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Repair or Total?

6 months ago, I bought a 2009 Honda Fit Sport for about $17,200. It currently has about 10k miles on it. A week ago, I was in an accident which both insurance companies decided was not my fault. I was probably going 30 mph, the other guy was probably going a little bit slower, as he was pulling out of a gas station. His car hit my car right behind my front passenger side tire, causing a dent running back to my rear passenger side door.

This morning I got a call from the body shop, and was told that there would be about $8,000 in damages, but the damage was basically superficial, with some damage to the front passenger side wheel. He also told me that the other guy’s insurance company, who is paying for it, wanted to total the car, but that I could tell them not to and that he did not see why they wanted to total it. He also told me that there was no damage to the frame or to the engine.

I’m trying to decide whether to fight the insurance company on this. On one hand, if the car is totaled, the payment I receive will basically cover my car loan and that’s it. This means that I will essentially be out the $5,000 I’ve paid so far in the form of a down payment, trade in and 6 monthly payments.

On the other hand, I’ve heard that cars that have been in accidents have a tendency to never drive right again, and that, even if they fully repair it, there might be terminal problems that don’t show for a few months.

Basically, I need some advise on whether to accept the totaling of the car, buy a new car (I would basically buy the same thing again) and be out $5k, or fight the insurance company, get it repaired, and hope that their are no problems down the line (and that it hasn’t voided my warranty).

Does anyone have any suggestions, advice or questions I should pose to they guy at the body shop?

Thanks in advance.

Here’s What I’d Consider Doing.

First of all, there are too many variables here to reach the correct conclusion based on what we know.

I believe you are correct about losing money if it’s “totaled”.

Usually there aren’t major problems associated with a repaired car, but sometimes there are, especially if mechanicals are involved like wheel/axle or drive train damage.
Sometimes on newer cars, back-ordered parts, etcetera can delay repairs.

I worked at a dealer (not Honda) managing a Body Shop. We sometimes successfully put together a deal for a customer who recently purchased and severely damaged a car and had concerns just like your’s. It involves cooperation from the General Manager, New Car Sales, Used Car Sales, and Body Shop, and Parts Department, provided the dealer has all of these departments.

The damaged car gets “traded in” and the New Car Department Sells you a new car. The Body Shop repairs the car, on their schedule, using parts from the dealer’s Parts Department and then forwards the car to the Used Car Department and they get to sell it. The insurance company pays the dealer (through you).

The dealer gets business for several departments and you get a “do over” new car. You don’t have to rent a car or wait several weeks for the car to be repaired. You have no lingering worries.

The dealer can use internal discounts on parts, labor, etcetera, to make you a really good deal. It may not cost a fortune to drive away in a new car. Please keep in mind though that you did use the car for 10,000 miles already and factor that in.

The car would either have to be inspected where it is by the dealer or be towed there if this deal has possibilities.

I’m just throwing this at you because you asked for advice. I’d do some talking and see if anybody can put together an arrangement of this nature that could help you.

As the owner, you can decide where the car will be fixed, although many insurance companies will try and “steer” you into a particular shop.

Does this have possibilities for you?


If you keep the car it will suffer diminished value if you try to sell it in the future. It may be near impossible to convince someone that a car that suffered 8 grand worth of damage does not have serious problems. A potential buyer will probably assume the worst and walk away from it.
I know that I would unless I knew every single detail behind the repair and the car was priced accordingly.

The fact they’re leaving you on the hook for 5 grand is something, although common, is distasteful to me. By that logic and amount of depreciation, the car would be junk and worthless at about the 35k miles mark.

You are correct that if a warranty issue pops up that can be tied to the collision a claim will be rightfully denied.

If you don’t get in a hurry to settle this you could “hint” you’re going to see a doctor about recurring migraines. This can sometimes prompt an ins. co. to alter their views, and the amount of money, a bit. Don’t laugh; it works.

I’m not too concerned about diminished value, I drive cars basically until my mechanic tells me that it is too much of a wreck to repair and then for another couple thousand miles. I plan(ned) to have this car for the next 10-15 years.

I’m right now guessing on the total value, based on Kelly’s Blue Book. I owe $13,900 on the car, the “trade-in” value is $12,750. Even if I can get them up to the “retail” price of $14,250, I’m only just barely over the loan amount. Anything under it doesn’t matter because of GAP insurance. Also, when I referred to the $5k lost, I’m including sales tax and other fees that are not truly part of the value of the car that I paid (but would have to pay again).

Part of the problem here is that a “new” car really isn’t that valuable to me. I’d gladly take a trade in and just buy an identical car with 10k miles on it, but I have no faith that a car with 10k miles on it would truly be identical. It isn’t like cars go off lease after 10k miles, or that people decide that they are ready for a new car after 10k miles. A used car with 10k miles is going to be being sold because there is something that was wrong with it.

Thanks for the suggestion, I’m going to raise this with the body shop on Monday.

With regard to getting to drive it for 10k miles, I recognize that that has some value to it, but, at least to me, that value is well south of $5k. I’m assuming most people would not agree to pay anywhere close to $5k to drive a Honda Fit for 6 months and 10 miles. I bought my last car used for $4500 at 69k miles and drove it for another 65k miles or so. Even if you figure I probably put another $2k into it that’s still only 1/5th the price per mile in my last car.

I Understand Your Logic And Can’t Squabble With Your Math.

Is the car already at a Body Shop that is part of a Honda dealer or your “selling Honda Dealer”, by chance?


Only you can run the numbers to decide what to do. As far the repairing the car, it sounds like the damage isn’t that difficult for a good body shop. I had a '67 Mustang repaired which was much more damaged than your Fit. It was fine and lasted a long time. The paint on the repaired panels will not hold up as well over time as the original factory painted areas.

It will be years before you’ll notice the paint issues if there are any.

It can not be totaled unless the repairs cost more than the value of the car. Is the car worth $8000 or less. Did you grossly overpay for the vehicle? Do you have a very high, ca. $8000, deductible?

In OK if the repair costs meet or exceed 60% of the car’s real value they will usually total it out. They do the same with houses.
If a home appraised at 100k dollars catches on fire and requires 60k dollars worth of repairs the home is likely going to meet a bulldozer shortly.

Something else to consider. The vast majority of body shop people are not mechanics and know little about suspension work other than putting the car on a frame machine and yanking things into shape with a Porta Power.

With an 8k dollar hit it’s possible to have bent suspension components, subframes, or even floor pans and in many cases this damage will not be visible to the naked eye. You really need to stay on top of this particular issue because the part you don’t see under the new paint is the one to worry about the most.

What are they actually offering you for your FIT? You can fight on this value and look at what dealers charge locally(in area) for slightly used models and get this value higher.

You are always “out” when you sell or total a car. You just don’t get the ugly reality until figures are all posted sadly.

Lastly you don’t have to pay MSRP or whatever to acquire one which may be part of the problem. Don’t believe the Honda hype of your dealer, just call multiple dealers and whoever is lowest go with them and give your local a chance to match it.

Total your car, even in small things at a good reputation body shop I had to bring my car back for a hard closing door and some paint blur that was appearing after the work completed. They were happy to fix but the time involved is terrible.

Good luck.

Good Advice When A Car Is A “Total”.

Clip and print-out ads that show the highest values on similar cars. The only risk involved is that the insurance company may change their mind if the pay-out gets too high and decide to repair.

I still think the best idea is to trade it wrecked, let it be somebody else’s problem, and drive away in a new car. Take a little hit and move on worry-free. You’d be surprised at how good a deal you may pull off this way.


Please Post Back And Let Us Know What Happens.

We’d appreciate the feed-back. The information could help others.

Thanks, CSA

They just thought that they’d see how stupid you are. If I read your post correctly, the other insurer wants to give you $8000. Is that correct? You car is worth far more than that. Even a base 2008 Fit is worth almost $14,000. And where is your insurance company? Aren’t they in the middle of this looking out for you?

  1. Do not respond to the body shop.
  2. Contact your insurer and report what happened so far.
  3. Ask them to contact the other insurer and settle it.
  4. If they refuse, ask them what the replacement value on a used 2009 Fit exactly like yours would be on a dealer’s lot.
  5. Trade in value is completely unacceptable
  6. If, and only if, they wouldn’t negotiate a good deal for you, find another insurer as fast as you can.