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Should I Try To Convince My Insurance To Total Or Repair My Car?

I have a 2008 Toyota Camry that’s in… less than ideal condition. I live in Long Island, and spend most of my time in Brooklyn, New York. My insurance is Geico, with a $200 deductible

It has 105,000 miles on it or so. I’ve owned it since I bought it in 2007 (although at one point the title was in a friend’s name for a few years near the beginning of its life, while I only had a permit)

The interior is pretty dirty, and has a few small issues that are easily fix-up-able

The right side is scratched up, has a dent that makes the front right door have issues, and needs a new mirror

Both bumpers have dings, dents. A rear light has missing plexiglass on it.

I was recently in a small accident that caused the front left bumper to be dented, and has damaged the suspension / shocks / steering in some capacity (it thinks it’s driving straight when the steering wheel is crooked, turning feels strange, some noises from the shocks)

My deductible is $200

The insurance assessor thought it might end up being totaled because of the suspension issues, but that given its (apparently low?) milage, it might end up being saved

Do I want it to be totaled? With a car in this condition, would I be able to get a reasonable amount back from it - enough to buy a used car in good enough condition to replace the car I’ve been driving?

Or should I try to convince the insurance adjustor not to total it?

The insurance company does not care. Their obligation is to give you enough money to bring you to the exact same condition you were in before the wreck. That means they are not obligated to give you enough money to replace your self-professed crapped-out car with a nice one, and it’s pretty likely that they won’t. They’ll either repair the vehicle or total it, and if it’s totaled they’ll probably use NADA values, which means you will in part luck out because all the dings it had before the wreck may not count against you.

Generally whether to total or not is based on a formula - if the damage exceeds a certain percentage of the book value, it gets totaled, You don’t get much if any say in that.

Until you have a judgment from the insurance company, it’s too soon to decide.
If they decide to repair it the decision is made for you. If they decide to total it, then only someone who knows it’s true condition other than the accident damage and also knows how much it suits your needs… you… can make a good decision.

If I were you, considering where you live and drive, I’d want to get it fixed. It sounds like a good urban combat vehicle.

Maybe I’m not making my question super clear, based on the responses I’m getting

The insurance adjustor seemed a fairly sympathetic person

If I can say something now that would convince him to either go ahead with a covered repair, or to go ahead and total it and give me a check, which seems the more preferable option in my scenario?

I.e. would totalling it and cutting me a check likely afford me a vehicle that’s in as good / useable condition (and maybe better aesthetic condition) than my current car?

If not, it makes more sense for me to try to sway him towards a repair, no?

You don’t seem to understand, the choice of total or repair is not your decision, it’s the insurance company. They go by a formula, and i doubt the adjuster can change that. Although I may be wrong. However, if they decide to total it, you can take the money and use it to repair instead.

This decision is not the adjuster’s. Or yours. All he does is forward the repair estimate (with details) to the insurance company. They then make a decision based on predetermined cost vs. value criteria that they apply equally to all crashed vehicles. They’ll then notify you, and if they’ve determined it to be “totaled”, they give you your options. Generally they’ll consist of either accepting their check for the value of the crashed vehicle or paying (to the repair shop) the difference between their estimate and the actual cost of the repair.

Yeah, back in high school I had a summer job at a major insurance company working with claims processors. The people making these decisions are faceless corporate drones halfway up a skyscraper somewhere, and they do whatever their policies tell them to do. The adjuster could be your best friend and you still wouldn’t have any influence on the outcome.

Even if you had an in with the claims processor who deals with your claim, well, she might not be able to help you either. Insurance companies do something called reinsurance - basically they contract with another insurance company to take out an insurance policy on your insurance policy. So if you get in a wreck, your insurance company pays the claim and then makes a claim of their own to get reimbursed on reinsurance.

That’s the department I worked in (medical reinsurance, but there’s also auto reinsurance), and our adjusters weren’t inclined to give the other insurance company more money just because that company had a softie working in their claims department.

Your insurance company will be aware of that, and so any break they give you will be something they will likely shoulder 100% of, and that’s a downright sin in that world.

The only way to influence the outcome is if the insurance company decides to act contrary to their contractual obligations with you, and you deploy a lawyer.

The thing you need to be concentrating on right now is not whether or not to total it, but what to do if the insurance company decides to total it.

They will almost certainly lowball you with a payout. They owe you what it would cost you to get an equivalent car - which means if their pricing sheet tells them to give you 3 grand, but it would cost you 4 grand to replace the car, you need to be aware of that.

Research what 2008 Camrys are being sold for in your area. From that you will have an idea of the ballpark figure they should offer you, and if they’re shorting you, you will have already found the pricing information to send them.

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To be clear of some of the convincing I am implying:

The insurance adjuster took note of the fact that the right side is, unrelatedly to this claim, cosmetically pretty banged up, with some slight functional issues (mirror is damaged, passenger door doesn’t open easily) and said that it would lower the ACV of the car, but that he “wouldn’t hit me too bad” for that.

So, I imagine if he didn’t hit me too bad for that, the ACV might be high enough that the repair cost falls into the range of a percentage that would be repairable

If, on the other hand, he decided to note that the damage to the right (which again isn’t going to be fixed here) is major enough that it significantly lowers the ACV, then the repair to the other parts might end up in the range of a percentage that would make it totaled

That was one area in particular that he seemed to be flexible about. I’m sure that there were others, and as he was sympathetic enough to indicate that he “wouldn’t hit me too bad” for that, I’m sure that, if I were to make a plea to either total or repair the car, he may be able to help.

So again, my question isn’t whether or not I can influence him

My question is: even if you think it’s completely hypothetical… would a check cut for a car in this condition, if it were to be considered totaled, be enough to afford me something similar, and in better-or-equal drivable / aesthetic condition to my current car? Or should I try to convince him to adjust in such a way that it gets repaired?

Already answered. Their first offer, no. After you show them what it should cost, maybe. Contractually, that’s what they’re supposed to do, but there are entire floors at large ins. co’s dedicated to finding ways to pay out as little as they can possibly get away with.

Realistically, from your description, you’ve beaten the hell out of that car, at least cosmetically. They owe you replacement value for a beat-up Camry. If everyone selling Camrys when you go to replace it kept them in better condition, then you’ll probably be paying out of pocket for the replacement since it will be worth more than yours is.

When they total the vehicle, ask that you retain salvage of the vehicle.

How this works is, the insurance company determines what the value of the vehicle is in it’s current condition, and cuts you a check for that amount. When you retain salvage of the vehicle, the insurance company deducts what it thinks it will get from a salvage yard for the vehicle from the check.

Insurance companies are happy to do this because they don’t have to haul the vehicle to the salvage yard.

I’ve done this a few times where the insurance company totaled my vehicle, but was still repairable.

So, you get to keep the vehicle, and have extra cash to repair it to boot!


But you’ll need a firm estimate of the costs for the repair, a quick estimate can miss some costly stuff, especially for front end repairs.

That is what totaled is suppose to mean. However don’t just take the adjusters word for it. Do your homework. With on-line searches it makes it easy. Search for your vehicle with same options (or close to same options) and mileage in similar condition to yours before accident that are for sale. Use what you find as a comparison to what the insurance company offers you.

@phnord If you have an actual insurance agent and not an online policy your questions can be best answered by the agent. If you retain the vehicle with a salvage title finding a insurance carrier might be difficult in some states.
Frankly by the description you posted I would hope for it to be totaled and move on to another vehicle.

The trade in value for a vehicle such as yours in fair condition is about $3500. Yours sounds like it is in poor condition, so what they offer may be somewhere between $2500 and $3000 minus the $200 deductible. Can you get another nicer car for $3000? No. Doubt it. So at this point fix it. Just because the person is friendly though doesn’t mean anything as discussed above. Front end damage though causing suspension issues doesn’t sound like a minor accident.

It’s 10 years old and a bit ragged out from the description. Combined with the suspension and steering issues (and Lord knows what else is lurking and not known at this point) I think the car is best considered a total and gone for good.

But… but… but… that’s the perfect urban combat vehicle!

In reality, until the OP hears from the insurance company, it’s impossible to make any decisions or recommendations. The damage may not be as bad as the OP thinks, or it could be a lot worse. We know nothing at this point.

I disagree that things are so cut and dried. More than once I had a company try to total my car and I presented evidence of upgrades and ultra-maintainence and got the decisions reversed. I had another instance of it just recently in my son’s car. It turned out to be just a clerical error made by someone who apparently works with farm animals. Hint hint.

Alright, so, question

I was told by the repair shop that if the car is deemed totaled (which the adjustor tonight told me was “80% likely”), then I could hang onto it and use the payout money (ACV estimate of the vehicle - ($200 deductible + salvage buyback fee ($500ish?))) to repair it. I see one of you suggested that earlier.

He told me I would not need to worry about salvage titles, as this car is a 2008 Toyota Camry, and salvage titles are only required on cars 8 years old or newer in New York

The insurance adjustor told me that if I decided to keep it, I could keep my insurance, but that they wouldn’t cover damage to the parts impacted by this accident unless they were repaired. I inquired if that meant that, if I decided to repair the suspension stuff and all of that, but not the cosmetic stuff – or just had the dents banged out on the cosmetic side, but kept the fender and bumper to save costs – that I would later not be able to have insurance coverage for damage to my suspension occurring at a future date. He said that I should still be covered for those things, so long as I document these repairs

Will it cost more to continue insuring this car on my current plan if I revive it after it’s been totaled? I’m on my family’s plan, a long-standing Geico plan with a $200 deductible and Accident Forgiveness (this is my first accident).

If I do this, what happens in the future if I have a different accident that, instead of qualifying for a repair would be deemed “totaled”? Would Geico pay me the ACV-(decutable + buyback) again in that event??

Re: it being a minor accident, I was parallel parking, a taxi scraped my left bumper with his right door, he had nothing more than a scrape and I had a dent to my front left bumper, which doesn’t look terrible, but which somehow threw out my steering…

You should have asked GEICO those questions. We don’t and can’t know the answers.

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You should involve your family in this before you cause them any problems and I think your mechanic is wrong about salvage titles ( age of vehicle should have nothing to do with it) .

Mr. Sanders is correct anything you get about insurance questions on a forum is just speculation period.