01 Forester vs Deer, the deer won. fight for total loss vs repairs?

My 01 Forester S, 107k miles, filled a deer tag two weekends ago. Most thankfully, nobody was injured - highway speed approx 80, in left lane, truck in right lane, cars behind… I’ve joined a large club, evidently.

Here’s the dilemma, although I’m not convinced that it is one. Any tips or feedback would be most welcome:

The insurer is stating that the car is repairable and putting on a full court press to do the repairs, at their contracted shop. No tear-down was done, the initial estimate was 4925 - all used parts, of course. A supplement for the timing belt was added for about 675. I also asked for a supplement on the engine block heater, which at best is not working, which at worst, could’ve done something more. The shop is claiming no frame damage. The entire front, hood, left fender, left mirror are kaput.

The repair damages are already at close to 6k, and the insurer has made no statement of warranty as to future issues and repairs at this point.

The collision occurred over 100 mi from home and it was towed back at a cost of $500, which the insurer covered. They’re also covering $40/day rental for up to 30 days. By the time the estimate came in a week later, plus the 8 days of work, they’re up to 860 for rental. 1360 in addition to the actual repair costs.

I have 1k deductible. One second before the collision the car was worth about 9k, mid-range valuation. Two sources have now calculated the diminished loss at 2 - 3k (which I can’t really claim as the deer didn’t have coverage.) If the repairs are performed, I’m left with a 5k valued car (9k minus my deductible paid, minus 3000 devaluation), with potential future issues.

The insurer is up to approx 7300 costs on this car. In addition to the fairly obvious math on all of this, does it make any sense to agree to repairs? The insurer is the only one to think so. The local salvage value was estimated at 2k. If they pay out the market value (MT law requires it be “market value”, nothing else), minus my deductible, they’re also recouping 2k on the salvage.

I look forward to helpful input - thanks!

I can certainly believe there was no frame damage and the damage was largely cosmetic. A deer that tumbles over the grill, hood and fender is not damaging the frame. The car can be repaired and it will likely be fine. With it’s diminished market value you only have to ask yourself if you want to drive this car until it dies or sell it in the near future. If you planned to drive it forever, get it fixed. If you are after a market valuable car, deny the repairs.

If you don’t repair the car, the insurance company will cut you a check for how much? I didn’t see the exact number anywhere in your post. Get that number and you can make a decision.

The car is an '01 so the body and paint can’t be perfect anyway. IF the repair is done decently well the repair should hold up for 2-4 years and still look ok. So, in 3 years your Subaru will be worth less, but most of that will be standard depreciation based on time and miles if the car still looks OK.

I’d tend to get it repaired, because I don’t think the check from the insurance company will get you as nice a car to replace it. If the insurance company offers you a good payment and you have more money to put into a deal perhaps you could upgrade to a newer car.

If you hit a deer at 80mph you’re darn lucky to just be asking questions about replacing the car!

Getting a payout for total, results in what vehicle for that money ?
You must weigh this also. They will not buy you a new Forester. Can you get another one for that money ? You may choose to buy newer, using that check as a down payment.

Your choice.

As it is you’ll end up with an 01 Forester for the price of the deductable.
Shop first for what you might get for the price of the settlement, then decide.

You do NOT have to go by the insurers estimates. You can get your own estimates.

Second…if it’s still not totaled…you can just have them cut you a check…and get rid of the car and use the money to buy something else.

To be honest, I wouldn’t give 5 grand or 9 grand for a 9 year old Forester. Excluding the paper values that are batted around and out in the real world, they can be had for less.

In OK anyway, a vehicle is usually considered a total if the repair costs meet or exceed 60% of the true value of the car; and true value does not mean the value the person on the street sees in various publications. It’s based on the NADA guide, etc. that a car dealer uses and you have to be a licensed car dealer to get that info or have ties to the insurance industry.

It’s a bit puzzling to me why the insurance company wants to sink way up in the 4 figures into repairing a 9 year old Subaru and I would not consent to it.

There’s also another reason why I would not consent to it. They want you to use THEIR contracted shop? This sounds like a huge conflict of interest to me and in cases like this there is usually some “I’ll scratch your back, you scratch mine” shenanigans going on.
This can often be construed as corner cutting and it wouldn’t surprise me that behind the scenes, and unknown to you, this repair will be done for much, much less and somone is going to make out on it in some way.
This repair is likely going to be what is called a “bolt on” repair; meaning swap some body panels, shoot some paint, and done. It’s not a major repair at all in spite of the appearance.

Tell them you’ll have some other independent body shops look at it and see what their reaction is then.

What? Isurer Chooses The Shop And “Contracts” Repairs? No Statement Of Warranty Or Coverage On Future Issues? No Tear Down, Yet No Frame Damage?

I sure wouldn’t sign anything without having some kind of warranty. Also, I’ve seen “contracted” repairs that cut corners, even to the point of not doing repairs properly.

As the car’s owner you are the one to decide where the repairs are made. I wonder if another shop would have somebody stop with you and take a look and give a real estimate. Is there a local Subaru Dealer that runs its own reputable body shop?

If the front bumper and / or the front part of the fender are pushed in then there’s a chance that frame rail(s) are involved. This car has no frame, but rather frame elements (reinforcements) welded to the inner fenders / unibody, but sometimes the front-end requires pulling and aligning and replacement or repair of frame rails. If these repairs are done correctly, this shouldn’t be an issue, but . . .

Who determines the market value? Can you research similar vehicles in your locale and use high retail prices to argue your case?


This car at a dealer is worth $7500 tops. I would seriously look into getting market value for this.

Agreed! We are all very grateful to be okay. Being the driver, I absorbed the impact, just stayed intent on not flipping the car. Had less than 3 seconds to think it through and react.

I attached a few pics above because I know everyone likes those ; )

I agree, I had a 2nd opinion from a reputable shop only based on the first written estimate. I suspect that if I tell my insurer that it must now go to the other shop for a “real” estimate, they may not like that. When I say “contracted”, this repair shop is reputable… but they are only allowed to do certain things with certain parts, and of course to keep the cost as low as possible.

On the topic of back-scratching, the shop guy told me this week he’d be interested in buying the car for his wife. You know, I’d keep the check from the insurer (shall I name them?!) and he’d throw on a little something. And I’m sure, despite him saying there’s nothing wrong with it, it would be VERY little!

Our Subaru market here is probably the strongest in the area - Bozeman is very expensive and gets better prices than Denver, SLC, etc. The Kelly value is 9600 - it’s in excellent clean condition, single owner, no kids, no pets, no smoking, all that. Subaru would’ve put it on the lot at 9999 and taken a bit less. More than the 8035 the insurer is stating the value.

In Montana, the law is that they have to use, and I mean have to, market value. Not cash value, not even NADA. IF one agrees to use book value, it has to be at least NADA. But again, it has to be market value. I’ve been talking much with good people at Subaru here - including their shop and their finance guy.

My insurer wasn’t even telling me what they valued it until yesterday. Earlier this week I told them that there was nothing further to discuss until they did that. She claimed she didn’t have that, hadn’t looked at the numbers, etc etc (right.) When I told her that she’s required to tell me their assigned value, and the factors used to arrive there, she was really happy about that… I’m kidding. Huffed and puffed. Got the number two days later.

I see that the left fender has been repainted before.
Knowing what else is already wrong with this car will also help you decide to keep or dump the unit.

The shop guy wanting to buy your car just makes this deal stink even more. Looking at the pics, the car doesn’t look that bad to me at all and certainly not 7 grand worth of bad.

About 10 years ago I hit a deer one night at 65 MPH and it damaged my old Sable pretty badly. (hood, both fenders, and everything else up front) The car actually looked worse than yours.
I found a front clip across the state line in KS for 400 bucks and when I took a trailer up there to get it, lo and behold, I discovered it was the same color. Even down to the pinstripe on the side. About 8 hours worth of parts removal and installation and you could never tell the car had been hit at all.

I have a feeling that is what someone is looking at here. Likely a front clip for a grand or less, a few spare hours on the weekend, and they have a low mileage Subaru on the cheap.

There used to be an insurance adjuster who lived in my 'hood who was involved in pulling things like this. (at least until he left the area on a rail after half a dozen lawsuits (including one from an insurance company) and 3 or 4 very close to tail whippings from some car owners who wised up to what he was doing. I’ve even had strangers stop in the street while I was mowing or whatever and ask where this guy lived; and they weren’t planning on being polite about it either.

My point about NADA is that there are 2 NADAs. The book that the consumer uses to find the value and the book which is identical in size/appearance and has different numbers in it.
As to value, my feeling is that comparing prices on eBay and perusing newspaper/Craigslist ads is a good indicator of what a car will bring.

Good luck on this anyway. Whenever someone starts volunteering to take the car off your hands this would tell me they see a “real deal” in the works to benefit themselves. And just to reiterate my opinion; the car don’t look that bad at all.

Yes, only left fender, wasn’t a “collision”, tho.

Just got off the phone w/ someone at insurance company… interesting.

Yesterday, the vmail msg from them stated that the car’s value is 8035. The guy I just spoke with said it was valued at 9500 and is repairable. Said there was a supervisor I could speak with and gave me that number.

Thanks much for your input, and glad that you came out all right after your accident.

I added some additional information above regarding the valuation. Yesterday I was told 8035. Today they told me 9500.

He also said that if their pre-approved shop does the work, if anything comes up in the future, that would be “taken care of”. I asked how I know that, and he thought that was odd and said, “well, i guess ____ can write something up.” Like this is some new concern?

This is pretty nutty. They apparently requested a tear-down and estimate on Tuesday, which is also the day that the shop added 675 for the timing belt - and mentioned the interest in buying it. And the insurer said they didn’t know if the tear-down was done, but that they got a final “final” estimate. Called the shop and he’s not in til Monday - probably to my advantage, anyway.

just to clarify on the repairs, not sure what you include when you write “front clip” on mine, but the radiator, ac, most likely timing belt, and a few other things (everything in the front) is being replaced.

This sounds like the “tom foolery” of Progressive insurance. What company is acting like an insurance company here?

  1. You pick the shop, not the insurance company.
  2. There is nothing wrong with an insurance company suggesting a specific shop as long as they do not mislead you into going there.
  3. If one of the techs was interested in buying it then it just might be an easy repair.
  4. Here in the midwest various insur comp total cars at different percentages, usually 75%. Without all the dim. value and items like that, your car is totaled now. It may be different in your area.
  5. an 01 with 100,000 and $7500 in damages w/out teardown? I’d push for a total.

With the comments made about buying it from you, all the crap about the shop, and now a “tear down”, I’d be leery about what they’re gonna do with it. Tell them to put everything back together(no repairs, just put the parts back in) and show up with a tow truck to take it to another shop

I dunno, I’ve hit two deer with two different cars with similar damage. One cost me about $700 to do the work myself and the other was about $2200 at a shop. It does not look that bad at all. I wouldn’t worry about used parts since that’s what’s on it now and at least it will be OEM and not after-market. I just think if they want to fix it let them do it and then you can trade after that if you want. It just has to be a quality job is all.

hi bscar -

this is an update for everyone w/ end of the day news:

spoke w/ supervisor at insurer (it’s Kemper). they flat out won’t total it. i don’t know what the repairs total was/is now, but it’s around 5500. the tow and rental have added 1300 and will go up a bit, another week of rental.

i told him - after speaking w/ the other reputable shop - that the other shop will have to do the repairs. the repairs will hold warranty for the life of the car. both shops, btw, warranty the work.

i will update as it resolves, but one point: it’s very nice that the shop owner expressed interest in the car, but how do we know he doesn’t say that to everyone to get them to think, “hmmm, he must be right. he must know something.” ?!

thanks for all of the very thoughtful advice.