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We own an older Toyota that is in excellent mechanical condition. Since it is a second car, we drive it only a few thousand miles every summer, so there isn’t much wear and tear on the vehicle. It will probably outlive us.

Like most older cars, though, it has picked up a few scratches over the years. A nasty “key job” by some rascal or other, a run-in with a shopping cart and a few other brushes with hard objects have left several noticeable scratches on the car’s exterior.

We will probably keep the car for a few more years, so I thought I would look into having professionals “touch up” several of the scratches to make it more presentable. We did our Internet research first and then set out to visit five collision shops in the greater Buffalo area.

In each location, a wizened professional critically examined the car’s exterior and then “put the figures into his computer.”

What that process meant was never explained to us. I guess it is the way these folks deal with insurance company claims. The car has no dents. It just needed some retouching. The estimates made us gasp. At each location, the formula called for a “touch up” cost of almost $850. Jeepers, I don’t think the Blue Book value on older cars like this amounts to that much.

What gives with this? Do people really pay these hefty amounts for paint jobs? I don’t even want to consider what working out a few dents would cost.

We mulled over the various estimates from the five collision shops for a few days, remembering a time when we had purchased our cars for less than this “touch up” estimate would cost us. It also gave us pause to think back to those days when money came harder and we, like most people, made do with what we had. When you have little reserve funds to address a problem, you just improvise a solution to a situation that didn’t cost much. It gave me the idea to try to solve this problem on my own.

The next day, I drove to a car parts store and purchased a can of metallic-blue spray paint. It cost $7.80. It wasn’t an exact match to the car’s color, nor was it meant for that model of vehicle. Still, it was close enough. In a nearby, abandoned parking lot, I lightly applied the blue spray paint to the car’s scratches. Darned if it didn’t cover most of the damage effectively.

It wasn’t a perfect match on the color, and up close you could still see that the paint job was blurry and uneven in spots. But from 5 feet away, it looked pretty good to me. And I had achieved this effect for $7.80, not the $850 quoted me by professionals.

I am not sure what moral lies hidden here. But I do know that we will probably take a three-day cruise to the Bahamas on the money that I didn’t hand over to these professionals. And I felt a lot better about that. Life sometimes does offer its small victories.

Maybe we all have to start rethinking such similar appraisals in life in terms of how we managed like we did when money was tighter. If nothing else, it makes you feel pretty good to thumb your nose at the various professionals who ask you to fork over your hard-earned money without even the decency of wearing ski masks when they want to hold you up.