My Hail-Dented Badge of Honor

Hail about this size damaged my car

If there’s one thing I’m distinctly not known for, it’s my knowledge of cars. My dad equipped my brother and I with a lot of information and life lessons while we were kids. However for all his hard work, handiness in general is somewhat of an enigma in our family. So it’s a bit surprising that despite not being known for my knowledge of cars, one of my defining possessions is my 2011 Hyundai Sonata.

First(ish) Car

I purchased my Sonata, used, in 2010 with about 7000 miles on it. I got a super shitty car loan; I didn’t know better, my credit was ‘meh’ due to my credit card debt from college, and I needed a new car anyway.

After the first few regular payments I already got sick of it. The thought of a car draining my bank account for the next 6 years (yeah, I got a six year loan…) just didn’t sit well with me. I aggressively – but non-systematically – started throwing extra money toward paying the loan off. Having over $30k in car and credit card debt didn’t feel good, and was my first ‘aha’ moment.

I’d had other cars, but this one was special. In just under a year and a half I had paid off the entire $22k balance (plus interest) and now I could finally drive something that was mine.

The Sonata wasn’t my parent’s. It wasn’t a hand-me-down that my brother previously drove. For the first time, I had my own car, and I took a lot of pride in aggressively paying the loan off.

Hail Storm of the Century?

Back in 2013 I was living in Minnesota, but was a month away from my move to California. It was a nice August morning and I was out running part of my brother’s business (he runs independent movie rental kiosks).

As I was driving to one, the weather – which had deteriorated throughout the afternoon – took a turn for the worse and suddenly a huge billion-dollar supercell was encroaching on my otherwise leisurely drive. Before I knew it, I was in the middle of a hail storm going 65mph. Except this hail was not the sort of stuff you drive through.

No, this was the sort of hail that breaks through windows.

Not exactly how I’d want to be driving…

I took cover at an underpass, but my poor Sonata didn’t come out unscathed. My poor Sonata got hit a whopping 40 times by hail ranging from the size of a marble to about a golf ball before I got to the nearest underpass. I got lucky that my windows didn’t smash out – that picture above was less than 2 miles from where I was driving.

The Insurance Claim

After the storm passed and I went ‘home’ – I was staying with some good friends at the time – I worked on filing an insurance claim. Being such a large storm, my insurance company already had a phone system set up to process insurance claims.

The process in general was easy. Go to their inspection center, let someone look at my car, and then pay the deductible and get money.

And that’s what I did.

I was lucky to have my windows intact – I was even luckier that none of the hail even chipped the paint, somehow. To hammer out all of the dents would be about a $1300 job, which means after my deductible I was looking at a check for a bit over $800.

Instead of getting them fixed, I left the hail dents in and pocketed the money. I only got this money because I’d paid off my loan quickly. If there was still a loan out on the car, it’d have been sent to the shop, and the insurance company would have paid the shop directly.

The plan is to drive this car into the ground, so I’m not particularly worried about resale value. Since none of the paint chipped, there shouldn’t be an issue with rust.

And besides, it’s a lot easier to tell which car in the lot is mine now. 🙂

One-Car Family

The Sonata has treated us well. It’s survived two cross-country moves, packed to the brim. I drive it a grueling 27 miles each way to work (ugh). Our house is awesome, but the location relative to my job leaves much to be desired.

We’re down to a one-car family. It’s not always easy but the thought of owning another car is not appealing. Sure it may be slightly more convenient, but cars are sooo expensive. We’ve been making one car work for over a year now. I don’t see any reason to add another vehicle to the mix until our situation changes.

My Car Is A Reminder

The hail dents are a constant reminder of that stupid car loan. None of them would be there anymore if I hadn’t taken some ownership over my financial life. It’s a reminder that I am in control of what I do. I’m in control where I spend my time and where I spend my dollars.

Of course, I don’t make these decisions alone anymore. Over the years, my car has helped transform my relationship with Kristin.

The Sonata has great memories tied to my two cross-country moves.

It may just be a car, but it’s been with me through thick and thin. It serves as a testament to how I’ve evolved over the past seven years. I’m excited to see how the next seven pan out as well.

Sure, it may be just a car. But sometimes there’s more to it than that. Sometimes weird things in your life turn into a badge of honor.


What serves as a reminder in your life for something you’re proud of?

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  1. Wow, you paid off the car loan of $22K within 18 months, that’s great. Congratulations! I had the car loan once, and never liked the debt. Back in 2000, the interest was pretty high, and I refinanced it later. Once paid off within 3 years, I felt a huge relief. Yes, finally that became my car, no creditor involved.

  2. Hey Dave,

    We’re a one-car family too, and think it’s awesome. We supplement with Uber and Lyft, and still spend less than half of what a second car would cost. We’ve found that it’s pretty easy to make it work that way, unless each person needs relatively long-distance transportation every weekday.

    1. Yeah for sure. Right now it’s easy because we’re in the same direction: so I drop Kristin off in the mornings, and then pick her up after work. She gets into the office earlier than she needs to, but it all works out.

      I figured it’s $75/mo just for insurance, and we don’t even spend that on Uber/Lyft for this “inconvenience” so it’s definitely worth it!

    1. Haha all of them are POLICE it’s great 🙂 Well except those undercover guys…

      On the topic of vanity plates, probably the best one I’ve seen was “WTF M8”

    1. Yeah, car payments are the worst. We’re saving up for our next car when we eventually need one, but I’d like to avoid buying one for as long as possible. Actually if we could avoid it until electric SUV’s are more popular, I’d be fine with that… :)

  3. My car is a reminder of being “proud” or to at least stay humble and focused. Although our income has increased over the years, I have stuck with an older car and want to continue to do so.

    1. Nice! People are still surprised that we’re a one-car family – even if we get a newer car at some point, sticking with just one will be a huge accomplishment! But I’ll be sad once I’ve got to give the Sonata up…

  4. Haha! I knew you were a cool dude, Dave. Nothing like hail to add character to a car. Here’s one for you. I love my 2004 Camry. I’m at the point now, though, where I really don’t care what anyone does to it. In fact, two years ago, a young lady backed into it while Mrs. Groovy and I were just about to exit a bank parking lot. The damage was minor so I told the young lady to forget about. Mrs. Groovy wasn’t upset, but she was perplexed by my kind gesture. “Don’t you want to fix the dent?” she asked. “Hell, no!” I said. “The dent makes it look mean.” She didn’t get it, of course. I then had to explain the Slap Shot reference. Sigh. Marriage is hard when your spouse is not well versed in Hollywood’s greatest films. Great post, my friend.

  5. Totally with you on not fixing the car damage. Up until last year I was primarily driving a 1998 Honda Civic that wouldn’t die. I kept humiliating my teenage children by picking them up at school in it. The older it got, the more I loved it! I even learned how to tune it up myself. But, I finally splurged a little and bought a used Infiniti convertible (in cash) and my husband literally gave the Civic to some car guys at work. Sigh.

    1. Haha that sounds like some great humiliation, good job! 🙂 But giving the car away…hope he at least asked for some beers haha

      Thanks for reading and commenting Kat!

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