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Monday, October 5, 2009

FENDER BENDERS

Suffering a fender bender can be a very irritating experience, particularly if it is to a new car. I'm not talking about a major collision, but some sort of ding, scrape or scratch most of us have suffered through. Years ago, my father would go bananas if the slightest thing went wrong with his car. I guess it's because he belonged to a generation who worked hard for their money and cherished the possessions they paid for through hard work. A lot of people who survived the Great Depression felt this way. If my mom was involved with a fender bender, she wouldn't hear the end of it for days. Today though, I believe most people have more of a cavalier attitude about such scrapes and don't appear to get very upset.

I tend to get upset if somebody hits me, but not to the degree my father did. I guess it's because I tend to drive defensively and avoid getting into situations where an accident is unavoidable. If I find myself stuck in traffic with too many Bozos, I look for ways to escape and find another way around it. So, for somebody to strike my car, I can't help but believe they are anything less than an idiot. If I happen to strike someone, which hasn't happened in a long time, I get upset with myself as I should have been paying closer attention to what was going on around me. Regardless of who caused it, a fender bender is a disheartening experience from the get-go.

I don't know which is worse though, the accident or having it corrected. After exchanging pertinent information with the other driver, and assuming it wasn't necessary to summon law enforcement officials, the real headaches begin. I have found my insurance company to be pretty good in terms of promptly paying claims and protecting my interests, but I can't say that about other carriers who tend to run you through a lot of red tape to get your car repaired back to its original condition. Getting a car fixed in a body shop can be quite expensive, and its rather unsettling when the insurance company low balls the estimate, meaning you will have to pay for the repair out of your own pocket (even if you were not at fault).

I guess the insurance companies have a right to be concerned as there are a lot of auto body shops who hear the dinner bell any time they learn an insurance company is picking up the tab. In these hard economic times, where automobile sales are down, the dealers have learned to make their money on repairs. Small scratches suddenly cost hundreds of dollars to correct, and repairing dings and dents have skyrocketed into the thousands of dollars. In other words, the body shops are charging exorbitant rates.

I also have to question how the automotive manufacturers are designing cars today. As a small example, a lot of the cars don't have the bumpers we were familiar with not long ago. Such bumpers could absorb and withstand a minor hit, but today bumpers are more recessed making it easier to hit the car and cause peripheral damage, such as to a light, a fender, or the trunk. Sure, we want our cars to be strong, but we also want something that will withstand minor fender benders, and won't cost an arm and a leg to repair.

If we lived in a perfect world, automobile manufacturers would build cars that would be more impervious to fender benders and cost less to repair, body shops would charge fair rates thereby causing our insurance rates to drop and, in turn, we could then afford to buy better cars. Sadly, we live in an imperfect world.

Such is my Pet Peeve of the Week.

Keep the Faith!

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Tim Bryce is the Managing Director of M. Bryce & Associates (MBA) of Palm Harbor, Florida and has over 30 years of experience in the management consulting field. He can be reached at timb001@phmainstreet.com

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