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Collision/insurance question

First time poster, long time listener.
So, I needed your opinion on my accident question. My 2004 Chevy impala was involved in a fender bender. Long story short, I clipped someone off as they were speeding down the street.
My left headlight flew off, with some minor damage to the bumper, hood, and left tire well. The insurance company told me they would handle the claim. While they provide me with a loaner car, they send my car to be appraised and worked on.
The insurance company told me the car is a total loss and wanted to give me $700 for it. The repair company submitted the bid but the insurance company must have rejected it. Yes it does have about 165000 mi on it, it works perfectly fine.
I really don’t know what to do. I still can’t afford a used or new car with the $700.
I’m turning to you Car Talk family, what can I do?
Thank you all,

Ask your insurance agent what your options are. You may have the right to take the $700, buy the car from them as “salvage”, and then take it home and repair it yourself. Know that once they “make you whole” with the $700, they own the car.

You might be able to contest the settlement as well. The key is to open up a conversation with them.

Out of curiosity, how much was the repair estimate? Do you have photos of the damage? Have you asked the insurance company if you can get a second estimate?

Plan A:
Johnathan, By how many dollars do the repairs exceed the value? You need to find out.

Find comparable (same make, model, model-year, similar condition, equipment, mileage) cars for sale in ads and online. Save copies. With a fair settlement you should be able to buy a similar replacement to make you “whole,” again.

Do you have recent receipts for tires, battery, maintenance, etcetera?
Make an appointment and talk with your agent at his/her office. They should be able to help and should want to help.

I’ve negotiated higher settlements, before. You need to show why your car was worth more.
You may argue your case and get it fixed.

Plan B:
Is it drivable? If he car is drivable, see if any local body shops will “contract” to repair it at an agreed upon price, using used and aftermarket parts when available.

If it’s a “go” to get a decent settlement and get repairs done then find out what the insurance company has valued the “salvage” (you totaled car) as. Then buy it from them as part of your settlement (subtracted from settlement check.) Good luck.

Everything is negotiable. Try saying, “No, I don’t think so. The car was worth more than that because it ran well. How about if we agree that you pay me $1500 and I keep the car?”

Insurance companies are required to negotiate in good faith. If they don’t, they can be punished by the State licensing boards and you can sue them in court. So, make an offer, and then note it in a diary you keep as a document in your computer. Keep records of every conversation and letter, with dates. Be pleasant, have a sense of humor, and always be ready to make a deal.

Agree with the others but in lieu of money, insurance companies need to find you a similar car with similar mileage in similar conditions for you. You pay the deductible though. So you don’t need to settle on the money. The realistic value of what you can go buy one for or a car. Really your choice but they aren’t going to like it and you may need to go find it yourself and fight the battle with them.

04 impala is worth more than 700. Friend just got 4900 for 02 Avalon w/255k miles. Sheesh. Who knew? They have 99 lumina w/70k miles as spare car with full coverage. I am not going to tel them how to insure cars.

The insurance company goes off of book value. NADA or Kelly Blue Book for pricing. This is just like negotiating a price on any used car. There are lots of good suggestions here. Especially this

Be pleasant, have a sense of humor, and always be ready to make a deal

Make your case for why you deserve more, and/or want your car back or both. This is one of the situations that owners of older cars get into with insurance companies when accidents occur. Don’t make it personal with the adjuster, it is just business. Good luck

True, mustang, but many policies also only pay a percentage of the total book value.

NADA dealer list is 3425. Average trade is 1125. I assumed you have a straight Impala model, not an LS or SS. Your insurance company may use a different valuation method, but they are obligated to clearly explain it to you. They may be able to deduct for pre-existing damage, depending on your state’s rules.

I would start a discussion/negotiation process, because it may be difficult to get a good value out of them. At this point, I would believe you are being low-balled.

What is the deductible on your collision insurance? I have $1000 deductible on our vehicles. If that is what you have, the insurance company is saying that your car is worth $1700. If you have no deductible, then you are being low balled.

Thank you all for leaving a comment! I appreciated it so much!
@jayhawkroy Yes, I have a straight Impala model. No one explained how they got the price and now I can’t find my the claim manager. It always goes to voicemail.

@Triedaq My deductible is around $260.

I might pull my car out of the collision place and get a second opinion but I still don’t know where to go from here.

Again thanks!

I just looked up your car on A clean LS with that mileage is worth $2350 in trade and $4225 as a clean retail sale. It seems to me that they should give you whatever is required to replace the car, and to me, that implies a clean retail sale. As your insurer for a detailed breakdown of their cost analysis. You might also ask them why it differs from the NADAGuides value, since it is supposed to be the same, or at least similar.

Just one last question.
My friends and family told me I should accept the offer and write this off as a “total loss”.
I really don’t want to do this because I don’t have the extra income to buy a new or let alone a used car. I did do the extra research you all asked and found some examples. Plus, I have the blue book and NADA values.

So, can the insurance company take legally my car away?

Have you talked to them, as was suggested by several people ? Tell them, politely, the values quoted by jtsanders above, and ask them why that differs from the price they are offering.

So, can the insurance company take legally my car away?

I would hope not. I would think you could just refuse their offer and you’re on your own. Kinda makes the insurance worthless in this case.

I think the insurance company is purposefully low-balling you. Perhaps that’s their standard operating procedure. Some companies will routinely low-ball you, and many people probably accept, because they don’t know that they can contest the offer

You may not want to deal with a car with a salvage title, can cause insurablity problems, much less driveability problems. Any clue as to the insurance company to avoid, like has an Australian accented lizard, or a cartoon figure with a generals helmet?

Laws vary from state to state. Here in Mississippi I know several people who kept their totalled cars and used the insurance to repair the vehicles to a safe driving condition and continue driving for many years. A few wrinkles or a rear door that wouldn’t open didn’t seem to bother some people. Several people who were financially able to pay cash for new cars chose to drive their patched up wrecks.

“You may not want to deal with a car with a salvage title, can cause insurablity problems, much less driveability problems.”

I’ve had three cars totaled out from under me. All three were obtained by me as part of a more than fair, negotiated settlement, along with checks that paid for repairs. Two of them were repaired by body shops that I contracted with (for less than the insurance estimates) and one I fixed myself.

I had full coverage insurance on them, including collision. My agent suspended the collision insurance until I took the repaired cars to her agency and she looked to see that repairs were complete, took photos, and immediately re-instated my collision coverage.

The car titles never left my possession and the titles did not become savage titles. All was accomplished above board with my agent understanding what was happening.

When I totaled mine, I just bought it back but no title change. I fixed it myself and all I needed to do for. Full coverage again was have the agent inspect it to see that it was fixed. In this case I think you need to fix it yourself. Buy a book, get used parts and off you go.