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The day started out innocently enough.
I got dressed, had my breakfast and headed out on my 37 mile journey to work in my Tesla.
The weather was perfect, sunny and warm.
Traffic on the interstate, as usual, was fairly light and I was making good progress.
However in an instant it all changed.
The time was 8:15 am.
I was about 6 miles from my exit I and changing lanes to go back into the slow lane (after having just gotten into the fast lane allowing vehicles to enter the interstate from the entrance ramp).
My lane change occurred right before a slight bend in the road which, as soon as I cleared it, caused me to immediately face a multitude of objects strewn over the majority of the slow lane, including what looked like to be a large metal object.
I tried my best to brake and swerve my way out of the debris field.
Although I avoided most of the shrapnel, I could not escape it all.
My heart sank as I heard a huge thud and then, almost instantaneously, my car started to wobble tremendously.
Fortunately I was able to guide my car to right shoulder of the interstate (the slow lane for my international friends) and come to a complete halt.
I would be lying if I said that no curse words escaped my mouth as soon as I could collect my thoughts.
Apparently I was not the only victim as I had pulled in front of a small utility van that had also met the same fate.
It wasn’t long before a Fed Ex van joined us with tire damage.
Fortunately that was the last of the victims as by now traffic started slowing considerably as people realized what was happening ahead.
My initial actions.
The first phone call I made was to work and notified what had happened.
I said that it was highly unlikely that I would be able to show up for work in any reasonable amount of time and therefore asked my office manager to see if we could get the doctor who covers for us to come in (fortunately he was available and took over my schedule).
I then decided to go out and assess the damage, hoping that the damage was limited to a punctured tire.
My heart sank for the 2nd time that day as I saw that not only was the driver’s side front tire completely deflated with a large slice through it but that the actual wheel/rim was damaged as well.
There was a silver lining in that there was, as far as I could tell, no damage to the body of the car.
The main body of a Tesla is comprised of aluminum, which makes body work repairs expensive and quite time consuming.
Another issue with having a Tesla is that there is no spare tire (this is a space and weight saving maneuver).
They offer a portable fix-a-flat system which can allow you to still drive after a simple tire puncture.
In this instance no amount of fix-a-flat would get me back on the road again.
I therefore called Tesla roadside assistance who then arranged a tow truck to take me to the nearest dealership, which was about 45 miles away.
Around this time a state trooper arrived on the scene, removed the road debris from the interstate and then checked in on each of the damaged vehicles.
Dealing with insurance.
I thought the next best course of action was to contact my insurance company to notify them of what happened and to start a claim.
I was lucky to have an agent who was extremely helpful and helped me make some important decisions.
I knew I had a higher deductible for my auto insurance of $1000.
I told the agent that in my mind the repair cost would likely not meet the deductible but I had no idea as there could be hidden damage.
He told me that if I started an official claim and the repairs were indeed under the deductible, it would still count as an insurance claim and could effect my future premiums.
Because of this information I decided not to start a claim yet and would make the decision once I found out what the total amount for the repair bill was.
The tow truck fiasco.
When I first spoke with roadside assistance the agent told me that the tow truck company authorized by Tesla was about 90 minutes out and the charge would be $245.
She could sense my frustration at how long I would have to wait.
A few minutes later she called me and said that there was another tow truck company that Tesla used that gave a 60 minute time frame but would cost me $290.
I chose the more expensive option so that I could get the repair started that much faster.
I also called the Tesla dealership directly and explained the situation.
They took the vehicle details (tire size and type of rim) and fortunately they had both in stock.
Near the 60 minute mark I get a text from the tow company saying there is a delay and it would be 15 minutes more.
I definitely was not pleased as now it was approaching the time delay of the cheaper towing option.
Those 15 minutes passed and I called the tow company directly.
They assured me the driver was on his way and I was the next pickup.
At the 90 minute mark I still had no sign of the tow truck and was upset that the company that charged me more for a faster pickup now was going to be even later than the cheaper option.
More time passed and I called voicing my frustration.
The tow truck operator said she understood my anger and said she would be happy to cancel the tow truck and refund the entire amount.
Of course if I did that I would reset the timer completely to go with another company so they knew they had me where they wanted me.
I called Tesla roadside assistance again and they said they spoke with the company and said the tow truck was there at my location and just turning around.
This turned out to be a lie as it took another 20 minutes before the truck came, a full 2 hours of waiting in total.
I truly believe that unscrupulous tow truck companies falsely advertise their pick up times so that they could be chosen over companies that give a more honest estimate of arrival.
The Tesla agent assured me she was going to make a note of this in their records so that this company would not be recommended as highly.
Repairing the damage done.
Prior to arriving at the dealership I already had an estimate to repair the damage that I had identified:
- $400 for 1 tire (Michelin noise canceling tire to match the other 3)
- $900 for the aluminum wheel
With tax, etc it came to $1400.
My Tesla dealership has its service center typically packed.
There was no guarantee that I would be able to drive my vehicle home that day.
This would have been incredibly problematic as they already had all their loaner vehicles spoken for and only give $100 in daily Uber credits to customers.
Not only would the Uber credit not cover my ride home (I live about 65 miles away), but because I live in such a rural area I would not have the ability to get an Uber ride back.
The service tech assured me that he would do everything possible to get my vehicle fixed in time for me to go home that night (because of the towing fiasco I ended up arriving at the dealership right at noon and the service center closed at 5pm).
I used the Uber credit to go to a local restaurant where I happened to have some gift cards for (PF Changs).
I then went to the adjacent mall and just tried to pass the time walking around.
I soon got the message that my vehicle was repaired and I could pick it up.
I arranged for an Uber driver to pick me up and return me to the dealership.
Before the Uber drive could even arrive I got a phone call from the dealership.
Apparently the technician, when backing the vehicle out of the garage, heard a scraping/clicking noise.
On closer inspection they found that a piece of the damaged wheel/rim had somehow managed to puncture the driver’s side rear tire and that it now needed replacement as well.
Both tires had a tread depth of 6 so there was still a lot of life left had this not occurred.
That added a quick $400 more to the bill, bringing the Tesla repair to $1800 and the total expense to $2100 when you threw in the tow truck fee.
By the time I was dropped off by Uber the vehicle was ready to be driven home (around 3:30 pm).
Out of Pocket or Insurance Claim?
I knew the insurance company would not reimburse me for the towing (especially after I had canceled that add-on a year ago after realizing they would only pay up to $100/occurrence).
After the $1000 deductible I could expect to be reimbursed $800 if I went ahead with a claim.
For me I decided to pay everything out of pocket as I am sure in the long run I would pay far more than $800 in premium increases because of a claim.
I figure the amount would have to be much higher for me to think filing a claim would be a viable option.
Please comment below about what choice you would have made faced with the same factors.
Although it was an incredibly crummy way to start a day, causing me to incur a lot of unexpected expenses (including having to pay for someone to cover me), I still consider myself fortunate that the damage was only to the vehicle and not to myself or others.
Traveling at interstate speeds with a rapid tire deflation could have certainly caused a far worse outcome than the one I ended up having to endure.
Money and vehicles are replaceable.
There are other things that are far more precious that are not.
If you are in search of financial help, please consider enlisting the service of any of the sponsors of this blog who I feel are part of the “good guys and gals of finance.”
Even a steadfast DIY’er can sometimes gain benefit from the occasional professional input.
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