Smushed older car next steps Part II
October 23, 2019 8:28 AM   Subscribe

I was in a car accident and need to repair some mechanical damage, trying to decide next step as far as negotiation with insurance company and whether I should keep the car or not.

I got in an not at fault accident recently in my 2009 Toyota Matrix with 150k miles (retail value $4500ish). The accident was a hit and run so it came out of my uninsured motorist coverage. The insurance company assessed the damage and wrote me a check for $2900 ($3150 less my $250 deductible) to take it to a body shop.

I don't care that much about how it looks so I wasn't planning to fix the body damage, but I also took it to a mechanic to get it checked out and they are saying the entire suspension on the left side needs to be replaced-- ball joint, CV axle, control arm-- and quoted me $1300. They say these items are the only safety issues resulting from the accident-- no frame/structural damage.

I feel like I have a couple options:

-Cash the check, fix the mechanical issues, pocket the left over $1600 knowing that I will probably end up getting rid of the car sooner (within 2 years rather than the 4 or so more years I probably could have gotten out of it) because of rust/generally being tired of driving a beat up car.

-Go back to my insurance company and negotiate for a bigger payout. Problem is, I think this would likely end with them totaling the car. I could buy it back from them as a salvage, but I'm not sure I would come out ahead of just fixing it without any renegotiation and it seems like a hassle.

-Go back to my insurance company, they likely total the car and I get a new one, probably in the $6-7k range (I can afford this without an issue, I just was hoping to get a few more years on this one).

What do you all think? I'm having a hard time weighing the pros and cons. Picture here if you're interested. Thanks!
posted by geegollygosh to Work & Money (6 answers total)
This isn't going to help, but just consider that if you take it to your mechanic and they find some additional problems once they start taking it apart, that $1600 could evaporate quickly. If you can afford a new one, I would see if you can get them to total the car and start over again.
posted by Rock Steady at 9:42 AM on October 23, 2019

I'd take it to another mechanic to get a second opinion, but I'm not sure how much money I'd sink into a car that you're only going to keep for 2 more years. If you can't fix the suspension for less, I'd consider speaking with the insurance company about what your mechanic's findings are and hope that they give you a bigger check that you can put towards a new car.
posted by quince at 12:27 PM on October 23, 2019 [1 favorite]

Hard to say without examining in person, but I'm skeptical that it needs that much suspension / CV axle work, there's really not much sign of contact on the tire/rim/wheel cover. I mean, if it didn't impact hard enough to do more than put a small crack in the plastic wheel cover, how is the (sturdy, metal) control arm bent? How does it drive? It may be that the mechanic you took it to is just proposing replacing everything out of an abundance of caution/ CYA or the need to make a boat payment, but I'd take it to another mechanic.
posted by Larry David Syndrome at 4:00 PM on October 23, 2019

Also, reading between the lines, it looks like your insurance co didn't include the alleged mechanical damage in their estimate? If so, that makes me doubly skeptical.
posted by Larry David Syndrome at 4:01 PM on October 23, 2019

Response by poster: I can definitely take it for a second opinion. However, the appraiser didn't check anything mechanical at all (I watched him do the appraisal) and it has been pulling left and making more noise (creaking) since the accident. The hubcap is pretty scuffed, I'm not sure how well the picture captured that, but it seems like the wheel did take a hit.
posted by geegollygosh at 5:05 PM on October 23, 2019

With the added info about the symptoms you're experiencing, suspension damage is much more plausible. So I guess you can disregard what I said, although a 2nd opinion is never a bad idea.
posted by Larry David Syndrome at 5:58 PM on October 23, 2019

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