I’m at a crossroads here with my car situation. I’m not sure what my next move should be.
I drive a 1996 Toyota Tercel DX (2 door) with approximately 99,600 miles on it. It’s a great car, it has served me well, it runs great, and most importantly it’s paid off. I bought it new and had planned to drive it as long as I could.
This past weekend my car was hit while sitting in my gym’s parking lot. The driver apparently felt it was unnecessary to leave any note or anything, and drove off. Luckily, someone else in the parking lot was able to jot down the truck’s license plate number. So I have the make of the truck, the license plate number, and a witness.
I also have a $1,000 deductible on my insurance policy (which I am well equipped to pay, so it’s not a matter of money here). I looked at the damage, which is pretty minimal to the naked eye. The driver’s side rear quarter panel is dented, and the door to the gas cap is dented as well. Initially I couldn’t get the remote release to work, but I’ve since futzed with it and it opens just fine. The car is completely useable, and the damage, while unsightly, is certainly minimal. It could probably even go without being fixed.
Because the damaged looked pretty small, and because the other driver is MIA, I toyed with the idea of not even reporting it to my insurance company. I even attempted to get an estimate of the damage on Saturday, with the intention of not bothering to report it if the damage was less than my deductible. However, the principle of the thing irked me. If I had no way of finding out who the driver was, I might have gone with that. But the fact that I had a license plate number made me think that I needed to report this and find the person, just because I could.
Hence yesterday I called to report the accident. The insurance company is now in the process of running the plates and attempting to contact the owner, etc. In the mean time, I contacted the witness, thanked him profusely for doing what he did, and have just returned from getting an estimate of the damage.
I shouldn’t be surprised, really. Just replacing the quarter panel (not including labor) is over $500. I was in an accident several years ago, in which the same quarter panel was damaged, but to a greater extent. I think the cost to repair was about $2,000. So they pretty much have to do the same repair work, hence the same cost.
I just checked edmunds to see what a 1996 Tercel goes for out there. Given the mileage and the options that I have, the market value is as follows: Clean condition $3,295-$5,307; Average condition $2,720-$4,505; Rough condition $2,310-$3,874. Before the accident, my car was probably in average condition, but maybe if I got it detailed it could pass for clean. For the purposes of what to do, I’m going to assume Average. After the accident, I’d consider it probably in Rough condition. The low price is the trade-in value, the high price is the dealer retail.
The wild card in this situation is the insurance coverage. My insurance company told me that if the other guy is insured, I will be liable for my deductible. If he’s not, then my uninsured motorist coverage kicks in (and I’m not sure if that means I pay $0 or just a smaller amount). I’ve also been advised by my boyfriend to have my insurance company request that, if the other guy is covered, they cover my deductible for me so I pay nothing. (given the fleeing from the scene and the fact that I was completely NOT at fault, I think that would be reasonable) Regardless, if the insurance company approves the repair, the most I’d be out is $1,000.
But the rub is, do I bother to fix it? Let me add to the scenario that I have approximately $10,000 that I would be able to put towards a new car, plus whatever paltry amount I could get from my current car. I would also be able to afford whatever monthly payments I would need to cover the difference.
If I were to ditch the car and get another, I would consider a recently used car, or a new one, since both are affordable to me. Current candidates that I’ve been eyeballing are: Toyota Prius, Honda Civic Hybrid (just released), Toyota Matrix, Mazda Protege5, and any other reliable, fuel efficient wagonesque or 4-door vehicle.
So, now we get to the IMHO part. If you were in my situation, what would YOU do? And should I be prepared for the insurance company to tell me it just ain’t worth it? I know, I should have patience and wait for the verdict on the insurance & deductible. Yeah, right.