My truck is totaled. Now what?
March 10, 2009 2:38 PM   Subscribe

Our SUV was probably totaled today. The police wrote the other party a ticket for running a red light, so blame shouldn't be an issue. Both airbags blew up front, which I think will likely total it without even factoring in the rest of the damage. However, I've never been involved with a totaled car situation, so I'm trying to get my act together to make sure I don't get screwed by the settlement. What do I need to know?

I've got receipts for all the service ever done on the truck ( 2005 Durango Limited - 66K miles), and I've got a spreadsheet with all that data too. The truck was in very good condition both appearance wise and mechanically. I'm one of those people that actually keeps up with the fluid changes and other routine maintenance requirements. Kelly Blue Book online is telling me the trade in value is about $12,000 and the retail is about $16,500. The truck is paid off so I'm not worried about getting enough to pay off the loan. I'm worried about being able to pay cash for something comparable.

This is in VA if that matters.
posted by COD to Travel & Transportation (19 answers total) 5 users marked this as a favorite
You should be looking for a settlement of roughly the high-end of retail value, accordingto Kelly Blue Book. I just went through this a couple of weeks ago, and got back a little over the Kelly Blue Book value.
posted by infinitywaltz at 2:57 PM on March 10, 2009

One other bit of information: If your car is totaled, the insurance company takes possession of the wreck for salvage. If you get the idea you wanted to fix the car, you'd get difference between the Kelly Blue Book and the salvage value.
I'd think you'd have no problem replacing the car in kind, particularly now.
posted by Carmody'sPrize at 3:03 PM on March 10, 2009

The amount you get is a negotiation between you and the insurance company. If they really try to low ball you, you might want to look at an independent adjuster.

One thing. Make sure you get all your stuff out of the truck. Storage yards are notorious places where personal positions "dissapear."
posted by Marky at 3:07 PM on March 10, 2009

My car was totaled by someone and the other person's insurance didn't ask for anything about the car other than the body shop (which I chose) estimate. Actually, my car already had some body damage, but for some reason I was offered over twice what the actual value of the car was considering the previous damage. I think they offered more than they had to as a way of pacifying me so I'd be less likely to pursue any personal injury claim (I wouldn't have anyway, the guy who hit me was really honest and nice and I just had a sore back).
posted by fructose at 3:07 PM on March 10, 2009

When a drunk driver totalled my car (with my hubby in it) it really helped to have a lawyer involved to get the proper amount of settlement.
posted by St. Alia of the Bunnies at 3:07 PM on March 10, 2009

2nding Carmody, I kept my car because it was still safely driveable and they deducted salvage value from the money they gave me.
posted by fructose at 3:08 PM on March 10, 2009

Make certain not to accept their idea of a "reasonable amount of time" to pay for the rental car you'll need. I had an adjuster claim straight out that the most they pay is one week, citing company policy. I replied that that was nice for them, but didn't happen to be Oregon law, so I'd retain the rental and they'd be paying for it until I found a car to my liking.

He immediately backed down. "Company Policy" ha! Check the laws.
posted by Invoke at 3:12 PM on March 10, 2009 [2 favorites]

When a drunk driver totalled my car (with my hubby in it) it really helped to have a lawyer involved to get the proper amount of settlement.

I disagree, unless there is some complication, or if you want to pay some lawyer a bunch of money.

Your state likely has "total loss" laws which provide how this is supposed to work. Before you decide to do something different, wait to see what your insurance company offers you.

Frankly, my guess is you will get far more than what you could have gotten for the car if you had to sell it. The "book prices" lag what's going on in the economy generally. That's what happened to me - I got far more for my recently totaled car than I thought that it was worth. You should be able to pay cash for something comparable AND take a nice vacation (or, better yet, save or invest the money).
posted by iknowizbirfmark at 3:26 PM on March 10, 2009

Careful with the assumption that you'll be able to buy a comparable vehicle for what the insurance company offers.
My father-in-law (who owns a car dealership) was marveling lately about how used car auction prices have gone up $1000-$1500 from where they were a few months ago. It might be worthwhile to shop around and get real prices for what it will cost to replace your vehicle before you start hearing numbers from your insurance company.
posted by Coffeemate at 3:35 PM on March 10, 2009

Thanks for all the input. I have already cleaned out the truck - did that this afternoon. If I didn't need to tow a horse around I'd replace the Durango with an econobox and put the rest into savings.
posted by COD at 3:36 PM on March 10, 2009

When my car was totaled (diabetic went into insulin shock and plowed into me), I was pleasantly surprised at how much I got. They didn't just give me the blue book value, they gave me the cost to buy a comparable car in my market. The figured this out by doing a market analysis of my area of comparable cars. The number I got was significantly more the the blue book value. The market analysis helps counter things like Coffeemate was talking about where prices may have changed recently.
posted by katers890 at 4:33 PM on March 10, 2009

Both airbags blew up front, which I think will likely total it without even factoring in the rest of the damage.

I'd expect a lot more damage than a couple of airbags for a car to be a total loss. They're really not that expensive to replace. I'm assuming there is more damage, but just on the off-chance that you were basing your preparation on that assumption alone, I thought I'd point out it is most likely flawed.

A total loss is usually a car that can't be economically repaired (roughly). Straight frontal impacts (especially if they are straight and the car drives) can be surprisingly easy to repair. Also, I've seen some surprisingly low speed accidents that still blow airbags. It may not be as cut and dried as you think.
posted by Brockles at 5:30 PM on March 10, 2009

Another recommendation for standing your ground on the rental car. My wife's car was fixed and I rejected it on inspection as the repairs weren't good enough to make it "as new" (since it was 10 days old when she was rear-ended). Insurance stopped paying for the rental car since our car was "fixed". Quick call to the area insurance adjuster solved it, the garage took over the rental for another 10 days until the car was properly fixed.

Another tip, if it is repairable and you get it back, then remember to ask for depreciated value, difference between the pre-accident value of the car and the value after it's been fixed. I used an independent adjuster, cost me $250 and resulted in a $1500 increase in what they were willing to offer me after some haggling.
posted by arcticseal at 6:10 PM on March 10, 2009

In our case the lawyer was well worth it.
posted by St. Alia of the Bunnies at 6:15 PM on March 10, 2009

"Straight frontal impacts (especially if they are straight and the car drives) can be surprisingly easy to repair."

This is especially true for body-on-frame vehicles like the Durango. A unibody vehicle is more difficult to repair structural damage on than a body-on-frame vehicle is, so I would not be at all surprised if the damage assessment is much less than the vehicle's value for "totalling" purposes.
posted by mr_crash_davis mark II: Jazz Odyssey at 8:58 PM on March 10, 2009

This article, by an actual attorney, should provide a good framework to work through your problem. It's targeted at motorcyclists but the applicable law and reasoning are the same.
posted by bloggerwench at 9:49 PM on March 10, 2009

I'd probably be doing some car shopping (or at least firing up a site like Carmax or the local dealer's web site) and checking the prices on vehicles that you'd be interested in buying as a replacement, so you'll know what sort of number you're willing to accept.

The new/used spread has been contracting lately, both from new cars decreasing in price, but also because of used cars increasing in price relative to what they might have sold for a while ago. This is probably less true for SUVs like the Durango than for small eco-cars, but you might still be surprised.
posted by Kadin2048 at 11:30 PM on March 10, 2009

Nthing the thoughts about getting a feel for what these vehicles are selling for in your area.

You may have a bit of a battle over the car's value. I had a reasonably similar experience--car a few years old, but impeccably maintained. I was unhappy with the offer and the ins. co. wanted supporting evidence via things like ads for similar cars w. prices at or near what I thought was appropriate. I got an extra 10% out of 'em.

(As people have suggested, the other side of this; my dad does the barest of bare minimums for maintenance. he got clobbered and the offered amount was easily 2x the car's real-world value.)

Sounds you have at least some knowledge of cars so if possible, take a good look when the damage is being scrutinized. A friend with not much car knowledge got clobbered, was there for the review, ended up having to point out things the reviewer didn't notice--like a suspension component bent and disconnected!! Seems like it's worth at least looking into options for an independent review of damage, figgering out the ins. co.'s policy/applicable laws.
posted by ambient2 at 12:02 AM on March 11, 2009

It is possible to negotiate. Your vehicle was in better than average condition. Do some shopping for a similar truck, so you'll know what compensation would be fair. It should go without saying, but be calm, polite and even cheerful if you speak with the insurance company. If they do lowball you, just tell them that you have maintenance records, and insist on replacement value. Being friendly moves the process along; they deal with a lot of very cranky people.
posted by theora55 at 2:51 PM on March 11, 2009

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