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Stop Trying to Make Your Vehicle Perfect, Just Learn to Live With It As Is

Once a vehicle has aged a few years and has been used all this time, it might have a few minor scratches in some spots. You might feel a natural tendency to have them fixed. That makes sense, especially if you have the kind of insurance that covers this, as such policies exist in many countries. If the vehicle is older, though, think twice before fixing every single scratch on it.
This is what happens to paint on a plastic part after several vehicles bump into it while attempting to park 13 photos
Photo: Sebastian Toma
Damage done to 2003 MG ZT-T by James MayDamage done to 2003 MG ZT-T by James MayRepairing damage done to 2003 MG ZT-T by James MayRepairing damage done to 2003 MG ZT-T by James MayTesla Model Y made in China also presents paint issues. And it is not the only one.2021 Tesla Model S Plaid detailing by Chicago Auto Pros2021 Tesla Model S Plaid detailing by Chicago Auto Pros2021 Tesla Model S Plaid detailing by Chicago Auto Pros2021 Tesla Model S Plaid detailing by Chicago Auto Pros1965 Ford Mustang1965 Ford MustangTesla Model Y with serious quality issues
While this may seem strange, there is a reason behind what I am writing here. First, you must be realistic with yourself and the world we live in. Many of my friends who are enthusiasts have the same thoughts of fixing every small scratch on a vehicle, and this is done with a considerable expense on their behalf.

As I have explained to them, it may be an idea to stop attempting to obtain perfection with a used vehicle. It will be expensive, will grind your gears, and the person who buys it from you might not appreciate your effort at all.

Instead, just clean it regularly, maintain it to ensure it runs and drives as it should, and detail it once a year or so. Do not go further than that, though, as it may be pointless.

Car enthusiasts are a bit different than everyone else on the road, as they are looking to have their vehicles be at their best and to express themselves with their vehicles.

Damage done to 2003 MG ZT\-T by James May
Photo: Screenshot from YouTube video by Drivetribe
That is fine, but you must understand that many other people use vehicles as appliances, and they have limited (read no) respect for your effort in having an older vehicle perfectly maintained and looking shiny.

In other words, while it is admirable for every enthusiast to have cars with a perfect finish, and looking like they just rolled out of the factory lot, it might be a waste of your money, as well as something that few people will appreciate, but even fewer would be interested in paying when you decide to sell your vehicle.

That is one of the important points of the story – attempting to make a used vehicle perfect by fixing every single scratch and imperfection will be costly. Furthermore, you may not see that being transformed into value when you sell the car.

Another critical point that may be painful for enthusiasts to hear, but is reality, is that not all vehicles are collectible. Most are just run-of-the-mill models, and you should just enjoy using your car instead of beating yourself up mentally over the fact that it has a few scratches that will not go away with detailing.

2021 Tesla Model S Plaid detailing by Chicago Auto Pros
Photo: Chicago Auto Pros
The same goes for a bent panel that cannot be repaired through PDR procedures, and it requires a respray, which leads to more costs, and there goes your full factory paint finish.

The dilemma will be if it is best to leave a vehicle with a scratch on it, repaint the panel and accept the fact that your vehicle will no longer have its factory-applied paint on all panels, or what to do from there.

However, while you are just overthinking everything, as I admit to having done in the past and still occasionally do, others will either attempt a fix (if it is cheap enough) or will leave it be and live their lives.

Sometimes, it is easier to live in the second category, as you no longer carry the mental burden of having to worry about parking your perfect vehicle at the supermarket or mall parking lot.

2021 Tesla Model S Plaid detailing by Chicago Auto Pros
Photo: Chicago Auto Pros
I am referring, of course, to that special category of "vehicle operators," as “drivers” may be a compliment here, who hit other people's vehicles while parking and then just drive away. You know them, and some of you have sadly encountered a few of them. That is what I was referring to when I mentioned being realistic with the world we are living in.

Most people do not care about other people's rides, and many will drive away after scratching someone's car if there is nobody to stop them, and there is no way to identify the perpetrator. Sadly, in many cases, it works out for them. It is you, the enthusiast, who must live with a scratched car.

Somehow, all the vehicles I ended up buying had a scratch here and there, and I blamed myself for being too cheap to have the element resprayed and fixed.

Ironically, once I did that to one of the vehicles I acquired, the “weight” of the price I paid for a full respray of a vehicle was on my shoulders every time I parked it somewhere, as I know someone might damage it with their careless behavior.

2021 Tesla Model S Plaid detailing by Chicago Auto Pros
Photo: Chicago Auto Pros
So, for peace of mind, I just park away, with at least one or two sides “covered” by the parking structure or other objects. Many of you do the same, but I have also decided against going back to a workshop, handing over the keys, and asking for perfection.

I already did so years ago, over a few scratches here and there, and the result was expensive. It turned out to be a burden, so that is why I am not too enthusiastic about doing it all over again or recommending others to seek this perfection in an older vehicle that, realistically, is not a collectible. There are many more important things in life, and I suggest focusing on those instead.
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Editor's note: For illustration purposes, the photo gallery shows images of various vehicles that are no longer perfect, but can be enjoyed "as is" without any issue.

About the author: Sebastian Toma
Sebastian Toma profile photo

Sebastian's love for cars began at a young age. Little did he know that a career would emerge from this passion (and that it would not, sadly, involve being a professional racecar driver). In over fourteen years, he got behind the wheel of several hundred vehicles and in the offices of the most important car publications in his homeland.
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