How could this cost over $7600?

saturn

#1

My daughter owns a 2005 Saturn Ion coupe with about 67000 miles on it. Recently, she was driving home on a four lane highway at about 50 to 55 mph. She reports that suddenly she heard a loud thumping, saw sparks, and saw stuff hitting her windshield. She called me to come and get her. When I got there I saw that her right front tire had disintegrated. It had completely blown off the right fender and damaged the front bumper. That was the damage that I could see. She says she did not hit anything and was not going over 55 mph when this happened.

We had the car towed to our local Saturn dealership. The insurance adjuster claimed that the car was totaled (which was a complete shock to me after seeing the damage) and gave us $7600 for the claim. But here’s the problem. My daughter is physically disabled and uses a wheelchair. The Saturn coupe has those “suicide” doors, which enable her to disassemble her wheelchair and put it behind her in the back seat. Unfortunately, the Saturn coupe is no longer manufactured, and the only other car I could find with those doors is a Toyota cruiser which might be a little too pricey for us.

So, I’m really wondering what’s going on here. Why would the insurance company be willing to give us $7600 rather than pay to have the car fixed? Could that amount of damage possibly come to more than $7600? I asked the guys at the dealership what it would cost to fix the car, but they just passed the buck to the adjuster. After further questioning, it came to light that the insurance company takes a “totaled” car and sells it to a scrap yard for parts. Hmm. With the Saturn out of production, could it be that the parts are now worth more than $7600? If so, that would explain why they would prefer to “total” it.

I also found out that I have the option of buying back the car from the insurance company at the “salvage price” and then pay to get it fixed myself. Under the circumstances, I’m considering looking into that. I have the dealership doing an estimate for me (for a $75 fee, since I’m not guaranteeing that I’ll have them do the work). Could it be that they have the gall to tell me that that amount of damage is going to cost more than $7600 to fix? Or is the insurance company going to give me a ridiculously high price to buy it back?

Any ideas of what’s going on here? Any advice would be appreciated. You can respond here or email me at cogprofessor@gmail.com

Thanks.


#2

Wow, im not sure how a blown out tire could do 7600 bucks worth of damage, even fender, door, windshield, cv boots would be less than that I would think… Could you find a nice low mileage Ion? I looked at carmax and the have 4, but they are all manual transmissions unfortunately. There gotta be a similar Ion somewhere…

The Honda Element has the same door setup as the Ion, maybe one of those would work? It would probably be more than an Ion, but definitely less than a Cruiser


#3

Body work can get expensive, and might include new radiator, ac condenser etc. Look hard enough, and I am sure you can find a used one to replace rather than restore.


#4

I’m impressed that you were able to find a Saturn dealership


#5

So they must think it’ll cost more than $7,600, right? Because that’s the money they gave you, correct?

With those plastic body parts the damage might require several new ones, which might be hard to find.

I did a search on cars.com, found 12 ion coupes within 200 miles of me, seven of them less than $7,600.


#6

You can get an estimate from other body shops too, you don’t have to use a GM dealership, and most do not charge to give an estimate.

One really big expense is if the air bags go off.


#7

Get an estimate from an independent body shop so you know where you stand. It’s likely to be lower than the dealer’s estimate.


#8

You might consider a extended cab Chevrolet S-10 or Ford Ranger with the extra doors as they open to the rear. Of course the seat will be higher so that might be a problem.


#9

I’d take the 7600 and run. The damage does not have to add up to the true value of the car to have it declared a total.
Statutes vary by state but generally if the repair costs meet or exceed a certain percentage of the value the insurance will write the entire car off.
In OK for example it’s about 60% so repair costs of approximately 4 grand or so will mean a total.

As to why the tire blew out with no road debris as the cause, I would suspect low tire pressure which rubbed the sidewall out. You might check the remaining tires and if they’re low also then odds are the one that blew up was underinflated.

Your daughter is extremely fortunate that the vehicle did not go rolling.


#10

$7600 is a very generous offer, NADA puts the retail value (the amount a dealer would ask for, not necessarily get, at $7525, and that’s the top trim level with every possible option. If your car doesn’t have leather or a sunroof then retail value drops to about $6900. Trade in value is around $4300-$5500 depending on options and condition.

@ok4450 is correct, take the money and run.


#11

I have seen, and even fixed, cars that have been totaled by just such an incident.

Once the remains of a blown tire start flailing around under a fender all kinds of havoc ensues. WAPWAPWAPPWAAPPPWAPWAPWAPPWAAPPPWAPWAPWAPPWAAPPPWAPWAPWAPPWAAPPPWAPWAPWAPPWAAPPPWAPWAPWAPPWAAPPP from 55 MPH. I’ve even seen the tire take out the entire wire bundle that runs over the fender area on a Taurus. The same may be true on a Saturn Ion. Stuff like that gets expensive if you don’t have access to used wire bundles and lots of time to spend. Of course the insurance adjuster quoted NEW GM parts in their estimate.

The nice thing about the Ion coupe is that it is low to the ground and not as difficult to pull a wheelchair into the back seat from the driver’s seat as a Ranger, S-10, or Honda Element. I think the Mazda RX-8 has a similar door arrangement. (?)

I agree with ok4450. Take the money and look for another Ion Coupe. Was her car equipped with hand controls? If so, see if they will let you keep those parts. Of course if it has already been sold by your insurance company, tracking it down and BUYING those parts from the salvage yard may be difficult. The insurance salvage pool where it was sold usually will not part with that info. (I’ve tried.)


#12

$7600 is a great offer, even for a loaded ION with auto transmission. I think you can find a good replacement ION for that money. If she needs a car in between, the insurance should pay for a rental. Maybe something like Rent-A-Wreck might have an ION and the insurance company would pay for it.


#13

I don’t think I’d want the car back after a repair, anyways

Take the money and put it towards the next one


#14

Here’s an update. I talked to the insurance company. As some of you said, they totaled it because the cost of repairs was high. They said $4900. They could not tell me details on why it was that amount. She said that they total cars if the cost of repairs is 75% of the value of the car. $4900 is only 64% of the $7600 they would give me if they totaled it. But close enough, I guess. The insurance company will give me $7138 if I buy it back from them ($7600 minus what they would get for scrapping it.)

I’m having the dealership give me an estimate. As long as they don’t say it is unrepairable, or that it will cost way more than $4900, then I’m going to buy it back and get it repaired. I’ll still have to pay $75 for the estimate (maybe they’ll waive that if I have them do the work), plus some storage costs. But if the repairs are only around $5000, I’ll actually make out.

Getting another Ion is not that simple. I would still have to pay $1000 for new hand controls and installation. Our accessibility company will not use controls from one car on another one, even if it is the same make and model. Each installation is that customized. I could find only 3 suitable Ion’s and they would be more than 100 miles away. If the current car is unrepairable or way too expensive to repair, then we’ll look for a new one. But, so far, looks like we’re keeping the current one and getting it fixed.

So, thanks for your input, and stay tuned for further developments.


#15

Just one piece of advice, this is a business decision. If you do not get at least one more estimate, then you are not following good business practices. This at least helps keep them honest. Check the BBB for their reputation as well because if you get this repaired on your dime and the shop does not do a good job, you will not have the insurance company to back you up.

Your second estimate (should really get three) shop should also be able to do suspension repairs and frame straightening. The frame should not be damaged, but you never know, but you may need extensive repairs to the suspension on that corner of the car.


#16

@cogprofessor - your numbers are very confusing.
First, the repair cost is $7600/$4900 = 155% of the repair cost, which is (much) greater than 75%.
Second, they’re offering you $4900, correct? So what is this $7138 number?

@ok4450 - now I get it.

@cogprofessor - with your particular needs I’d repair it, too. (IF it can be done for the amount estimated)


#17

@texases, I think the 7600 is the amount offered to replace the car; not repair costs. That 7138 is the value assessed less what the insurance company figures to be the scrap value of 462 dollars.

That 4900 repair estimate should be taken with a grain of salt because adjusters are generally not bodymen or mechanics and their estimates are often very general in nature and lacking.

They’re also likely being helpful because they’re fully aware of a young lady’s disability and hand controls. They do not even want to get into a value shoving match that could end up in front of a jury. They just want this matter settled.

If the OP is going to keep this car then I strongly suggest the possibility of low tire pressure be examined. If that was the cause of the first blowout then it could very well happen again the day after repairs are completed and maybe end up very tragically.


#18

Take the money and start car shopping. The Saturn wasn’t going to last forever anyway. Find a used Saturn or a new model that will work with her issues.


#19

The dealer will undoubtedly give you an estimate using brand new parts. There is nothing wrong with most parts from a salvage yard. They will be MUCH cheaper. An independent shop can more easily be talked into using used parts. After all, ALL of the parts that got clobbered were used.

Eli Whitney supposedly invented interchangeable parts back in the 18th century. I can’t think that the hand controls on her Ion could possibly be any different from those bought new for another Ion. Is there more than one accessibility company in your area? Ask them about it. You can always “buy” the wreck back, scavenge whatever parts you need for the “new” car, and sell the rest to a salvage yard for very near $462.

Look for a PM link from me at the top of this page in your INBOX…


#20

Why would the insurance company be willing to give us $7600 rather than pay to have the car fixed? - …Because it is not cost effective. The cost to repair exceeds the value of the car. Now, your vehicle is not worth $7600 but almost all insurance companies total at a percentage of the value. OK4450 states OK totals at 60% but MO & IL totals at 70% and that can change with each ins company.

Could that amount of damage possibly come to more than $7600? -…Yes, or whatever the estimate amount was. Its called a supplement and it is hidden damage revealed after disassembly. No appraiser/adjuster has X-ray vision and cannot see through plastic or metal.

After further questioning, it came to light that the insurance company takes a “totaled” car and sells it to a scrap yard for parts. Hmm. With the Saturn out of production, could it be that the parts are now worth more than $7600? If so, that would explain why they would prefer to “total” it. -…They have to get rid of totals somehow. Your Saturn is not worth anymore that any other car. Actually it might be worth less because of low demand for the parts. The hood will probably for $350, fender $125 which is the going rate for small car parts, more or less. Most of the time adjusters don’t care if a car is totaled or repairable, just make a fair settlement or repair it and get it back on the road. It is what it is. Although there are times when it is best to total a car but I’m sure yours is not the case. And selling vehicles to salvage yards is a way to get a little of their money back.

I also found out that I have the option of buying back the car from the insurance company at the “salvage price” and then pay to get it fixed myself - …Be careful. If the shop finds hidden damage most likely that will be out of your pocket and cannot go to insurance company for supplements, but don’t quote me on that. I might be in error.

I have the dealership doing an estimate for me (for a $75 fee, since I’m not guaranteeing that I’ll have them do the work -…WHAT!!! I would tell them to take a hike. $75 is 75 times to much. I have never seen a shop charge for a body estimate. You might not repair at their shop, so that’s the chance they will have to take. Its part of business, you don’t get every job.

Could it be that they have the gall to tell me that that amount of damage is going to cost more than $7600 to fix? - …Yep, its called a supplement for hidden damage.

Or is the insurance company going to give me a ridiculously high price to buy it back? -…Nope, its usually a percentage of the value, and its normally not that much.

Hope this helps and glad to hear your daughter did not get hurt in this incident.
Also IMOO I believe $7500 is a good chunk of change for this car. It would make a nice down payment on a nicer unit. You will never get this amount by selling.