Accidents happen. At some point we all end up in a car accident or our car suffers weather related damage. Sometimes it’s just a small fender flare or something barely noticeable. In other cases, the damage is so severe that your car becomes undriveable and the last thing you do is leave it on a flatbed. In such situations, it is difficult to know whether it makes sense to repair your car or not.
How do you know when to fix your car after a car accident?
In most cases, minor or cosmetic damage is worth repairing. This includes light hail damage, cracked or shattered glass, scratches or dents. It is relatively cheap for most of these items. Sometimes a paintless dent removal spot can get the job done without damaging the paint and make the car look like nothing happened. Other damage, like scratches or paint scuffs, can be fixed at home with products you can find at an auto parts store and some elbow wax. You’ll be amazed how much better your car can look after touching up and polishing the paintwork.
If you have a broken panel or moderate car damage like broken lights or damaged body panels, these parts are usually worth repairing as well. Check your auto insurance policy to see what’s covered and get estimates from several body shops. Depending on the deductible, it may make sense to make a damage report. However, if the damage is $850 and your deductible is $1,000, it’s usually cheaper to pay for the repair out of pocket, especially if your insurance company would likely increase your rates based on the claim.
If you drive an older car and the damage from a car accident doesn’t make the car unsafe, you can choose to live with it. Some people don’t mind a few dents or scratches. They won’t repair the damage because they park on the street or feel the blemishes add character.
How do you know when it’s not worth repairing your car after an accident?
According to TrueCar, if your vehicle has suffered structural damage in an auto accident, it is highly recommended that it be replaced. Automobiles are designed with crush zones to deflect or transfer the energy of an impact and to minimize the likelihood or severity of injury. This increases your chances of escaping unscathed, but means your vehicle will take more damage.
When a vehicle has structural damage, it can be difficult to assess the severity of that damage and repair it. Structural damage is costly to repair and depending on your vehicle’s value, your insurance company may decide that it is cheaper to repair the vehicle.
Other situations where it’s not worth repairing your car include flood or fire damage. If your vehicle has been submerged in water for a long period of time, the electronics as well as the engine and drive train will be damaged. It will also cause mold and mildew in the interior and air conditioning ducts of the car. A fire can cause many of the same problems even if the car has sustained relatively minor damage.
Is it worth repairing damage to the car?
Unless your vehicle is totaled after a car accident, it’s a good idea to have the car repaired by a reputable body shop. This is especially true if you want to sell the car. A clean car with no cosmetic damage will fetch a higher price when resold.
Another scenario is when you lease the car and plan to return it after leasing. Most leasing contracts require the vehicle to be in good condition and free from damage, or you will be charged additional fees.
If the car was totaled, meaning the insurance company declared it a loss, it’s probably not worth fixing. In most cases, insurance companies will write off repairing a vehicle if the cost of repairs exceeds the value of the car. But there are some exceptions:
- If the car was stolen and later recovered with minimal damage. Insurance companies typically write off vehicles within days of reporting them stolen. But if the vehicle was recovered in good condition or suffered minor damage, it could be worth buying back.
- When the car has suffered cosmetic damage that was deemed too expensive to repair, but the car is structurally and mechanically sound. Cars get totally wrecked because of things like hail damage, so it’s worth checking your options.
- The car is an older vehicle with little to no retail value and the damage was minor or new parts are not available to repair the car.
The downside to repairing a salvaged vehicle is the low resale value. A vehicle is worth significantly less money if it bears a brand name indicating that it has been salvaged or rebuilt. But even if you don’t care about the value of the car, it can still be more trouble than it’s worth keeping. A car that has been totaled, flooded or structurally damaged will never be the same again. It won’t drive or feel the same. While you might want to hold on to the car for sentimental reasons, sometimes it’s just best to move on.
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