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I'll try to make this brief...

Last week a guy rear-ended me at a stoplight (thank God I was in the Altima and not the Mustang or I would have had to hurt him...). He was in an F-350 pulling a trailer of building materials, so needless to say the truck won that battle. Clearly his fault, and he has insurance. The car is drivable, but the trunk lid is smashed in, the bumper is cracked, and the part that goes between the bumper and trunk lid (rear frame?) is bent in.

His insurance company told me to take the car to one of their "preferred" shops in my area, or to arrange to meet with one of their estimators if I wanted to use a different shop. Fair enough.

So I take the car to one of the preferred shops that a friend of mine has had good luck with in the past. They look it over. Needs new trunk lid, new bumper, straightening of various parts on the rear, painting rear portion, etc. Total estimate: $2550.

The car is a '95 Nissan Altima with 162,000 miles. Blue Book value is in the mid 4000 range at best (depending on which value you go by, used retail vs used private party vs etc etc).

It seems crazy for the insurance company to spend $2500+ for repairs, along with furnishing a rental car for me while it's in the shop.

What are my options here? I doubt they will total the car out, since that will cost them more money than fixing it. But I could get a trunk lid from a junk yard and "fix" it myself for a ton less than the estimate. It wouldn't be perfect, but it would be liveable (especially if I could keep all or some of the differenc...)

What would you guys do, and what options do I have here? Thanks :)

Shane
 

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I've heard it takes 70-75% of the value of the car (for the repair work) in order for it to be "totalled." If you have a cool insurance company, they may give you the cash. I've had this happen in the past, but sometimes they will make the check payable to you and a body shop. Now, if you know a body shop owner... :)
 

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Frankly, you may be totalled and not know it...Generally when they tear things apart, they find a little more than the initial estimate. Also, if they fix it, cound on the car being depreciated at least 25% of trade in value for being damaged in excess of 25%. Ask for reimbursement of the loss in value too (if you want it to be "more totalled"). Good luck.

As for getting a check and doing the work yourself, count on a smaller check from them. Perhaps they can total your car and you buy it back from them for a pre-set value and then you fix it yourself?
 

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I worked for an insurance company for 13 years and now work at a body shop (and preferred shop for numerous insurance companys). First off you can ask to "cash settle" on the loss for the amount of the written estimate if you wish. They can not reduce the amount just because you are going to do the work. The only problem is if you find more damage when you fix it they don't owe you any more money since you would have had to sign a release for full & final payment for the repairs. If you decide to let the preferred shop do the work, in most cases you will get a quality repair since to be in those types of programs the shop (and the insurance company) will guarantee the repairs as long as you own the car.
 

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I'd be curious to see how much the estimate is and consider to do it yourself if you are inclined to do this kind of work. The trunk lid and bumper cover is probably available used from a local salvage yard (worse case, from the dealer) and teh center panel may be able to be pounded out. From there your local paint shop can mix paint based on a color code in your trunk (or door).

If you are handy and want to try some painting and bolting up stuff, why not...car won't be worth that much less and you may have some extra cash in your pocket :p
 
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