Appraisals for Total Loss, Diminished Value

Dear CarTalk Fans:

Do you know of any good auto appraisers for luxury cars? I’m concerned my insurance company will “undervalue” my recently damaged car and classify it as a total loss.

It has very low mileage with a body in mint condition for its age.

I’m in the Chicago area. Any success stories with arbitration for total loss or diminished value claims?

Insurance companies don’t “undervalue” vehicles. Owners overvalue them.

Insurance companies know the true value of vehicles. It’s their business.

You may not agree with them, but they know the real value.

If you have a “special” car you should have special insurance such as “agreed value” or collector car insurance. If you have standard auto insurance your car will be valued accordingly.

Best of luck.

In my experience they are more likely to overvalue than undervalue.  But they are not valuing it the same way you would.  They are looking at willing buyer willing seller both fully knowledgeable of the situation.  

We all tend to value what we are parting with for more than it is really worth, because maybe it is worth that much to us and we tend to value what we are buying for less. I spent over 30 years professionally valuing property of businesses for the government. When property is properly appraised by good professional, it is going to be very close to the legal value. 

There are exceptions, but usually they are very fair.  Frankly it pays them to be a little generous since defending their evaluation is more expensive than just doing it right to begin with.

Look up the NADA,Black book, and Blue book value of your car, and then compare that to what the insurance company offered. I’ll bet their offer is in the ballpark.

Gene, Do Your Homework!

You need to search for cars similar to your’s in “low mileage, mint condition”. Print sales ads of cars that “argue” your case for a higher value on a near perfect specimen. Round up any and all receipts showing what you have put into the car, the more recent, the better. Should you be able to get any photos, that may help. See if you can even physically get to a similar car for sale at an above average price and check it out and take pictures and ask questions.

I have had to argue my case for settlements on 3 cars that were struck from behind and “totalled”, and these weren’t necessarily “cream puffs”, but they were well maintained and would have been hard to replace with a car in like condition. Receipts help. Ads help.

I have refused settlement checks offered by adjusters(You have to sign off on the car). A call to an agent saying you are not happy with a settlement figure offered, can help. I have successfully held out for a decent settlement. The company is trying to save money and you are trying to be rightfully compensated. I have found they don’t like these things to drag on and on.

Keep in mind that although the company considers the car a total loss, you can can often take a somewhat smaller settlement, keep the car and contract with a shop to repair it for you on your own terms. I have done this 3 times. One time I legally came out $1800 ahead (although I spent a lot of time and did some of the work myself with the company’s knowledge). I was able to put collision insurance back on that vehicle when complete.

I would think that you should reasonably be able to replace your car with a similar car (model, year, options, condition, tires, maintenance) with an adequate settlement from your insurance company. That will only take you back to “even” and make you whole, again. That’s what insurance is all about.

I had a car that was totaled and the insurance party of the driver that hit the car was responsible. I demanded a rental car which the company reluctantly provided. I talked to a dealer who knew my car and he gave me a price. I also checked a local publication and between the values, determined that my car was worth between $3800 and $4200. I had in my mind that $4000 would be acceptable. The adjuster from the other driver’s insurance company called me and told me that my car was a total loss and that he would send me a check for $3125. He said that his computer printout showed market price. I told him that market was what I would have to pay for an equivalent replacement car. I suggested that he find an equivalent car and I would inspect the car and either accept the car or take the price the insurance company negotiated with the dealer. The adjuster non-too-politely told me that he did not go shopping. I told him that when I do consulting work, that I charged $100 an hour and that I would charge his company for my shopping time which I estimated would take at least 3 hours. He then said, “I don’t have to listen to this crap” and hung up. I laughed, because I had a rental car provided by his company. The next day he called back and said that we had to get together on a price for the car. I responded, “Young man, I want two things from you: 1) an apology for your conduct on the telephone; and 2) $4000 for the car your insured party destroyed”. He replied, “I’m putting a check in the mail for $4000. Return the title when you get the check”. He then hung up. I was one for two–I didn’t get the apology but I did get the check for $4000.

This Is Similar To My Experience With Settlements On Totals.

They are negotiable and you have to make your own deal.

That’s pretty cool about the rental. I never tired that. I don’t buy rental coverage because we have 7 cars, but I would take one if the at-fault driver’s company paid. We have No-Fault-Insurance in my state. Would that preclude my getting a rental car from the other party’s coverage do you think?

The other party’s insurance paid the rental bill. This also took an argument because the car that was totaled was a car that I let my son drive when he was in college. He loaned the car to a family in the church he attended so that this family could take a daughter back to her college when their car wouldn’t start. As the family was leaving town with our car, an elderly lady crossed the center lane and hit the car head on. Fortunately, nobody was injured. My son needed the car with the work he was doing with a church. The insurance company of the woman that hit the car wasn’t going to rent a car to an underage driver. I informed them that I paid an additional charge on my premium so that my son could drive the car and that the could do it with the rental company. I also informed them that if I had to make a 100 mile round trip to settle the matter, I would charge them for my time. I was polite in the conversation, but I used my doctor title. The insurance company didn’t realize that I am not an M.D., just a lowly college professor. At any rate, the insurance company delivered a car to my son’s residence.

Let’s face it–your time is valuable and my time is valuable. I expect to be compensated for my time. I don’t live in a no-fault state which may have been a help in this case.

There is some room for disagreement on replacement value. If the insurer wants to give you trade-in, that’s not acceptable. They should give you the replacement cost from a dealer, IMO.