Yeah, that might be me with 29.5 years dealing with multiple facets of auto collision industry...Any insurance experts here that might be able to answer this? Is there anyway to refuse to have them total it and instead make them give you the money per the estimate? Then just get it fixed yourself. The idea being you never give up the title and if you don't give up the title you don't turn it into a salvage vehicle plus you would still have the maxcare on it when it's fixed.
From the insurance company's standpoint, it's about numbers. For a car that is technically repairable, simplified math is that car's actual cash value is x, repair costs plus rental costs are y, salvage value is z. If the sum of y+z is past a percentage threshold value, the car is totaled. There are different rules and regulations from state to state that influence the threshold value but it's the basic math. Very objective.
Then there are the more subjective factors which is which the humans all play a role in determining the y portion of the equation. Factors are:
- Does the selected shop provide a good balance between quality of work and cost? Some shops are known to pad the estimate and / or have a higher than typical labor rate which impacts the labor portion of the estimate and possibly the tax depending on jurisdiction. Nothing wrong with picking a high end shop that will do a high quality repair BTW, more on that later... Balance is key.
- What type / grades of parts are used? Aftermarket and recycled parts lower the parts cost which also lowers the tax portion of the estimate.
- Are the owner's expectations reasonable?
- Does the shop / claim rep feel this claim can go away quickly or will this be an endless claim?
Whenever there is collision damage on a car, we should all be prepared to have it totaled. Cars are totaled for very little damage now due to mutliple factors including cost of parts, proliferation of parts (I think I once counted 12 separate parts for a WJ front bumper assembly vs. 40+ for a WK2 with all the options), and difficulty of repairs. Shops have high costs for equipment and training so they can work on every type of car, and they're not charities; they want nice homes and cars and their kids want iThings and straight teeth and college educations. On top of that neither the insurance company nor the shop wants the liability of a repair gone wrong for a car that could have been totaled - read this little gem of a lawsuit for a repair gone bad Couple Awarded $42 Million for Crash Injuries After Body Shop Glues on Replacement Roof .
Given all that we should be careful in picking a shop and have a balance between quality of work and cost to do the work. I would also have a frank discussion with the shop about the total loss scenario.
If you prefer not to see the car again, let it be known. Up front
If you prefer to have the car fixed, let it be known. Up front.
The shop plays the biggest role as they control the y portion of the equation and they'll be happy to fix the car and do it well as long as there is a profit in it for them and they can secure a return customer.