Need some advice with a car/insurance situation (yep it's long)

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.

Well scout, I’ll tell you what I’d do and you just take this for whatever it’s worth.

You already said the car’s in drivable shape, just cosmetic damage, and it sounds like, barring this accident, you’d have been content to keep this car for awhile longer. So if I were you I’d make up my mind right now that no matter what happens, keep your current car. Save your money. In my book, I’m always better off driving an older that’s well maintained because: (a) cheap. CHEAP! (b) I don’t fret about cosmetic scratches and fender benders, such as this one. So as I say, I’d save my money and subject myself to the stress of finding another vehicle. That’s the first issue.

The second issue is should the perp be pursued. I’d say just on general principle, yes. But I’d let the insurance company do the leg work, then let them come back to you with what you could get reimbursed for.

Last issue is, should you actually get the car fixed? Again, if it were me, I wouldn’t. I can live with a little body damage. But the REALLY last issue is, do you want to take claim money from your insurer if it means your premiums will go up? Don’t know. I’d clarify this with my adjuster.

I’m with drpepper. Take your $1000 and put it with your other cash towards a new (or newer) car. Sell the Tercel as is. I bought a 1994 Escort wagon that has a rough spot on the right front quarter panel that the original owner tried to bang out. Other than that, the car was in excellent shape. The rough spot doesn’t bother me in the least and probably yours won’t bother someone who’s looking for dependable car at a cheap price.

I don’t know anything about insurance and its intricacies, but can the perp just be busted for a misdemeanor (hit and run or leaving the scene of an accident) without you having to deal with the insurance thing?

I’m also with drpepper, sage advice.

I know I’m going to sound REALLY weird on this one, but I think it’s kind of inconsiderate of others, to continue to drive around in a damaged car, forcing them to look at it. It reflects badly upon you, much like having beat-up clothes or a messy front yard.

Anyway, if you can personally find the person who damaged your car, you’ll have a good bit of leverage over him/her. He might rather give you a little extra money, rather than face legal trouble, as well as a rise in his insurance rates.

Furthermore, depending on the exact cost of your damage, and the value of your car, the insurance company might very well total it, which will render any conversation here pointless. Maybe it’s best to see what they say first.

You might also find a body shop that will do substandard work at a cut-rate price, which may save you your deductible, or even let you come out at a profit, but I wouldn’t do this if you want to keep the car a long time.

Chris Luongo, funny you should mention the cosmetic appearance of the car. One of my initial thoughts was to save money, not contact the insurance, and drive around in a dented car. But a small part of me just didn’t think I could do that. Not because it would “force others to look at it”, but more along the lines of “what will people think of me if I drive a dented car?”. Like it instantly means I lack the desire to take care of myself. Not exactly rational, but the thought crossed my mind.

As for the input from you all thanks a bunch. I think I tend to be in the same camp as drpepper, in that my current car is CHEAP. And I’m pretty much a tightwad (which is how I happen to have the money available for a new car, should I want one), so I’d love to drive this car as long as I can, and not force my premiums up.

Still have yet to hear from the insurance comany, which will probably be the main factor in what happens. I’m not sure if they will, but I have braced myself for the fact that the insurance company might not go for having the car fixed, what with the book price on it and all.

And if I did decide to sell as-is, I’d certainly hope someone would see the car for what it is: a helluva reliable rig that other than a dent in the rear is a pretty good car. :: sniff :: Of course, I may just be biased as it is my first car & has a special place in my heart…

I don’t think there is a question in this matter. This other guy hit you. You didn’t do anything wrong. You’ve got the offending tags and vehicle discription. The insurance company will get him. Did you report it to the cops? If you haven’t, do it soon. Let them know the prediciment (ie - you already reported it to the insurance co). He’s commited a hit and run as well. That can be serious. (actually, the insurance co may have reported it as well, ask your insurance agent).

No question. Let the cops and insurance company find this ass. They’ll make him pay. It shouldn’t cost you a dime to get your car fixed. Pursue this matter, don’t let it rest. You’ve got absolutely nothing to lose.

Now, if they can’t find him (which shouldn’t be a problem) then you’ve got another decision to make which isn’t as easy… but I wouldn’t worry about that until getting his insurance co to pay is exhausted.

bernse, my thoughts exactly. It’s not my fault, this guy should pay.

My insurance agent told me that if they found him, and he’s insured, I’d still be liable for the deductible (which I don’t agree with, but I digress & I will attempt to fight that & make his insurance pay). If he’s not insured, then I’d be covered by the uninsured motorist part of my policy, and then I’d not be liable for payment.

The witness called police dispatch. I haven’t, but I imagine the insurance company is handling that if it’s necessary. I think I’m going to call them up today and see if they’ve managed to track down the owner of the truck yet or not…

I think your insurance agent is giving you a line of shit. The only time (at least that I am familiar with) that YOU would have to pay the deducatble and you do find him is if he is not insured.

Or, likewise, if you do not find him at all and want your car fixed. Then, you insurance would pay. Hence, then you need to pay your deductable.

Basically, if your insurance co is out money, you pay. But trust me, your insurance company wants to pay less than you do. They will find the guy if possible and make his company pay. If they do, you shouldn’t have to pay a cent. That is why people have liability insurance.

I would be curious to hear from an agent if they have anything different to say. I know GingeroftheNorth is/was.

If your agent honestly says that even if they find the guy you have to pay the deductable ask why. I cannot understand that. If you get a BS answer, call the parent insurance co if you are going through a broker or speak to their boss. It Doesn’t sound right.d

Sorry, didn’t catch that bit about not having to pay deductable if he is not insured. The rest of what I said I still stand by though…

[sub]for the next 32 seconds… 31…[/sub]

I’d like to think you were joking…but I don’t think you are.

I could care less what someone else’s car looks like.

A few notes:

  • Do NOT trust your insurance agent. He isn’t working for you; he’s working for his industry. They will screw their own customers in favor of maintaining general industry practices that benefit the companies’ bottom lines. Sounds cynical, I know, but it’s true.


  • Don’t shell out one thin dime for anything; you did nothing wrong. If he’s insured, his company must pay for either the value of the car or the cost of the repairs. You get to choose the repair facility, but they will lie about that also.

  • Check with your local bar association; they may have a service that allows a brief consultation with an attorney for a small fee (here in Oregon it’s $35). They can provide a lot of insight with a short conversation.

  • If you have to repair your car, keep in mind that a car that’s been wrecked is worth about half of what it would be otherwise. Call a dealer; they’ll back that up (give or take 10%). It’s called diminuition of value, and the insurance companies insist it doesn’t exist. There’s no real recourse for this. Unfortunately, that’s one area where the insurance companies currently have free reign to screw you. Sorry.

The fact that the guy hit and run gives you leverage to get things set right again. Use it. You’re being taken advantage of, scout. Don’t let it happen. Good luck, and keep us posted.