Conundrum after accident: Total or repair

chevrolet
cobalt

#1

My nephew was involved in a XMas eve accident at an intersection where the oncoming driver made left turn directly in his path. He hit the other vehicle @ 35MPH in the front passenger door; the front end of his 2010 cobalt was heavily damaged. The garage estimates about $7500 in repairs, which is close to the amount to total the car. (I bought the car for him last April, so that’s my stake in this.)

So now he is asking me for advice - if he should just ask the insurance company to total it, rather than to accept the extensive repairs? Does he even have a choice?
The conundrum is that there is no way it can be replaced for its blue book value. He bought it loaded with many extras, low mileage (about 30K) in immaculate condition from a previous owner who was willing to give him a really good deal.

He is concerned that if he has it repaired, it will have future problems, and of course, a much lower trade-in value.

What factors should drive the decision one way or the other?


#2

Here is a picture of the damage to the car.


#3
So now he is asking me for advice - if he should just ask the insurance company to total it, rather than to accept the extensive repairs? Does he even have a choice?

He really has no choice in if the insurance company totals it. But he doesn’t have to get it fixed either. He can just take the money and buy another car. I’m assuming that since you bought it for him he doesn’t have a car loan???


#4

don’t fix it. take the cash option and run for the hills. not all cars can be brought back to previous state.


#5

A repaired car can be nearly as good as new if the work is quality. It tends to lower the value but it can be a good car. That said, check Autotrader and the like for similar cars and their prices to see what can replace this car. If you can buy an un-wrecked car for the price the insurance co will give you, that would seem to be a better option. Keep in mind, you DON’T have to accept what the insurance company gives you. Push them for more money but be prepared. Show them how nice the car is with receipts for service and make your case for a better price. You deserve to be “made whole”, that’s why you have insurance.


#6
I'm assuming that since you bought it for him he doesn't have a car loan???

That’s right - he had it free and clear. The repair shop has an excellent reputation. He had a previous car repaired there with excellent results. At the present time, the insurance company (of the other party, since the other driver was fully at fault) is going with the repairs, not totalling it.

Oh, by the way, he is a senior in college, with a part-time job at close to minimum wages. So he has no extra money to spend on a vehicle. I had hoped that this gift would have seen him through college and graduate school…


#7

@Alphecca

So if he wants it totalled, he’ll have to talk with the other insurance company?

To tell you the truth, the car looks bad, but not hopeless

If that body shop you mentioned is competent, a repair like this should be no problem for them. Provided the other guy’s insurance company LETS them do a proper repair. Unfortunately, that’s not always the case.

My brother recently bought a 3 year old car from a relative. Before the sale, the relative disclosed that the car had been in an accident. I looked at the repair order, the list of parts that were repaired and/or replaced, etc., then I looked at the car. The body shop did an excellent job, near as I can tell, so I told him to go ahead and buy the car.

But if, for some reason, it gets totateled in the end, do NOT keep the car.


#8

@db4690

So if he wants it totalled, he'll have to talk with the other insurance company?
Yes. He has been in contact with them already. The initial estimate from the adjuster was $6800 damage. When it was towed to the body shop and they started taking it apart, they raised the estimate to $7500. I don't have the list of repairs, but my nephew said it was quite lengthy. My nephew told me that the border-line costs for totalling the car is around $8000, so it is getting close.

The body shop is one approved by the other driver’s insurance company (which is one of the top nation-wide companies). My nephew’s uncle, a long-time retired local mechanic, also knows and recommends this shop.

There is nothing equivalent (same model, year) on the market anywhere near him, but I have found a couple of equivalents in used inventory of dealerships in my area. They run about $12500 + TTL. That makes me suspect that the value the insurance company is assigning to the damaged car is quite low.


#9

Provided you liked the car before, it was reliable, etc, then if the insurance company will pay to fix it, that’s what I’d do. That kind of glancing blow usually wouldn’t cause major damage to the functional parts of the car, just needs some cosmetic fix up. A good body shop should be able to deliver it looking at least as good as it looked before, probably better.

It’s a compromise of course. But if the car is primarily needed for to go from here and there reliably, at least you know what problems you’ve got if you keep this one. Buy a new one, you may be introducing unexpected new and possibly expensive problems.


#10

$12,500 seems high. $11,000 is more like it. But it doesn’t matter unless the insurance company offers a replacement car. My daughter had a similar accident in a 2009 Cobalt LT in 2010, and it still runs fine after repairs. BTW, isn’t his insurance company handling this for him? He should not have to deal with this himself.


#11

I’d vote to keep it, especially if you have a plan to keep the car for 7-10 years and trust the repair shop. That eliminates the resale value argument. A good repair shop will fight for quality parts too.


#12

It sure doesn’t look that bad to me. Two fenders, a bumper cover, hood, painting and maybe some other parts but its nothing that can’t be fixed like new. You might try another body shop for an estimate.


#13

Looks can be very deceiving on things like this so you need to be very clear, in writing, about what is expected of the car later on in case problems due to handling, tire wear, and so on start to crop up.

My youngest son’s Camaro didn’t look as bad as that Cobalt after someone left turned him and it was a non-repairable total.
Initially it didn’t look that bad but as I got into it I found the floor pan and firewall buckled, front subframe tweaked, etc. The kicker was that headlights, radiator, battery, front valance, radiator supports, A/C condenser, etc didn’t have a scratch on them.
A cursory look from a left front angle would have shown a car with no damage other than a very lightly buckled hood.

He sold the car to a body guy he knew who threw in the towel and sold it off as parts. It’s the things like floor pans, strut towers, subframes, and so on that throw a monkey wrench into the works.


#14

You can argue the value with the insurance company. Cite low mileage, condition, new tires or any thing that increases the value. This got my friend an extra $2k for his car.


#15

You can always argue the value with the insurance company. But as for totaling it…that’s still up to the insurance company. You can ASK…but it doesn’t work that way. They look at the damage…and if it exceeds a certain percentage of the vehicles worth…then it’s totaled…if it doesn’t exceed…then it’s NOT totaled. Simple as that. Insurance companies are going to pay put the least amount they possibly can…NOT THE MAXIMUM amount.

If they don’t total it…then you can either get it fixed…OR sell it/junk it and keep the money and buy another one. Or just keep the money and get it fixed to where it’s just drivable…and keep going. As OK pointed out…all we see is the surface damage. There could be a lot more damage we can’t see.

If it were my car and I was in the same position…I’d get it drivable…and safe. Forget about looks and keep going. Maybe even pocket some money.


#16

@ok4450

Looks can be very deceiving on things like this so you need to be very clear, in writing, about what is expected of the car later on in case problems due to handling, tire wear, and so on start to crop up.

I talked to my nephew last night. What drove the estimate up was damage to the front suspension.
He asked the shop to send him a list of the damages / repairs, but he’s not received it yet.

@MikeInNH

But as for totaling it...that's still up to the insurance company. You can ASK...but it doesn't work that way. They look at the damage...and if it exceeds a certain percentage of the vehicles worth...then it's totaled....if it doesn't exceed..then it's NOT totaled.

Yes, Mike, that’s what I’ve told him. For the insurance company, it’s the bottom line that counts. They are handling the repairs and his rent car. So far, it a repair job, not a total. It was getting close to that borderline though.
So we are keeping our fingers crossed that it turns out OK. It’s due out 17 January, and from you all, I’ve told him to get a written warranty on fixing root causes of subsequent symptoms.

My nephew has a lot of emotional stake in the car. He really loved this sharp-looking little red coupe with all the bells and whistles. The insured must be having regrets for her impatience. The other car is the silver one to the right of his in the picture. It was practically new, only 2-3 months old. All her airbags went off. She was taken to a hospital. If you’re driving and the airbag deploys, your face will be black and blue for many days.

Have a happy and SAFE 2014!


#17

@ok4450

Looks can be very deceiving on things like this so you need to be very clear, in writing, about what is expected of the car later on in case problems due to handling, tire wear, and so on start to crop up.

I talked to my nephew last night, and he’s asked the body shop to send him a list of repair items. He said what drove the estimate higher was damage to the front suspension. I’ve talked to a few other friends, and the consensus is to have it repaired and get a good written warranty on fixing root causes of future symptoms.

As of now, the insurance company is handling the repair bills, rent car, and the insured’s second car (the silver one to the right of his in the photo). The insured, I imagine, is regretting her impatience. Her car was only 2-3 months old. All the airbags deployed, and she was taken to the hospital. If your driver’s airbag deploys on Christmas eve, your face will be black and blue for the holiday season.

Thanks everyone for all the advice. The release date for the car out of the shop is 17 January. Time will tell …


#18

My nephew got his car back early this week, and it looks like new and drives well. The repair bill was over $8500. He’s taken it back to fix a couple of minor things, but there is still one nagging problem - the daylight running lights and the illumination on the digital panel are not working correctly. The control panel is too dim in daylight hours. It should switch to bright to be readable in bright ambient light.

Any ideas?
Thanks for your help.


#19

@Alphecca

In regards to the daytime running lights . . . there should be a sensor on top of the dash

Is it obstructed?

Is it plugged in?

There should also be a dimmer, which is for the interior lighting (including the dash)

Check what setting it’s on