CarTalk.com Best of Deals Car Reviews Repair Shops Cars A-Z Radio Show

Auto Insurance - Get rid of old cars?

My friend has a very well maintained 2000 corolla that has about 80k miles. Last week, he hit an SUV on the front passenger’s side (corolla) lightly.

The damage was the front bumper, hood, and the quarter panel. All the damage was on the front right side.

The body shop gave a quote of $3000 to fix it…the insurance decided the car is “totaled”.

So a perfectly good car that has a little bit of body damage is declared “totaled”?!?!?!? What a waste! Where are the green earth people now??

I guess if nobody had auto insurance, body shops would actually need to compete and the price to repair would be lower.

Edit: Question

If someone hits my car and they are at fault…their insurance cannot “total” my car right?

So a perfectly good car that has a little bit of body damage is declared "totaled"?!?!?!?

Is this the first car you friend owned? That’s the way insurance policies have worked from day one. Your friends collision insurance is MUCH lower then a new car.

I’ve seen a car that was bumped in the front while parked at Wallmart. No visible sign of damage…Couldn’t tell it was hit…UNLESS you looked inside and saw the deployed air-bags. The car was totaled because the value to replace the air-bags was more then the vehicle was worth.

The insurance company can pay the cash value for the car and the friend can pay to have it towed to their home as scrap. But what will they do with it?

I have had an old pickup technically totalled twice and had it repaired with used parts for far less than the quoted price but I was without the trucks for several weeks each time. When I sold it there was still a dimple above the windshield where the hood had flown open while being towed. Repairing that dimple would have cost more than the used hood, fender and bumper.

First of all if no one had auto insurance it would not be safe to drive anywhere. Hospital bills and vehicle repair would bankrupt almost everyone. Collision shops do compete , that is why most of them have free estimates. I also suspect that this vehicle is actually the OP’s.

“If someone hits my car and they are at fault…their insurance cannot “total” my car right?”

Yes, I’m pretty sure they can. If your car is worth $5k, and the damage is, say, $7k, then they
’total’ your car and pay you the $5k.

It’s not personal, it’s business, just dollars and cents. The idea behind insurance is that you pay a premium each month for coverage that will pay your repair bill if there’s damage, hopefully saving you money in the long run. But that doesn’t mean they will fix anything and everything, only what’s reasonable.

Look at it this way, if the damage to the car is $3000 and the value of the car the moment before it is wrecked is $3000 and you were paying out of your pocket to fix it, you wouldn’t do it, would you? No, you’d sell the car for scrap and put your scrap money and $3000 towards another car.

Any insurance company can total your car. Like has been said above, nobody is going to pay $7000 to fix a $5000 car.

An insurance company could agree to pay more than a car is worth, but then your premium would be higher than it is now. Are you in favor of that?

As for the “green earth” comment, I’ll point out that nothing is stopping your friend from taking the settlement, adding his own money, and fixing the car, if that’s what he believes is better. However, I’ll also point out that newer cars are more fuel-efficient with less emissions, so keeping an old car on the road might not be the green choice.

The obligation of the liable party’s insurance is only to “make you whole”. That means that if the damage exceeds the book value of the car they have the option to pay you the book value of the car.

You can negotiate with them. I had a car totaled and the insurance company wanted to give me $2000 for the car. I got clippings from the newspaper showing the cheapest I could replace the vehicle for was $4000. We settled on $3800…I was hit while stopped at a traffic light…so I was dealing with someone’s insurance company.

THIS is why you don’t keep insurance on an older vehicle other than liability.
If the vehicle has a loan against it , that lien holder may require it be insured for the time of the loan .
But otherwise you don’t keep paying out for insurance you can never use…pay that same dollar amount into a savings acount that YOU get to keep if you never use it.

Then ,you decide whether to invest in repairing the car.
You also decide how to repair the car…used parts or new…fix only part of it to be driveable od repair it showroom condition…your choice.


Advised to me by my insurance agent…right up front…about insuring my 10k$ band gear for loss while traveling to gigs…’’.just save some money aside that you get to keep instead of paying me money you may never see again.’’

By insuring only the blue book value of the car, you eliminate the incentive to push cars off cliffs for a living! (Well, reduce it, anyways.)

What I have a hard time appreciating is that home insurance IS based on replacement cost. I moved into a house built in 1920. Purchased it for $45,000; put $15,000 into it…and have insured for a replacement cost of $280,000?!?

I’m not that dishonest, and anyways I love the place…but you have to admit, it’s one hell of an incentive for someone without scruples. (Granted, it’d probably be the sort of thing you’d only get away with once…but once might be enough for some!)

Insurance companies can pretty much do what they want. If the affected party doesn’t like the decision they may even have to sue their own deep pockets insurance company.
Insurance companies try to pay off on the value of the car, not the retail prices on the lot.

You may have read about or seen the news stories on the tornados that tore up Moore, OK a year or so ago. What’s not reported is how many of those homeowners were having to fight their insurance companies over coverage and payout; and it’s still going on today.

Last week, he hit an SUV on the front passenger's side (corolla) lightly.

The damage was the front bumper, hood, and the quarter panel. All the damage was on the front right side.

Sounds a little more than “lightly”.

Agree with the others but nothing stopping you from doing the work for your friend. It doesn’t take long to get to $3000 though by the time you figure a hood, fender, bumper, paint, etc. plus all the time and equipment needed to do the job. As for the green folks, paint and supplies were a lot cheaper before the EPA boys got involved with regulating paint fumes.

how did humanity ever survive without the altruism of the insurance companies?

I call bullcrap volvo

All our household goods are insured for REPLACEMENT VALUE! Years ago my son’s bike was stolen; it was a 6 year old 10 speed. The company replaced it with a new and better 12 speed, since 10 speeds had gone out of fashion.

Our house cost $160,000 when it was built in 1979, now worth about $600,000. Insurance is based on the cost of replacing any one component of the structure. The premiums have a lot to do with the hazards you face. In the country there is no fire truck close by, so my rural friends pay more for their insurance than we do with a fire hall just 5 blocks away. I’m sure flood insurance in New Orleans would be expensive if at all available.

Don’t worry about a scrapped car not being “green”. Cars are recycled almost as much as old car batteries. That Corolla will become new Corollas, the plastic, the carpets, the steel, aluminum and the rest. Parts will be sold off of it to keep other 2000 Corollas on the road. I think cars are about 80% recyclable.

Oh and welcome to the world of airbag equipped cars. Pop one bag, $1000, 2 bags $3000 for the airbags, the dash pad and likely the windshield.

One of the best cars that my wife ever owned was a car that was totalled by the insurance company. It was her mother’s car…a 2000 Pontiac Bonneville…that got caught in a freak hail storm. It put little dings all over the hood, roof and trunk. The “damage” was in appearance only. She bought it for $200 from her mother.

If you insure your house for replacement cost, your insurance company will pay for it’s rebuilding . They will not cut you a check for that amount and let you walk away from the property. If you don’t want to rebuild it they will only pay the value of the house before the loss minus the value of the lot.

In some ways I have to agree with the OP. The Corolla may well be fixable for far less than $3000 with used parts. There may also be underlying damage that the untrained eye can’t see. Proceed carefully.

I have bought and fixed a lot of “totaled” cars. I had a Taurus that needed both white passenger side doors replaced. Used Taurus doors can be bought around here for $100 a copy. The electrical connections on many vehicles, including the Taurus, are plug-ins. It took me about 45 minutes to REBUILD that total wreck. I drove it for a year and sold it for a profit.