Late last year, Claire’s car got a bit banged up in a fender bender:

Slightly Damaged Wagon

Not major damage, by any means, but the repair estimate was over $4,200. Of course, we hadn’t opted for the collision insurance on this car, because we were being frugal. D’oh!!!

The body shop blamed the high price on the fact that Suzuki Esteems are a relatively rare car and as a result there’s no used parts availability. This forces the purchase of new parts from the dealership, which accounts for about $2400 of the estimate. Given a car like it in good condition is only worth about $5,500, it didn’t seem to make much sense to pay full price to fix it.

I found it supremely vexing that we had a car that was mechanically sound, other than a hole in the radiator and a missing headlight, and it’s now a candidate for the junk heap. The hood, the bumper and the other damaged parts are essentially cosmetic. The fenders are undamaged, and the engine still purrs like new. It’s such a waste. Wreckers would pay about $1000 for it, if we’re lucky.

Since we were in a position to lease a new car for Claire, we did so and decided to see if we could patiently wait for used parts to come up to fix the Esteem. I would do most of the bolt-on part replacement myself, and let a body shop handle the prep and paint work on the replacement hood and bumper. Then, if all went according to plan, we could sell the car for a better price and recoup the repair money and then some. I’ve not spoken to every single salvage yard in the city yet, but it would seem that folks are not junking their Esteems. Ironically, we had sought a used Esteem because of their excellent reliability ratings.

I even tried placing an ad on the New Orleans Craigs List, thinking maybe someone had a flood-ruined Esteem they’d be willing to let go cheap. (All the parts I need would be undamaged by submersion in water.) No response.
Several months later, I face a dilemma. Should I:

  • Put an ad in the Auto Trader to try to sell it as-is?
  • Part it out myself and sell the pieces on eBay?
  • Put a want-ad in the paper for an Esteem being sold for parts?
  • Call a wrecker and take what they offer?
  • Keep waiting and hoping for used parts to come up?

I’ve been watching eBay for used Esteem parts, and I saw a bunch get listed and not sold, which suggests the demand isn’t great.

We’ve got an nearly good car sitting in the driveway taking up space, but undrivable in its current condition. We’re seeking closure on this episode but don’t want to to see $4,000 go up in smoke. The easy solutions would mean just letting that money disappear.

Anyone want to sell a junked Esteem with a good front end?

Anyone want to buy a slightly damaged Esteem?

What to do, what to do?