Your totaled car is sitting in the backyard when you get a
telephone call from your insurance adjuster. They will fix your car! In many
occasions this is good news, but when your car is nearly destroyed, and the
insurance company wants to patch it together and give it back to you, then
you’ve got a problem.
Think about it. The car will never be the same. If you want
to trade it in or sell it, you will probably have to take a substantial
reduction in price to be able to get rid of it. You also need to consider the
safety aspect of the car. Will your car ever be as safe as it was before the
In most accidents, cars can be fixed with no major
problems, but when you have a totaled car (or you are almost there) and the
insurance company will repair it and return it to you, you can be faced with an
Insurance adjusters decide if you have a totaled car or a
fixable car. They need to first determine the value of the car and then
determine if the repair estimate is less than 70, 80, or even 90% of the car’s
value. So how do you protect yourself? Here are five simple tips.
Tip # 1: Ask for the repair estimate. Getting the
repair estimate will show you what the insurance company thinks is wrong with
your car. Review the estimate. Make sure the car will be painted and that all
the necessary parts to fix it are accounted for. If you do not know mechanics
that well, take that estimate to another shop and ask them to review it. You
will be surprised when other shops will tell you that your car should not be
Tip # 2: Make sure you have the insurance company
account for all the cost associated with fixing the car before they start
working in your car. Have them account for all the parts and the shipping cost.
Make sure that the parts they are buying are actually in inventory. In many
cases, insurance adjusters price a part, but cannot find it. This will make you
wait longer and they would have to pay for more rental.
Tip # 3: Ask for a “tear down” so you know that
there is not a totaled car but a car that can be properly fixed. When insurance
adjusters and body shops write estimates, the do not get under the damaged
parts. They only look and estimate the damage that is visible. A tear down is
the process of taking off all the damage parts and looking to see if the parts
below are also damaged. More often than not, hidden damage will appear, and this
will make the estimate of damages higher and taking you closer to a totaled car.
Insurance companies do not want to pay for this tear down.
But if you insist, they will pay for it. This is a good idea anyway for two
reasons. The tear down will most likely than not increase the repair estimate.
You will also know if the integrity of the frame and chassis were compromised in
There is no question that the body shop can put the car
back together. The question is if a fixed totaled car will be safe to be on the
road. Make sure some one looks at the mechanical and structural integrity of the
Tip # 4: Use the rental expense to your advantage.
If your totaled car is going to get repaired, then it is likely that it will
take 20 to 30 days before your vehicle again. That is only counting body work
and paint and that all parts are on hand at the time the mechanics start
working. It will take longer if you have mechanical problems.
The insurance company will be looking at a rental bill that
could be over $1,000, depending on the limits of your policy. We have seen
rental bills of $2,000. If you have a totaled car, then the insurance company
will only have to pay up to three days of rental (sometime less, depending on
your state). They will be saving significantly if they do declare a total loss.
Tip # 5: Research your state law for
diminished or diminution of value claims. If you are making a claim against
your own insurance company, some states will allow you to ask for the difference
between what the car was worth before the accident, and what it worth after it
is repaired. Many states do not allow for first party claims like this one.
However, the restrictions only apply to first party claims. If you are making
this claim against the insurance company of the person that hit you, then the
claim will be allowed. Also, if you are making a uninsured property damage claim
against your own carrier. The claim will be allowed.