Car advice: Sigh ... they're going to call my car a total loss ...

Well, I just heard from the other party’s insurance company that I should expect to hear from their “total loss” department and be offered a settlement, probably in the range of $5,000.

Bloody fuck. So someone else smashes my car up and in return I’m going to get a half or a third of what I need for a suitable replacement. Hey, lady, you wrecked my car and now you’re giving me a $10,000 bill in return.

So, here we go again. I hate car shopping. I hate car dealers. I hate having to think about cars, but I need one.

My first car was a 1987 Toyota Corolla, which kept on going until 2004. I loved that car. When it absolutely could not be repaired any more, I ended up getting a 2003 Corolla LE, which I liked a lot at first (especially the roominess), but which was not as reliable as the 1987. Had a major breakdown just over a year ago and I spent $5,000 replacing the engine. Now it’s toast.

Now, what should I be looking for? I feel like I should try something other than a Corolla. I’m open to the idea of a Ford or a Chrysler, but I’m not sure I’m ready to trust American brands again after our family’s disastrous experiences with Plymouths, Oldmobiles, and Buicks in the 1970s and 1980s.

One of my big issues is seating comfort. I hate getting in a car and feeling like I’m stretched out on a Lazy Boy. I like to sit upright, with my knees bent and my shoulders directly above or even forward of my hips. I find that any time I get into a Honda Accord or Civic, I feel like I’m lying down, so I think Hondas are out for me.

I haven’t driven anything yet, but last night I wandered around and sat in a few cars, just to get a feel. I’m currently renting a Dodge Avenger, which seems okay, but my back doesn’t like the seat.

I visited a Nissan dealership last night and found the new Cube relatively comfortable to sit in, but a new car is probably beyond my price, and it doesn’t have a trunk. And my wife is going to refuse to get into a car that looks like a refrigerator on its side. I also found the Murano very comfortable, but it’s probably too much of a fuel hog and even the used ones seem to by way beyond my price range. There was a used Altima that seemed pretty comfortable too. Maybe I should look into some more of those.

Went to a Jeep place and loved the feel of a Wrangler. I love how close the dashboard is. I don’t have to stretch out and reach for anything. But who am I kidding. That’s too expensive, inefficient, and impractical. That place also had a used Chevrolet Cobalt, but I felt like I was sitting in a packing crate. Way too small.

Any thoughts? Advice? Plans for revenge against insurance companies?

Believe it or not, that Nissan dealer had a 1963 Buick Riviera coupe on the lot. Very, very soft seats, but totally non-adjustable. And looking at the dashboard instruments felt like peering down a wind tunnel. Fun to see an old-fashioned steering wheel though.

Did you try the Honda CRV or Pilot? I have a CRV and the seating is as you prefer it.

When I’m car shopping I make a list of the things that are important to me: safety, longevity, price, etc. and then research cars with those parameters.

You can search on in their used section. I always set the range to 150 miles to cast a wide net. I’ve gotten some sweet deals that way.

See if you like Subarus.

Sorry to hear about your car!

Thinking out of the box a bit;

I generally do not care for the Ford product, however, my mom has a 2005 Escape, and I really like it. I would have never driven one if not for her having the darn thing in the way one day.

So, I may not be endorsing an Escape, but maybe instead, suggesting you just test drive a variety of vehicles and keep an open mind.

Thanks, Mika.

That’s good advice Heyoka, but I fear I’m not going to have a lot of time to make this decision. The insurance company’s not going to pay for four weeks of a rental.

Reject the settlement. If your car was worth $15,000.00…

And then what comes next, RNATB?

My car isn’t worth $15,000, according to the people who decide what cars are worth. It wasn’t even worth that much when I bought it.

But I’m not going to find a suitable replacement for what it’s worth. Meanwhile, I need a car.

I had an '89 Jeep Wrangler I bought used in about '94. It was a terribly fun car, but not extremely practical. It was noisy on the highway, it was really cold in the winter. It was a blast in the summer though.

My next care was a '98 Jeep Cherokee (not Grand Cherokee) I bought new and I am still driving over 13 years later, with 185k miles on it. It has been fabulously reliable; the only major problem I ever had with it was the A/C which was a major expense six or seven years ago. I still see a lot of old Cherokees on the road so they seem to have been good investments.

They meet your preferences for upright, close seating (which is what I like too). I also have liked being in a small SUV - not too big, but high enough to have good visibility.

This. The $5K is an offer and adjusters do respond to squeaky wheels.

And so what’s my strategy? I know the car isn’t worth as much as $15,000. How do I go about negotiating through this?

Well, first things first. If it wasn’t worth $15,000.00, what was it worth? will give you a broadly accurate value.

Start squeeking. Make noise. I don’t mean get loud and rude, just put on your toughest poker face and speak with concern. Rehearse your arguments that you require higher compensation. They are bluffing you with a low offer, because that is what they are paid to do.

I once made a big show of rejecting a proposal, by showing up with my briefcase, a nice suit, shuffling some papers, having my wife keep ringing my phone, blah blah blah. It was all theater calculated at convincing them I was not some pushover (even though I was anything BUT an executive). They came up with a much better offer. You don’t have anything to lose but a few minutes.

You were able to do it in person? My experience with this kind of stuff is that it’s ALL handled over the phone from a remote location.

Maybe if the other driver was insured with a huge national carrier that’s got offices everywhere.

The $5,000 figure is from Edmunds. I haven’t received the actual offer yet.

Then it shouldn’t really cost you an additional $10k to find an adequate replacement. If you buy the same car from a dealer, you might pay a premium of a couple grand. You can probably buy an identical car via private sale for less than $6k.

Find out the replacement value of your car, and then add a couple of thousand for your starting offer. Do not bend from the discussion of “replacement value.”

Points to make:

  • You maintained your car well, and invested a great deal in keeping it up to date.
  • You recently replaced X, Y, and z systems at a cost of $$$ in order to keep the car in good running condition for the long term. You fully expected to drive this car another XX years.
  • You have investigated the inventories of local dealerhsips, and although they have similar cars on the lot, none have been maintained the way yours was, and can not possibly be expected to last as long.
  • The best one you found was listed at $$ but would still need X, Y, and Z systems replaced (as above) in order for you to expect the same service from it.

Don’t forget to find out what the salvage was on the crushed car, if they sold it for parts there could be another $2-3 thousand there they won’t expect you to know to ask for.

I am also car shopping at the moment. My personal favorites are the Nisaan Sentra and the Toyota Prius. Both have excellent records for long-term maintenance, and are comfortable and easy on gas. Teh Chevy Cruze also looks interesting, but I haven’t driven one yet. Now if I could just get a deal together and get this over with! ! ! GAH!

I have a 2004 Escape and I love love love it. My dad drives a Taurus, and every time he gets in my car he says how much he loves it. Likes being up high.

Is that the retail, private, or trade-in value? You need replacement value, not just what you could get as trade-in. That’s one place to start arguing.

Did they include the new engine you replaced? Because if they pulled the info straight from Edmunds, they didn’t include that, and they should. Along with any other major work you’ve had done recently, new tires, etc.

Many many moons ago, someone ran a stop-sign and T-boned a friend of mine. She drove an old PoS, but it had belonged to her father and was in very good condition. She wanted enough to buy a reliable used car to replace it.

I think they offered her like $500 for her car, based on the book value. She argued with them and ended up with IIRC $1500, enough to get the nice older used car she’d found. (Told ya, it was a LONG time ago.)

I’m sure he would have argued more if she was being unreasonable, but she explained her reasoning (I need enough to buy another car equivalent to what was totaled) and didn’t get too greedy. Avoiding the hassle was worth an extra grand to them.

Really. If they’re screwing you on the value of your car, start squeaking.

ETA: or what TruCelt said