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Crazy Frugal Car Story: Saving Big with a Hail Damaged Car

Updated on May 14, 2016

Could you sacrifice aesthetics for a reliable replacement vehicle at a well-below-trade-in price?

Although we've already made this choice, I can't say I'm not still asking myself this question, at least a little bit.

My husband got a fantastic deal on a hail damaged car a few years ago, and it was a great decision. He doesn't care about the appearance at all, and honestly, it's not that bad.

In some lighting, the hail dents hardly show. That's not going to be the case with mine, as you can see in the photos in this hub.

I can't help but wonder...

  • Will I get pulled over, looking like a hooligan driving down the highway?
  • Will I forever be safe from break-ins, given the appearance of this car?
  • Will my teenage daughter be forever embarrassed when I pick her up? (Better yet, will she be too embarrassed to borrow our cars?)

These two Subaru's are the only car's I've ever owned so far.
These two Subaru's are the only car's I've ever owned so far. | Source

How many cars have you owned in your lifetime?

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My Car Life So Far

I've only owned two cars. Both Subarus. I'm not big on change and I don't like to replace things that have served me well. No matter the item, there always a chance I'll use it again. But eventually, with most things, the economy of space must eventually prevail. So parting with a car is a very hard and bittersweet thing for me to do.

At the moment, though, only my husband is working. So the idea of replacing my Subaru Forester is financially overwhelming, in addition to being emotionally bittersweet. But repair costs are adding up, and the needed fixes far exceed the value of the car and our financial capabilities. This, in the end, is proving more overwhelming.

Single Income Family of Four

Technically, I haven't been out of work, until now, in over thirteen years, but I have been fighting Lyme disease for over four years, and have been diagnosed for one. I'd be working still if I hadn't had a relapse this spring, but now it's time to get all the way better, which is meaning joblessness.

Having loved my job and my career, and having built most of my identity around it, it is very difficult to not work. As stressful as finances are without working, they are only one of many difficulties. Primary among them is the feeling of not contributing.

The Desire to Contribute

It's hard not to try to find ways to bring money in. Most of these compete with the primary objective of recovery.

Accepting a very funny looking car is something I can do to contribute. Driving it home from Virginia is also something I can hopefully do. It currently, temporarily, resides there with my in-laws, who were very kind to pick it up for us from the auction lot in Pennsylvania.

"Little White Pennies From Heaven"

Hail Damaged Vehicle Consumer Benefits

  • Up to 50% off of blue book reported, more is possible
  • Often hail damage is only major damage to a new and/or reliable vehicle
  • Mileage is obviously unaffected--could end up with a low mileage vehicle otherwise far out of financial reach
  • Dealerships offer low prices, on-line auctions can be even lower


Personal Benefits

  • Blue book on this vehicle is about $8,000 more than what we paid
  • Trading in a dying 1999 Forester for a 2006 Forester with under 100,000 miles
  • Regaining features I love that have long since died
  • Keeping what I love about my car
  • Sparkling condition interior
  • Paying almost $8,000 less than we paid ten years ago for the '99 model
  • Buying a 2006 Forester for less than I recently saw a mid-90's Loyale listed for
  • Couldn't otherwise afford a reliable replacement vehicle



This option is probably not for you if:

  • You are expecting to repair it or have it repaired
    • If it could have been easily repaired it probably would have been
    • The costs of having it repaired have probably been determined to exceed the worth of the vehicle
  • You care about how your vehicle looks (as you are probably out of luck, as per first bullet)

Do your homework in terms of impacts to factors such as:

  • Resale value
  • Insurance coverage options/impacts
  • Type of title (ie salvage) and ramifications
  • Degree of actual damage to the specific vehicle

Family Specific Challenges

We went through an online auction and an online broker for this purchase. The car was from Florida, the auction was in Pennsylvania, and we are in Montana.

When you win an auction, you have the option of paying shipping fees to have the car brought to you. This seems to be what most purchasers do, as the auction wasn't entirely accustomed to having someone out of state making other arrangements.

My in-laws live close enough that they were able to pick up the vehicle for us. Due to the lack of registration and the badly broken windshield, my father in law rented a Uhaul trailer and pulled the car to their house in Virginia.

Auction Lessons

  • Fees add up quickly, especially with a broker
  • Not all states require a broker
  • There are fees for leaving the vehicle on site for more than a few days
  • The number of days may not be accurately explained to you, in which case you may pay more in fees
  • If you pick it up by the time you are told, but don't know you have outstanding fees, the title you've been waiting for may not yet be en-route

Driving the Vehicle Home

  • My health makes this drive a bit iffy
  • Kids will be stuck in the car for six or so days
  • Total cost of vehicle will depend on how cheaply we can drive home
  • Flying camping gear to Virginia will be challenging (the flight is free, though, through my husband's summer job)

The Road and Route Ahead

Hardy, VA:
Hardy, VA 24101, USA

get directions

Columbia Falls, MT:
Columbia Falls, MT 59912, USA

get directions

The road ahead....
The road ahead.... | Source
Crazy Frugal Car Story, Hub 2
Crazy Frugal Car Story, Hub 2 | Source

The Road Ahead & Hubs to Come

Crazy Frugal Car Story

Whether I am able to drive this car back home, or whether we have to wait until fall for my husband to be able to drive it, I plan to chronicle the outcome.

We saved money by not paying shipping fees, but the amount will depend on how cheaply we can drive it home. The inconvenience or hidden costs will be part of assessing our overall online auction strategy when all is said and done.

We won't really know the true and final cost of the car until it is parked in our driveway.

Memory Lane

This past week, I've tried to make some final memories with my beloved dying Subaru. We've had a few beautiful days on the road so far toward this end. But there are also the years of memories with this car to cover before this bittersweet transition. Hub 2 will soon cover these needful aspects of our car story before the big drive.


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