Would you spend money to keep your car looking good cosmetically?

My father and I were recently having a discussion about car cosmetic flaws. He has noticed that I meticulously obsess myself over cosmetic flaws that pose no issues to road safety and has called me out on it. His argument is that, if it was him, he would not replace the gauge cluster lens which was damaged by detailing products, neither would he change the side mirror shell over a tiny crack, and neither would he care about the car’s skirt being bent slightly. These things, to him, pose no road safety issues, and no one, but him, would notice these cosmetic flaws.

When I had my Camry, I spent $500 to have the bumper professionally repainted when it had a scratch on it. Dad said it was one of the most ridiculous things he’s ever seen.

I do have a great love for a car looking its best. For me, a car is a true friend that takes me there and there, but I’m thinking maybe caring too much is making me look stupid ?

What about you, guys? Do you keep your car looking great cosmetically, or do you treat it as an appliance that gets you from point A to point B and call it a day ?

To a point. I keep my vehicles looking good for as long as I can. But there comes a point of diminishing returns. I’d spend $500 to get the scratch fixed on a 5yo or new vehicle, but not for a 10yo vehicle.


It’s purely a personal (and situational) thing for which there is no right answer. In one respect obsessing over cosmetics that have no practical consequence is economically irrational. That’s probably what your dad was saying.

But I also don’t measure everything by economic rationality. If it’s your car and your money, then do what makes you feel good. And if it’s a car that you think you might like to sell or trade-in one day, then it’s not even necessarily economically irrational. Looks mean a lot when it’s time to pass a car on.

My wife is convinced that any time I give a car some “TLC” it makes the car “happy” and then it will keep working well - because it’s “happy.” It’s irrational (at least the attributing feelings to cars part. Some of the TLC is literally keeping them working well). But I’m not going to tell her that…


My wife’s 10 year old car looks like new. I have had the paintless dent guy fix dings when they appear and I handle rock chip touchups, polish and wax. Same for my 11 year old Mustang.

My 20 year old truck still gets washed and the interior is taken care of but the body is getting pretty rusty. That one doesn’t get so much outside care anymore.

The cars are just things to me but I like to keep them nice.


Probably just an excuse to keep you out of trouble :wink:

Lately I should be paying more attention to my cars, inside-outside-under the hood. The kids are gone. I spent many years trying to float the boat, and am feeling burned out. All of my vehicles currently need attention, but I just can’t seem to find the energy…

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Its strictly an appliance to get me from point A to point B. I developed this attitude when i got old. When i was younger i loved my cars and lavished attention and money on them

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Similar to old_mopar_guy, cars are strictly functional to get me from point A to point B as well.


It’s the opposite- TLC makes them weak and dependent. Then they will break down if you don’t give them weekly massages (wash & wax) and talk nice to them. On the other hand, tough love produces cars that don’t require or expect any special treatment :grinning:


For many people, including me, a car is part of their image. I keep my car very clean (just like I keep my clothing clean), so I generally fix cosmetic issues as long as the cost isn’t too high and I plan to have the car for at least another year.


To me it all depends on your self-image, and how you want others to perceive you. Age also seems to play a role.

Young men tend to use their vehicle as part of their image, and even self-worth. Young men also, generally speaking, have more money and time to “enhance” or “improve” their vehicles, usually to impress their buddies. I’m no psychologist, but I was a young man once, and I can speak to this.

As you get older, you tend to have a wife, kids, family, bills…and you start to value a reliable car among all other things. Appearance falls down the priority list. You have other, better things to spend your time and money on.

Personally I’m at an age where I only buy used cars, which come with scratches and other “imperfections”. That way I don’t care if more scratches show up. I do car about keeping the oil changed and all other maintenance up to date. That way I can get to/from work, and take my kids around, among other things.

But your results may vary.


Just before I traded-in my 2011 Outback, my mail delivery lady saw me in it–apparently for the first time. She said that my “new car” looked really nice. When I told her that it was actually 12 years old, she didn’t believe me until I showed her my registation.

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It’s a matter of pride and appreciating your possessions. So yeah I take care of my stuff. Always have. Even as a kid, I was the one polishing our cars. I keep cars and drive them a lot and never tolerated rust or bad paint. I have to admit though I’m slowing down and putting off body repair and just wondering about trading instead. I’ve never done rocker panels and just keep putting it off. I usually wax and polish our cars twice a year but I’m a little behind this year.


I scraped a fender, $1400, from the body shop, it was ugly, some buffing and touch up paint looks fine, No dents or structural defects. $1000 deductible.

My son’s integra got hit in the front so often that I just stocked green paint. The last time putting it together again, I said next time we’ll need a new bumper cover. Git sandwiched between two cars front and back and totaled. Problem solved. Still got a little green pearl.

When the rocker panels on our '55 Plymouth rotted-out, my mother was the one who did a curbside repair, using fiberglass strips. After the fiberglass strips dried, it was my job to do some sanding and a rattle-can paint job on that area.

From 50 feet away it looked… okay. :smirk: Just don’t get any closer.

Edited to add:
Around the same time that we patched the Plymouth’s rocker panels, a neighbor decided to patch the rear fenders of his '56 Olds. Instead of using fiberglass or Bondo, he cut pieces of sheet metal, and riveted them in place. He didn’t bother to grind-off the rivet heads or conceal them, so even from 100 ft away, it looked really awful.

Appearance priorities for my vehicles

  • paint to look in excellent condition, dust and dirt sprayed off w/a garden hose at least once a week, and no peeling or sun-damaged clear-coat blotches at all.
  • no cracked or broken light fixtures
  • chrome parts shiny & completely rust-free
  • no clearly obvious body dents or scratches

Lower priority appearance items I’m more flexible about, esp for 30+ year old cars

  • minor dents & scratches & other cosmetic imperfections on the bumper covers
  • home-brew fixes to light fixtures, provided they remain water-proof
  • dirt/dust/markings on tires & wheels
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Weren’t your vehicles painted with acrylic enamel paint? There is no clear coat used with single-stage paint.

My truck has no clear coat, but my Corolla does.

Around the age of 6 -8, momma surprised me with a bicycle of my dream. We were very poor and she’d be saving for years for this bicycle. The cost of the bicycle was $3500 JMD ( that’s roughly $63 USD ).

I was obsessed with this thing that I wouldn’t let my younger sister use it, neither any of my friends, and when it received its first scratch from me falling off of it, I cried to no end lol.

I used to clean the wheels with toilet paper and water after every ride. I added fancy reflective lights to the wheels to enhance the appearance.

As it aged, rust began to show up on the bike and I wouldn’t stop nag my parents for a new paint job.

I thought I would have out grown this attitude by now but I am still stuck at keeping my toys looking their best to this day :blush:

My dad thinks I’m stupid for this. Lol.

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I’ve already got the sheet metal replacement panel and the welder set up with gas. So just a mater of cutting, fitting, welding, and finishing. Once ya start though ya have to finish.