Once I had the repair estimates I checked the book value of the car. It’s about $5,900 without damage and about $4,500 as is. There are four plausible alternatives we can choose from.
Don’t repair the car.
Try paintless dent removal.
Replace the doors.
Have it repaired by a bodyshop.
Another big question which will influence the decision is whether my Mom wants to keep the car or sell it. For several reasons, she wants to get a new car.
If she were to keep it, not fixing the dent is out of the question. And with the dent there is probably a greater risk of not being able to sell for even the as is value. Plus I can’t test that idea out until after she buys a new car. Otherwise, she won’t have transportation. So I feel the car has to be repaired regardless.
Paintless dent removal is an interesting idea. I read up a little on it and there are two main reasons why it isn’t suitable in this case. First the dents need to be further from the panel edges. Unfortunately they span the edges of both doors. The second issue is that if the paint has been scraped it’s still going to require painting. As you can see, the paint is quite scraped. This process is better suited for door dings, hale damage and the like where the paint isn’t damaged.
Replacing the doors from salvage parts would be an interesting option. I’ve done it before on a Saturn but that car had a molded plastic skin which didn’t require repainting to match the rest of the car. With a steel body the paint will probably not match. But I did check to see about local availability and pricing. Each door is $400 (it was only $130 or so for the Saturn), so this is a non-starter since the parts alone would be $800. There’s no telling what the labor would be and if the paint would match. But it’s unlikely to save any money compared with the other choices.
So the decision is to have one of these bodyshops repair the car. I checked that none had any BBB (Better Business Bureau) complaints. From past experience I know at least two do good work so I’ll go with the one with the better price.