What do I do with a damaged car?
February 8, 2007 7:54 AM   Subscribe

I crashed my car but the insurance company won't total it. What do I do now?

The adjuster estimated the damage at $2,000. The car is worth $13,000 (blue book). The repair shop still has to do their own estimate and possibly be a readjustment. There is no body damage, but my fear is that the structure of the car is messed up beyond what the adjuster can see. The car had to be towed off the scene of the accident. I've already decided to get a new car, but if this one gets fixed, will the fact that it has been in an accident decrease its value on a trade-in when they run the VIN? Would I be better off selling it on eBay? Should I wait to get it fixed and see what someone will give me on a trade-in before I decide? I don't want to give up the car, but I know cars that are in accidents like the one I had are never quite the same and I need something safer for New England winters.
posted by archimago to Travel & Transportation (16 answers total)
Wait until the body shop does a "THOROUGH" review of the car. Please ask them to look into the posibility of frame damage as well as you are worried about it.
posted by omidius at 8:04 AM on February 8, 2007

This could be complete bollocks, but I've heard that the insurance company should not only compensate you for the repairs to the car, but also the decrease in resale value from the car being in accident. Unfortunately though I've never had first hand experience of this. Plus the company might try and make the argument that the repairs put the car back in pre-accident condition, and, as such, there should be no decline in resale value.
posted by Mave_80 at 8:11 AM on February 8, 2007

They won't total it until the damage is 75% of the value, so that's around $10,000 of repairs, which would cover most frame damage. I doubt they'll total it.

Given that, most non-totaled car accidents don't show up on a CarFax report, despite the claims of CarFax. But a good mechanic inspection should easily find major repairs.
posted by smackfu at 8:15 AM on February 8, 2007

You want them to pay you $13,000 when the car can be repaired for something like $2,000? That makes no sense at all. Get it repaired and then sell it if driving a repaired vehicle bothers you.
posted by caddis at 8:24 AM on February 8, 2007

You also said: I know cars that are in accidents like the one I had are never quite the same. That is not necessarily true. I would wait to see how well the repairs go before writing off this vehicle.
posted by caddis at 8:27 AM on February 8, 2007

Unless you're a mechanic or an automobile engineer, your fears probably aren't coming from solid information but rather a collection of old wives' tales, rumors, and anecdotes. And the plural of "anecdotes" is not "data."

Talk to the mechanics who are fixing your car on the insurance company's dime. Explain your concerns to them, and ask how comfortable you should be driving a repaired car around in New England. Ask them whether they'd be comfortable if their daughter had a car that had been in a similar wreck.
Should I wait to get it fixed and see what someone will give me on a trade-in before I decide?

As opposed to just selling it for scrap as a wreck? Duh.
posted by ROU_Xenophobe at 8:39 AM on February 8, 2007 [1 favorite]

Yeah, I'm a little confused by that too... you can't really sell an undriveable car for much of anything.
posted by smackfu at 8:52 AM on February 8, 2007

The real problem is that you're asking the wrong question. The question you meant to ask is "How do I get a new car?"

I know cars that are in accidents like the one I had are never quite the same

No you don't. Because they frequently are exactly the same as they were before.
posted by electroboy at 10:10 AM on February 8, 2007

Let me get this straight:

You got into an accident. There was no body damage. And you want the car totalled?!


Look, I don't know where you could've been hit (or hit someone) or what was damaged that towing was necessary, so I'm going to guess. My guess is that you rear-ended someone and cracked the radiator. This would require the replacement and painting of the front bumper cover and core (~$700), the radiator (~$600), and the balance in labor to install the radiator and stupid stuff like brackets and grills.

In an accident like that, it's unfortunate that there was that much damage and that the car wasn't driveable because it had no coolant, but you're out of your mind if you think it affected anything but one cosmetic item and one easily replaceable engine component.
posted by SpecialK at 10:36 AM on February 8, 2007

You should always ask for an additional amout to conpensate you for the depreciation in value the car has suffered as a result of being in an accident (usu. 10% to 15% of the cost of repairs, according to my ex-insurance adjuster aunt). No matter what, the car will never be as good as new, since the fact that it was involved in an accident of any kind is detectable and therefore lowers the resale value, regardless of how perfect the repairs may have been.
posted by hankbear at 10:53 AM on February 8, 2007

Doh! conpensate = compensate
posted by hankbear at 10:54 AM on February 8, 2007

If the $2000 damage estimate is correct, then there couldn't have been much damage to the car. A bent bumper and a couple of headlights will run you $2000. The fact that it had to be towed doesn't mean much. As SpecialK said, it could be a radiator or it could be as simple as a bent fender rubbing on a tire. A good body shop can do an amazing job of matching paint so that it will be nearly impossible to see that there was ever any damage. Your resale value will not be affected. The only doubt will be in your own mind and a conversation with the body shop mechanics should put your mind at ease. They do this stuff routinely for a living and if done properly, your car will be fine.
posted by JackFlash at 10:56 AM on February 8, 2007

dude, 20 years ago my mom drove her new jeep cherokee into a telephone pole at 30-45 mph, hitting it dead center.

i drove that car to work this morning. twenty. years. later.
posted by noloveforned at 11:24 AM on February 8, 2007 [1 favorite]

Uh, no body damage and you want the car totaled? No, get your stuff replaced, and be glad YOU'RE okay. Ten thousand dollars worth of damage to your car would mean several thousand dollars of damage to you, as well. Cough up for repairs, then save to buy a new car if you really want a new one. Be glad you can afford to own a nice car.

FWIW, AFAIK, the police who arrive at the scene of accidents around here always have cars towed, regardless of damage. It's to keep liability down (would YOU want some random person, police officer or not, driving your car?), and keep everyone else safe (in case something goes wrong in the car while he/she's driving, etc).
posted by Verdandi at 12:46 PM on February 8, 2007

As a materials engineer I can tell you that the stresses your car experienced during the accident will probably not leave it with any lasting repercussions -- any significant problems would be visible under a close inspection. Cars are designed to sustain constant loading and unloading for a long period of time, and once a material in the car has yielded it will become obvious to anyone trained in vehicle inspection.

In the slim case that something was overlooked by a mechanic, you would certainly be able to get it repaired at a later date. Anything major would almost always be diagnosed during the rigorous inspection, so you shouldn't worry about anything life-threatening going unnoticed.
posted by Aanidaani at 4:44 PM on February 8, 2007

For what it's worth, my sister hit a deer on the Interstate in her CRV a few months after she bought it. The insurance company had the car fixed (which was an incredible pain in the ass, since she lives in Ohio, and the crash was in Arkansas, and it took quite some time to fix the car).

She says it drives just fine. Hitting a deer at 60MPH causes a lot of damage, much more than a low speed rear ending. Your car will be fine. Just be sure to have it inspected. There's just not that much to cause the safety issues you are apparently concerned with. A few suspension components, the tires, the braking system, and the steering linkage is about it, and all can be inspected or replaced relatively easily.
posted by wierdo at 4:55 PM on February 8, 2007

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