Should I let insurance total my recovered stolen car (1997 Acura Integra?)

I have a 1997 Acura Integra that looks great and runs great with about 140,000 miles.

It was stolen a few weeks ago and when recovered still looked great but the engine was a bit rough. The mechanic says it needs a new transmission now and struts. Of course my insurance company wants to total the car and give me about $4200, or I can keep the car and get $3,700. If I keep it and repair it I would probably have to put about $1000-1200 of my own money into the repair.

The car had been so dependable that I had planned to drive it for another 10 years so I don’t really want to total it. But, the mechanic says that they can’t guarantee that they won’t find more issues with it once the transmission is fixed. And I live in California where I would then have to get a salvage title which affects the value of the car, insurance, etc.

I can’t really afford a new car right now. Is it crazy to just fix my car and hope for the best? HELP!


It isn’t crazy at all. Where else are you going to find another car you like with a known history for $1-1.2K?
If you let them total it and give you the $4200, you’ll probably have to put another few grand in to get a good, reliable used car. Even at that price it’d be a crapshoot. To my mind you’re making the intelligent choice.

“And I live in California where I would then have to get a salvage title which affects the value of the car,”

The car’s worth $4,200 now…and you’re going to drive it another decade…when its hull value will range somewhere between “diddly” and “squat.” Cars lose roughly 50% of value every 6 years, so you’d have a $1,500 car even if everything went right. So, your R-title might lose $700 of value, worst case scenario.

Not crazy at all, I would keep it and fix it.

I agree with the others about keeping the car and fixing it but there is a concern or two. You refer to the engine as a bit rough and which is not defined. If there’s a serious engine fault then I might reverse my vote.

There’s also the timing belt issue; something that should be done now in the event that chore has never been performed.

Actually, I’ll probably stick with my original advice anyway, but you might want to get a preliminary diagnosis on that engine before deciding. As always, OK4450 has made an excellent point. Chances are that it’ll be something readily repairable, but you never know.

I’m trying to save my wife’s car by going through the salvage process right now. In Georgia, once you have a salvage title, it has to go through a thorough inspection process to get a ‘rebuilt’ title before it can be tagged and legal for the street. You’re at the mercy of the inspector at that point. Mine found a minor problem that is going to cost me $400 to fix before he will sign off on it’s road-worthyness. That’s on top of the $600 I already invested in fixing it up from a minor accident. My advise is to take the money and use it as a down payment on a decent used Integra or another Acura/Honda. They not only stole your car, but stole it’s spirit. It is now damaged goods and will never be the reliable car you enjoyed.

@THALAMIAN you say " If I keep it and repair it I would probably have to put about $1000-1200 of my own money into the repair."

Is that over and above the $3700 the insurance company is going to give you? Then you’d have $5200 in a car that is pushing 20 years old. Even though you know it needs a transmission, you don’t know why the engine is “rough”. I think I’d take the $4200 and find a newer car.

Did you make a police report? In some states you can at least get the deductible paid if they apprehend the thief and they are convicted, you might get restitution. Some states have a victims compensation board for restitution.

P.S. I am not giving legal advice, just suggesting a course of action.

Take the $3700, repair the transmission, and pocket the remaining $1500 for your next ride or repairs to the Acura. If you want another 10 years out of it, repairs will be far more than the $1500. But it’s a good start on your repair fund. And by repairs, I don’t mean the maintenance items like tires, brakes, fluids and filters. Long therm maintenance items like the suspension and engine will need work, and that is what I refer to.

Wow, thanks so much for the comments everyone. To ok4450, my mechanic has had the car for 2 weeks while the insurance company drags its feet. He estimates that it needs a new transmission and struts since it was run pretty hard. He says cost is about $4700-5000 so thats where my out of pocket estimate comes from. I could deal with another $1000 if I need to but I am now getting concerned about longer term issues that may not be apparent now.

I would be concerned too seeing as how that amount of money is involved and could not sink that much into it on the premise there may be other issues.

What are the transmission symptoms that led to the transmission diagnosis?

just don’t throw good money after bad. your initial posting was misleading. now that you clarified that repairs would be 4.7 to 5K…don’t bother repairing the car.

the only option i would consider is if you could get the car back for a cost of $1K, then just drive it until it breaks down.

I would take the money and move on to my next car.

Take the money the insurance company is offering + the $1000 you can afford, and spend $5200 on a good used car that has thoroughly inspected by a trustworthy mechanic.

I have my doubts about the one who says your current car needs FOUR new struts as well as the transmission rebuilt. If it really needs four struts, it must have really been abused during its absence. Are they leaking? Are they bent? Do they pass a bounce test, that is if you push each corner down and up and down again, does that corner cycle more than one more bounce? What symptoms does the transmission exhibit?

Keep in mind that the statement “drive it like you stole it” should mean VERY CAREFULLY so you don’t attract the attention of the police.

Integra’s are thief magnets. Not sure where you live but it may happen again and if turned into salvage you’ll get nothing back since they don’t typically allow insurance you have now on it.

It depends on your financial position. This is probably not the last car you will ever own, and $4200 is a good down payment on a new (or newer) one which will come with a full warranty and many new and better features and enhanced safety features. If you’re already looking to spend $1500 out-of-pocket just to get it running, there will be many more bills ahead on a car this age. Not to mention, you’re paying top dollar for those parts and repairs. Get out while you’re ahead. You wouldn’t get that much to sell it yourself when you decide to get a new one anyway. Also, as was previously stated, it will be very hard to impossible to insure it with a salvage title. So if anything else ever happens, it will be a write-off.

If I understand right, you’re saying they would pay $4200 to total it, or $3700 and keep the car? If you need a spare car, you could also keep the car as a backup, drive it until it dies, and put the $3700 down on a newer primary car.

It’s hard to understand why the insurance company would give you that much when the old transmission already had 140,000 miles on it, and it would be impossible to prove that the thieves did anything to it. They apparently didn’t crash the car, so it’s just your word (or the mechanics) and any damage is hidden inside. The struts are also about 90,000 miles past due to be replaced. Take the money and run.


“The struts are also about 90,000 miles past due to be replaced”

140000 - 90000 = 50000

That would imply that struts should be replaced at 50K intervals

Who have you been listening to?

That is old school thinking

The repairs to get it into its previous condition will likely be much more than $1200; budget $4000+ for correcting “rough” engine and fixing the transmission. However, if you know the car and it’s reliable, that’s worth doing.