I want to get my old old car REPAIRED after an accident that the adjusters will likely deem a "total loss" help!
July 15, 2010 11:11 PM   Subscribe

My 1987 Toyota Camry got seriously "injured" today..advice about handling the claim?

A guy went through a stop sign --I sped up just as I saw him out of my peripheral vision..and he hit my two passenger side doors, both front and back. The middle bar between the doors is also bent.
The guy was great and gave me all his information that I have already determined is accurate. He has Allstate Insurance.
I love my old old car and it runs like a charm. I have owned it from 1987. It is certainly not a primo car, on the contrary, it is in only fair shape..it has oxidized paint and so forth, but it also has good hubcaps and it runs well.
It dawns on me that they will likely want to "total" the car because it will be more expensive to repair than what it is worth. Well, I certainly do not like THAT idea. Might they pay me a small amount and then require that I give them the title? 1987 Toyotas are great parts cars (I hate to even write that..I love the car so much). I really want it fixed if possible! it is definitely driveable, although we can't use the doors.

I do have collision on it (with a 1,000 dollar deductible).

I am usually pretty inept at negotiations. I could use some advice. I was not hurt and everyone knows that. There was a witness and the ran-thes-stop-sign-guy seemed honest and forthcoming.

Assuming that they accept liability (and I have confidence that they will), what steps should I take?
posted by naplesyellow to Law & Government (15 answers total)
Given that your car was 23 years old I think the first step you should take is to prepare yourself for the inevitable, which is that it simply doesn't make sense to spend thousands of dollars to repair a car that old. If the frame is bent (and you indicate it is), the costs to repair are many, many times the value of the car. So my advice would be to let the idea of repairing it go.
posted by Justinian at 11:18 PM on July 15, 2010 [2 favorites]

In my opinion and with my admittedly limited knowledge I think that the only way you are going to get your car back is if you buy it from the junkyard that the insurance company sells it to and pay an auto shop to do the repairs.

My uncle used to buy these kinds of 'totalled' cars and fix them himself. He had the right tools, the right shop, and the right knowledge. I think that even if you found a shop willing to do that much body work it would be prohibitively expensive. I mean we're talking at least $75 an hour for just the labor, and that's $75 for each mechanic. The kind of work you're talking about is easily a two man job, maybe more. Then you have to pay for the new parts.

The paltry settlement you're going to get won't even begin to cover the cost.

As a side note, you should get checked out by a doctor. If you were hit hard enough to do that much damage to your car, there could be damage to you too. I've been hit a bunch of times and I've never really felt it at first. Even when I was bleeding all over myself from a head wound I didn't feel the pain until the next day. Just make an appointment with your doctor to get checked out. Save the receipt, the other guy's insurance will cover it.
posted by TooFewShoes at 11:45 PM on July 15, 2010

And I totally feel your pain about your car. When I was 15 my mom had a 1988 Chevy Cavalier that I convinced her let me keep when she upgraded to a new car. I had to get a job and pay for the insurance just to let it sit in the driveway. I know it wasn't the best car, but I loved it. Every month I would go out and wash the car, no matter the weather. I'd Armor All the interior, vacuum it out, and wash the windows. When I finally got my drivers licence a year later I treated that car like it was my baby. I checked the oil every time I got gas, I washed it every week (including all the interior stuff), I even helped my dad change the oil.

A month and a half after I got my licence a lady in a truck made a left turn in front of me and slammed into my front driver's side.

As I was sitting on the curb having my head bandaged by a fireman all I could think was that the radiator fluids leaking out from under my baby made it look like she was crying. Too this day I have never loved a car that much. I'm teary with the memory.

I only had her for a year, I'm sure I'd be a basket case if we'd been together for as long as you had yours. So yeah, I really feel your pain.
posted by TooFewShoes at 11:46 PM on July 15, 2010 [3 favorites]

Agreed that the insurer is likely to offer a small amount of money... but I have heard of people who worked out the settlement to include keeping the car.

If that's possible, it's conceivable that you could scare up some doors, etc., at a junkyard, replace them yourself and/or with the help of someone with a modicum of knowledge (or someone from craigslist who works cheap, has references). Just replacing doors can be pretty easy, but has the damage been professionally estimated? If not, it's possible that enough stuff's bent and broken that it would be a much bigger production.
posted by ambient2 at 12:47 AM on July 16, 2010

I once got in an accident in which my car was totalled, and I asked the insurance company if I could keep the car. They were willing to do so in exchange for reducing their payment to me by 20%. The remaining 80% was more than I paid for the car anyway, so it worked out well.
posted by helios at 1:03 AM on July 16, 2010

Sorry, but your car is done. What you need to do is some research to find out what similar cars sell for, so that you can object if/when the settlement offered by the insurance company is lower than the (already small) amount that it should be.

The Kelley Blue Book and similar price guides only go back to 1990, and a typical 1990 Camry is worth perhaps $1200 - $1600 at dealer retail. Yours, being older and having oxidized paint, is worth less. Furthermore, the insurance company may try to pay you at private party rates (with cars this old, perhaps half the dealer retail figures). It wouldn't surprise me if they tried to give you only $500 for it. (notice that it hasn't been worth carrying $1k-deductible collision for a long time now). If you can't demonstrate that it's worth more, you'll have no option but to accept their offer.

What you have working in your favor is that the amount of money in play is so small that it's not worth a lot of the insurance company's time to argue with you. I would try to establish the highest reasonable value, backed up by maintenance records for your car and classified ads for others, of whatever sort I could find. To that figure I would add whatever sales tax, inspection and registration fees (remember to keep the plates when they take your old car) you'll incur with a replacement vehicle. If the insurer's initial settlement offer was significantly lower than that, I'd object and present the evidence I'd collected.
posted by jon1270 at 2:46 AM on July 16, 2010

If you are indeed from Chicago, the likelihood that your car has rust in structural places is very high. If he bent the pillar between the doors, then I'm guessing that the underlying structure of the vehicle is probably bent.

Even if it's not totally screwed up, maybe this is the universe telling you that it's time to let ol' blue go. It's an 87 Totoya sedan. It very well may be the best car in the world, but a newer car would be super affordable, super reliable, and much, much safer than one from 1987. The car will let you know when it's ready to go. That's about when the repair guy tells you it will be more than $500 to repair.
posted by Geckwoistmeinauto at 4:09 AM on July 16, 2010

I had a '94 Nissan Sentra that ran great, had taken me through all four years of college, when a Ford F-150 hit me from behind at a red light. It was totaled, and though the insurance company offered me a fair settlement--just a couple hundred dollars less than I had paid for it five years prior--they would not let me keep it under any circumstances. Once I signed the settlement agreement, they arranged for a tow truck to take it to a salvage yard. In fact, when they did it, I didn't even know they were going to take it that day--I actually had to go back to the salvage yard to retrieve my personal items from my car.

I miss that car sometimes, and I'm still angry that it was taken from me too soon, but really, it worked out in the long run--I got a much newer car that actually stood a chance at passing the emissions test each year, that felt safer and drove better, for a decent price. Though this seems like an improbable situation now, maybe the best thing is to let your beloved '87 go. I'm sure the two of you shared many beautiful miles together, but now it's time to find a new car to love.
posted by litnerd at 5:48 AM on July 16, 2010

The reason they're going to take your car is that the point of insurance is to compensate you, not to enrich you. When an insurance company totals a car, they're essentially saying "This will cost more to repair than the car was worth, so we're just going to give you what it was worth." If they then let you keep the car, your net worth goes up, because you've got both the car--what's left of it anyway--and the cash value for the car. That isn't how insurance works.

The fast way of doing this is to just file a claim with your carrier. They'll give you the difference of the value of the car and your deductible and take the car. They'll then go after the other driver, or rather his insurance carrier, and if they make any recovery, they'll give you whatever they can get up to your deductible. Ideally, you both get fully compensated and you don't have to worry about prosecuting a claim. They'll do it for you. This is called "subrogation," and having your insurance carrier subrogate is actually one of the things you're buying when you get an insurance policy.
posted by valkyryn at 5:57 AM on July 16, 2010

Take whatever they give you and start hunting craigslist for a used Camry of that vintage. It's beyond insane to try to repair frame damage to a car that old, as you would probably spend 2-5 times the cost of replacement trying to repair it. You've really got to distance yourself from your emotional ties to a machine.

(Also seconding that carrying a collision policy on a car this old is throwing money down the drain -- when the deductible is greater than the replacement value of the car, there is no way that you can possibly come out ahead.)
posted by Rhomboid at 6:04 AM on July 16, 2010

Best answer: Well, this happened to me a few years ago. My fabulous-not-even-oxidized 1985 Camry was stolen for parts.
She was 18 years old at the time and the insurance company totaled her. I think they gave me $900.

There were a lot of tears at the time, bu I found a used 2001 Prius for a good price and have been delighted with my new love ever since.

I still turn my head when I see an old 'metallic beige' Camry on the road and my heart clutches for a moment, think that it is mine. It was a great car.
posted by SLC Mom at 6:35 AM on July 16, 2010

Response by poster: alright everyone, I hear ya. I am still a little in shock, since I have had the car for 23 years and it really did not occur to me that almost any repair would "total" it.

Metafilter is full of young people with jobs. That is why is it so easy for you all to say oh hell get over it. I am 60, my income is less than 1,000 a month. I understand that it hasn't "penciled" economically to keep collision on the car, but I used to handle auto claims (a long time ago) and I know that 1/2 the people in the world don't seem to carry insurance (and yeah...I love the damn car). So, yes valkryn, I know that insurance is not meant to "enrich" me. What about my post indicated that I wanted to be enriched? I'd like to be put me back to how I was before he hit me. There are no 1987 Toyota Camrys for sale because they run like tanks and no one sells them! If I wanted to be enriched, I'd claim injury, which I won't do. I had a perfectly running car and this nice guy took that away from me. I am not going to be able to find a car like mine.

Well, thanks everyone. I guess I have to just be glad the guy didn't kill me and try to soldier forth. Thanks again. You did impress upon me that I'm not thinking logically--but it has been my transportation for 23 years and I use it everyday.
posted by naplesyellow at 8:06 AM on July 16, 2010

About a decade ago, I was in an accident in my Toyota. It was the other driver's fault, 100%, and even their insurance company agreed. When I went to meet the adjustor, he offered me $1200 (KBB private party value) for the vehicle, and would total it out and take the title, since repairs would have been around $4000. Without my even asking, he offered to total it out but let me keep the title if I'd take $1100 instead of $1200. I was young at the time, and didn't know how to handle this sort of thing, so I didn't even have the title with me (whoops), and I was also across town from where I lived and recovering from an illness, so keeping my transportation (battered though it was) was appealing. I took the $1100 and kept the title.

So, while this wasn't in IL, and it was a different insurance company, but it is possible to get some compensation and still keep a "totaled" car. The bad news is that doing so would mean driving a wrecked car around. Based on your description of the damage, assuming there's no underlying structural damage (e.g. bent frame), the repairs would probably be at least $5000.

I'm sorry this happened to you. Even with insurance, and even if you're not at fault, car accidents can be a horrible hassle. Good luck.
posted by jingzuo at 8:32 AM on July 16, 2010

There are no 1987 Toyota Camrys for sale because they run like tanks and no one sells them!

Are you sure about that? I just checked my local craigslist and in the last 10 days or so I see listings for one 1986 Camry, five 87s, eight 88s, and eight 89s, most with prices between $750-$1500.
posted by Rhomboid at 9:03 AM on July 16, 2010

Best answer: I'd advise a junkyard. Use the money you'll get to buy two new doors. Bet you could get them for 100.00 or less. Likely they will be different colors then your current car, so maybe a 250 dollar paint job from Maaco, or not. I have had a few Camry's from 87-91, and loved them all. Currently I have a 89 that has a back door with a huge crease down it due to a wreck, and i never fixed it. Honestly I love the car so damn much, that I look at the door, and it makes me love the car more. I'll never fix it.
Keep the car, drive it until it won't drive anymore. Good Luck.
posted by QueerAngel28 at 11:12 AM on July 16, 2010 [1 favorite]

« Older Bike Art Ideas   |   Seriously, I can wash a sample without burning... Newer »
This thread is closed to new comments.