Unfortunately, the body is falling apart in an area known as the rocker panels. These are the areas that run along the bottom sides of the vehicle that are exposed to moisture, snow and road salt. There are large holes rusted out and other areas with rust flakes that drop by simply touching the edges.

Right now, the Mazda will not pass inspection without immediate repair on its rusty rocker panels.

Here’s the story of what happened when I got repair estimates from five local body shops.

I will start off by saying that the estimates ranged from $1,200 to $3,500. This is a hefty price tag for a vehicle that has a value of about $2,500.

I first stopped at a popular auto body shop in Auburn. After taking a quick look under the Madza, the repair estimator said, “Things don’t look too bad. We won’t know the extent of damage until we take these side panels off to see what’s under there. It will cost you $2,500 to $3,000. But that is just an estimate.”

He cautioned me that other places might charge less but would do a patchwork kind of job. His shop does only top-quality repair.


The next stop was at an auto body shop in Lewiston. A friendly repair estimator took an equally quick look at the damage.

“$2,500 to $2,800, but that is just an estimate.” He looked a bit more concerned than the other estimator. “It is what you can’t see that can be a major problem.”

I then went to a small body shop on Route 11 heading toward Naples.

At this stop, a different concern arose.

“Not only are the rocker panels rusted out, but it is getting tender in the sub-frame; there’s rust there. Knowing that, it really becomes a safety issue.”

In layman’s terms, he explained that the sub frame holds the vehicle together. If that snaps, the vehicle falls apart.


“I could repair the panels, but you’ll still have a problem with the sub frame. It will run you about $3,500.”

The next stop was in the Oxford Hills area where I found a one-man repair shop operating in the backyard of his home.

“That will run about $1,200-1,500, but it will take me about five days to repair,” said the friendly fellow. “I might not be able to take this in for another four weeks or so.”

I liked his personality and down-home demeanor, but to be honest, I was fearful as to why his estimate was so low.

“It is just me working. I don’t have the overhead like other places.”

My last stop brought me to a place in Minot that came highly recommended.


“This is really bad. I wouldn’t even attempt to fix it. It is simply not worth it. I would take the money and put it toward another vehicle.”

He pointed to two vehicles that were for sale on his lot.

“Put the money in something like that and the vehicle will last longer than this.”

“If the cost of repairs is greater than either the value of the vehicle or one year’s worth of monthly car payments, it’s time to buy another vehicle,” according to information found on the website, Edmunds.com, a well-known automotive resource that specializes in evaluating the current value of new and used vehicles.

I’ve concluded that it may be time to rid myself of my beloved Madza. The question remains just how to do it.

According to Driverside.com, it is okay to sell a vehicle in a private sale as long as you disclose all repair work that may be needed and create a sales slip that states there are no guarantees and that the vehicle is sold “as is.”

Kim Schloss, a manager with CarsHelpingAmerica.org said that donating a vehicle for charity is another option with many benefits.

“By donating your car, you aren’t susceptible to any lemon laws and there’s a tax deduction for the vehicle,” said Schloss. “What’s more, the car is removed from your property free of charge and it can be in any condition so long as you have the title. Not a bad way to go.”

The website also stated, “It’s not too likely, but in some cases you may be better off scrapping your car. These days nearly every part of a vehicle can be stripped down and reused later on – kind of like the ultimate version of recycling. Plus, most scrappers will pay cash for your vehicle.”

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