and cracked light. The aluminum could not be reformed (it had hairline cracks where the dents folded). The paint was almost perfect. The other car: rubberized fender bent. Estimate on the Tesla: 17,000 (80 hours of labor), I don't know if the insurance company negotiated down.
The insurance company said they do not yet have enough data on repair costs so their rates are based on the class of car, however it looks like costs are higher than expected. So, expect rates to go up. We are currently in a honeymoon for rates which will be revised soon given data.
I can understand that aluminum is expensive but if you look around at other brands you can see they have been careful to design separate panels in the most vulnerable places. Perhaps Tesla could learn from looking at competitors with some thought to how repair costs influenced those designs.

PatT | 14 June, 2014

I've taken out both front fenders, separately,in collisions with deer. I found that the cost of the fenders is surprisingly cheap -- less than $600 each. What is expensive is the pearl white paint. I was told that for any other color, except pearl white and signature red, you can get the fender already painted. Then it is just a few hundred more dollars for the labor to R & R.

Repairing aluminum is not cheap but replacing parts can be a better way to go.

Another advantage that Tesla body repairs have is availability. It took less than a week to get the fenders from Fremont. Try that with a BMW.

lolachampcar | 14 June, 2014

Most other AL cars have expensive rear quarters as they are also labor intensive to swap (Porsche, Audi, etc).

Suturecabre | 14 June, 2014

All it takes is one bad accident and for example a $1 million claim for injuries, and it's the same cost of repairing a hundred MS fender-benders. That's why MS insurance costs should stay cheap....People in any Tesla accident come out unharmed, never suffer serious injuries or deaths, and are more careful with their cars in general. How many people on this forum (unlike other car forums) come here posting "DUDE I just smoked this bimmer on a side road, we hit 130mph son, too bad I didnt make him crash those cars are wack", vs. the more typical "THERE'S A SCRATCH ON THE FENDER!!! AAYYIIEEEEE!!!" I too would freak out at a scratch or door ding.

windex | 15 June, 2014

A lot of the arguments in this thread about cost of bodywork well parallel hull repair on steel vs fiberglass vs aluminum boat (yacht) hulls.

Aluminum is by far the easiest to maintain material unless you take hull damage which then drives the cost up astronomically. It's also vulnerable to blunt impacts more so than either alternate material.

The same is true for cars.

This is why most boats are fiberglass - emergency hull repair at sea is drastically limited with an aluminum hull. Anybody can weld steel. You can repair fiberglass yourself. Aluminum requires a first world country and experienced welders.

bobsim142 | 16 June, 2014

Reply to Windex on the cost of repairing aluminium. I have an aluminium 51 meter aluminium sailing catamaran moored in Phuket Thailand for the past 8 years. It is a luxury adventure live aboard charter boat that goes all the way to Burma. I have a lot of experience with aluminium and in fact it is far easier than steel to work with. However there is a little extra knowledge involved which I assume the body shops are employing to make it sound mysterious and exotic. That is probably because aluminium cars are mostly all high end and owners are supposedly rich and exploitable. Sheet aluminium is far more ductile that steel and can be pounded around and reshaped much easier. It is also easy to weld with an inexpensive TIG welder. Replacing a hood or a fender because of a dent is insanity. Painting aluminium is a bit different only because of the primer which must be a special etch primer. Its cheap. Once the primer is on its just regular fill, sand and paint bodywork. To give you and idea, I had to cut out a 9 X 4 foot hole in one hull after being hit on a mooring. It took the local machine shop one day to cut and shape a 4mm sheet of marine alloy and one day to do a perfect welding job including the inside framing. Total price, $275 US for mat and lab. The welder was a barefoot (literally) Burmese guy using a MIG welder. We are getting a little technical but with the increase in aluminium car bodies, I see a business opportunity here. :-) Before
2 days later
All finished in less than a week

BTW, anyone want to charter / dive in Thailand, we have some weeks open.

windex | 16 June, 2014

bobsim, good to know, but how do you patch and weld without risk of oxidation damaging the repair in the near term? I've seen some DIY aluminum hull repairs turn south 5 years later.

Otherwise, you are spot on about it being easy to do mechanically, but my understanding of the problem revolves around the above, which is also a problem on cars unless paint is stripped and the surface polished before welding.

Also, most of the reason hoods and fenders are replaced on cars if dented is because it pushes the safety of the repairs to the body shop doing them - the manufacturer is not going to call a repaired bumper safe, so unless it's an easy pop out, anything requiring welding will be a no-go. I would imagine Tesla has a similar opinion.

I once smacked an aluminum body Subaru WRX into a deer at 40mph (not intentionally, obviously, in about 7 inches of snow on the road), took out both passenger doors and the front passenger quarter panel. Hood dent popped right out, though. No way were the replaced items repairable, they looked like a soda can on the way out of the compactor. I think that bill wound up being about $5k (to the insurance company), but I lived in the sticks and labor was cheap. $4k of the $5k was pretty much just parts.

Consolation prize for the animal lovers? The deer got up and ran off (though probably didn't live much longer).

bobsim142 | 16 June, 2014

Windex. I understand your fear of oxidation. It is critical to follow the right protocol when painting aluminium. When you weld or reform a part, once it it welded you sand the alloy around the weld right up to the good paint. Then you apply an etch primer designed specifically for aluminium that actually eats into the aluminium for grip and eliminates any corrosion. Important to prime immediately after sanding bare aluminium because oxidation starts to set within an hour. One can also use an etching acid liquid to clean before priming. Using an aluminium designed primer for the second coat is also necessary. Works great. The paint on my boat is 9 years old and sitting in salt water and looks new. Like I said, there is a little knowledge needed but its all mature tech. One just need to follow directions.

llngoc | 16 June, 2014

It sounds like fixing a Tesla's body damage can be more expensive than a carbon fiber Lambo. LOL.

Al1 | 16 June, 2014

I think having more than one sites for gigafactory is a good strategy.

"Authorizing" more than one body repair shop in the neighbourhood might be just as good.

CollisionSam | 17 June, 2014

On our shop website we wrote a short blog describing some of the associated costs of aluminum repair. Check it out:

You can see there is a real reason it's more expensive, but not more expensive than any other aluminum body car (Audi A8, Porsche 991, Jaguar XJ).

EdwardG.NO2CO2 | 17 June, 2014

@CollisionSam, what is the logic for your suggestion insurance rates are not affected by higher aluminum repair costs(last stmt in blog). I hope you are correct!

Brian H | 18 June, 2014

Affected but not dominated. Personal injury expenses are far more important. Femurs cost more than fenders, and TM has 0 serious injuries or deaths do date. Insurers are very caring people (about costs).

Brian H | 18 June, 2014

typo: to date

EdwardG.NO2CO2 | 18 June, 2014

@brian H, " This does affect insurance rates in the long term, but when your car is in the shop, will you be more concerned with cost or quality"

His words not mine!