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Repair, or junk and buy new?

1996 Toyota 4-Runner Limited with 167,000 miles, formerly in flawless physical condition, well maintained, and perfect mechanical condition. — Relatively new Dunlop AT Grand Trek left rear tire blew-out driving 70 mph in Interstate last Friday in the middle of nowhere on a while cross-country trip. Have very extensive body damaged to all panels on both sides of truck from striking median barriers and posts (but not front or rear end, and no mechanical damage.) Towed to an Iowa Fleet Farm, got two new tires and the truck drives fine. However, it looks like hell in a handbag. – My insurance company totaled it at $5,200 Blue Book value, which seems low but can’t argue. I have $5,000 deductible so I could get $200 if I decide to go ahead with the claim. (Probably will not to preserve lower rates.) – A local body shop said he can make it new again for $7,026. — I love this truck and could see keeping it 3 to 5 more years. Do I spend the cash and repair it, or junk it and simply put my out of pocket $7 grand toward a new vehicle? — Comments welcome.

1st off $5000 DEDUCTIBLE??? WHAT?? I have never seen nor heard of one so high !! Obviously there is ZERO point to keep collision in this case, so I would dump it and go down to liability only ASAP…

Then if it was me, I would keep it and drive it as is… Who cares what it looks like as long as you get from point A to B?? IF you must fix it so you feel better… Fenders and Doors are bolt on parts, look for them used in a junk yard or try car-parts.com. OR get a whole truck for parts and take the parts you need and sell what you don’t use. The most expensive parts to repair will be the 1/4 panels as they are welded on. But maybe the damage is not to bad to them, and you can live with it.

Thanks my .02, that and $5,000 deductable is a really bad idea…

Thanks for the comment. First, the high deductible keeps rates really low - I hate any extra money going to insurance guys pockets - but you are right, the collision insurance is now dropped on this low value, older vehicle. — I can’t open either passenger side doors, running boards on both sides hang off, no mirrors, body panel steel is literally ripped through on rear quarter panels, both side front quarter damage does not allow hard left or right turns - although I have taken a wrecking bar to it. You would have to see the damage to believe it. — Not repairing it is not an option.

Time to sell it as a repairable to someone that can do some work on it themselves. You might get a thousand or two for it that way. If you were going to do some work on it yourself, you could replace the fenders, doors as necessary, repair the running board mounting, do the painting, and have a shop replace the quarter panel(s). Then you might get by for a couple thousand. But there is absolutely no sense putting $5-7000 into a 16 year old vehicle regardless of condition IMHO. I never heard of a $5000 deductible either. I had $50 on my 20 year old car. I wanted to raise it but wouldn’t have saved much. Most of the cost was for liability and comprehensive. Might want to look at some other insurance companies.

I recently had my Trailblazer totaled but it was mainly due to the expensive front end parts. I hemmed and hawed about canceling the claim and fixing it myself but in the end, after realizing what it would take to repair it, I made the tough decision to let it go. Sometimes you just have to be thankful you weren’t hurt and move on.

Body damage sounds extensive and not worth fixing. The drivetrain is OK but how much effort/luck to find a truck that old in the same or better condition than yours was that needs a drivetrain?

Think about how old it was. Regardless of how good a shape it was in, it’s gone now, time to sell for parts and move on.

Are they going to process this as a collision claim? If the answer is yes, then why would you have collision insurance at all? If it happened because of a pothole in the road, you might have a claim against the State for poor maintenance. Finally, at least out here in California your truck would be worth more than $5,200, especially in really good shape. Ask a Toyota dealer what they think it was worth before the crash, and let them think you are considering buying a new truck. Then tell the insurance co you want more.

Everything is negotiable.

The simple sol’n is the first option: Get rid of it and buy a new car.

The second option is keep it and to use it as a way to learn how to do professional-type auto-body work. If so, visit the local bookstore and purchase a book (or borrow from the public library) on autobody repair, visit Harbor Freight for the appropriate tools, and have a go at it. No harm done. Plus you have an excuse to buy some new tools.

The third option is the cheaper version of #2. My dad would fix dents and rust-outs in his cars with old beer cans and bondo. He’d cut the beer can apart to get flat metal, cut it to fit the patch, bondo that over the repair, sand, re-bondo and sand as required, then finish up with a can of hardware store spray paint and later some wax. The result actually looked pretty good.

4th option is my option: I just learn to be happy for what I have, and accept the imperfections.

Why would you want to drive a car that has that much damage? The rust alone would make the car leak. And the usual adjustments like alignment and door openings would be suspect. Be glad you survived and move on.

How on earth can a 17 year old vehicle, that isn’t an exotic high end sports car, be worth $5200?

According the Edmunds, $5200 is a fair price from a dealer for your truck in clean condition. I think it’s time to take the $200 and move on.

If you like the truck. Find one with a good body and change the body parts. Its not that hard. If it was me I would not make a claim on the insurance. I would sell it as is and end up with more money. Or trade it in at dealer thats having a push,pull or drag it in sale. I just did it with my truck 97 Chevy 4x4 Ex cab 335,000 miles Made the deal on a 2006 GMC SLT Ex cab 4x4. They took my offer of $9000 for the truck (need the AC worked on). Then show them my truck. They gave me the $2000 for it off the $9000. I am happy I got a good deal and I got more for my old truck than I could have sold it for.

Just to make myself clear, no way should you file an insurance claim for the $5200 with a $5000 deductible. It makes no sense to turn the truck over to them for $200. Just forget the claim and either sell it, trade it, or fix it yourself.

Another option would be to find a similar 4-Runner (or two to sell the 2nd for a profit) that needs an engine or transmission, or $700 worth of new tires. It would be easier to swap those major mechanical parts into a straight vehicles(s) than to use the straight body parts to fix yours. It sounds to me like a genuine “total”. Some truly are. Don’t bother fixing it. Use it as a donor.

If yours is a V-6, the engine will fit a '96 to '99 4-Runner or Tacoma Pickup. If it’s a 4-cyl the engine will fit a '94 to '96. Put an ad on your local craigslist that says WTB (means Want To Buy) 1996 1997 1998 1999 Toyota 4Runner or Tacoma that needs an engine or transmision. Mention each year so that someone searching for a particular year will see your ad. You may be surprised what will pop out of the wood work. I found some pretty odd parts that way. Five years ago I needed a good '96 Tacoma V-6, which is another avenue you might take. Wreck it out yourself, for fun and profit. The whole thing, all together, won’t bring what it will as individual parts. It MIGHT bring a grand at an insurance pool auction.

If you like the truck. Find one with a good body and change the body parts

I agree with oldbodyman… IF you can find one with a bad engine or transmission priced very cheap…they do turn up…usually a blown head gasket or slipping transmission. Keep an eye on Craigslist for a while and you may see something turn up in the same color. That would save you a pricey paint job so worth waiting for. It will be hard to sell a vehicle that won’t run, so price should be cheap. The only down side will be waiting for the right one to appear, it could take weeks, maybe months depending on your location.

Or, depending on what you find and how the math works out, it may make more sense to switch your good engine…but oldbodyman probably has it right, exchanging the body parts will be easier, more plausible for a DIY than an engine swap. Then you’d still have a donor vehicle for various other parts that you might harvest off the donor vehicle which may save you money later.

Do the math and see if it makes sense compared to what replacement vehicle you’d get for the same money. You like the car and you’ve maintained it according to your first post, so it may make sense. Good luck!

I don’t know WesternRoadTripper. Although I’ve done both, I can swap and engine or transmission far easier than I can swap a quarter panel. Some bodywork is beyond the DIYer.

@MG McAnick
You’re probably right, good point. I hadn’t seen your previous post until after I posted mine. My intent was mainly to suggest the donor vehicle idea, which the OP hadn’t mentioned. Quite possible too that the OP isn’t a DIYer, so none of this is relevant.

What do you think: If you were pulling that 167k engine to swap into a replacement car, would you rebuild it while it’s out? There’s a lot of life left in it, sure, but opportunity cost while it’s out is a consideration. Or would you go with it as-is? If a very clean 4Runner body turned up, would it be worth the expense of a quality rebuild of his well maintained engine? At what point do you say it’s too much $ to spend on this particular vehicle?

Swapping the drivetrain also cuts out waiting for one of the same color to appear. Either swap sounds challenging to unmechanical me. With an art degree I’m more qualified to match upholstery to exterior paint.