Following an accident, it’s vital to determine who’s at fault so you know who should pay for the repair or replacement of your vehicle. In many cases, the at-fault party will take responsibility, and their insurance company will cover damages and medical bills associated with the accident.
In other cases, they’ll try to get out of it, leaving you with bills you can’t pay.
“If someone else causes a car accident that seriously injures you or a loved one, you need to be serious about how you handle your auto insurance claim,” says an article from Serious Injury Law Group in Alabama. “
The article also warns about insurance companies that don’t always have your best interest in mind: “…If you don’t know what funds you deserve, the auto insurer will surely try to short-change you.”
Hiring an attorney you trust is essential to taking care of both the medical needs and the vehicle damages sustained after a car accident. They’ll help you get the amount your vehicle is worth from the start.
When you’ve received the money your insurance company rightfully owes you, you’ll have to decide whether to repair or replace your vehicle. Depending on your situation, one option might be better than the other. Use this guide to help you decide:
The Scope of the Damage
You might be pretty sure your car is totaled just by looking at it, but it never hurts to get the vehicle inspected by a mechanic. Your insurance company will have the vehicle assessed, but you might want to ask a trusted mechanic to evaluate the condition as well, since they may value it differently than your insurance company.
A good mechanic will tell you whether or not the vehicle is worth fixing. They’ll give you a detailed list of prices for parts and labor, which you can compare to the cost of buying a vehicle of comparable value.
Watch out for shady mechanics who don’t care about your best interests. They may quote you a price and tell you it’s worth fixing because they want your money—it’s always smart to get a second opinion.
The Value of Your Vehicle
It’s important to note that the value of your vehicle changes after it’s been in an accident. On average, a vehicle loses around 30 percent in value after the incident.
“Even if you repair the damages completely, the value of your vehicle undergoes something called diminished value,” says an article from CarBrain, a company that buys vehicles after they’ve been in an accident. “Because of this fact, fixing your damaged car doesn’t always make sense.”
In some cases, it’s better to sell the current vehicle, whether it’s been fixed or not, and get something new. However, if your insurance company doesn’t pay what your vehicle is worth, and you don’t have the funds for another vehicle, you may find it’s better to repair the car you have and continue driving it until it dies.
Is There a Lien?
If you own your vehicle, you have more options following an accident than you would if there’s still a lien on it.
In most cases, having a loan on the vehicle means that you’ll need to repair the vehicle before you can sell it or replace it. In most cases, you’ll have to do the repair work through an auto body shop that your car insurance company or your lender approves, so your options are limited here.
”Your lender will want the collateral, the car, to be fully functioning and for you to repair any damages,” writes Emily Delbridge of The Balance. “Right now, you do not own the car free and clear, so as a partial owner, it is your responsibility to get the vehicle repaired in a timely fashion.”
The good news is, most lenders require that you have full coverage auto insurance, so you’re likely to have the funds necessary to make these repairs.
You’ll also want to consider where the damage occurred on the vehicle. Some parts of the vehicle will never be the same, even after repairs. You may have to constantly fix oil leaks and other problems as a result of the initial damage.
It’s best to eliminate the potential for future repairs if you plan to fix instead of replace your car. If you’re worried about it, buying a replacement vehicle is a smart option.
All in all, if you’ve spoken with the professionals and done your homework, the decision to repair or replace your vehicle will become clear. Choose the option that will serve you best both now and in the future.