Friday, November 16, 2012

Lessons in Totaling My Car

I hope your car never gets totaled. And if it does, I hope nobody is in the car and the person who hits you has excellent insurance. We are almost done with the whole process and I'm pretty sure it's aged us a few years.

Not having ever been in a serious accident or totaled a car, all of this was totally new to both Brad and me. We learned a lot. It is stressful, that is for sure. And I say that as someone who is mostly happy with how her insurance handled the whole thing.

I bought my new-to-me car today, so we are almost towards the end of getting back to normal around here. I was thinking about things I wish I'd known and decided to write them down. Please pin and read later! Kidding. But just in case you ever need it, here's what I wish I'd done differently and some things I'm glad we did.

I wish I'd understood how our rental car coverage works
We had rental car coverage, which was huge for us because Brad drives an older 2 door car that has no Latch system for the car seat. We ended up having the rental car for 3 weeks, so the extra coverage was definitely worth it. But not all rental car coverage is the same.

Some insurance companies will provide you a rental car until they've cut you a check for your car or a few days after they extend the first offer of compensation. We instead had a dollar amount that we could spend at Enterprise and when that was spent, our coverage was done - no matter where we were in the process.

I wish I had known that from the get-go. I would have turned down the obnoxiously huge SUV they gave me for something cheaper so we could have kept it longer for car shopping purposes.... and because our claims adjuster worked at a snails' pace. But I didn't read and understand our policy, so we had to give up the rental car before we were settled in a new car.

I'm glad we did extensive research on our car's value
Apparently (from what the claims adjuster told me), a lot of insurance companies use a third party vendor, CCC, to evaluate how much totaled cars are worth. While CCC has a lot of data, they may not be versed in your particular car and the warranties, options, etc. If you want to successfully disagree with the amount CCC comes up with, you better have some backup information to provide as to why.

This is where Brad and his mad skills come in. If I can brag for a minute, the man can do crazy fabulous things with a spreadsheet. And that's exactly what he did to document every shred of evidence we found as to the value of my car. Comparables, evaluations, values for each of the upgrades, etc. All compiled neatly and averaged precisely. It took him several hours when he also had deadlines looming - but ended up paying off.

We provided all this information to the insurance company since our average was higher than what CCC came back with. Our claims agent's manager called me and said it was clear there were several things CCC did not include in their evaluation, so they were going to give us the average that Brad had determined in his spreadsheet. Talk about time well spent. I'm telling you. MAD SKILLS.

I wish I'd started locating a replacement car immediately
We bought our Volvo when it was almost 2 years old, paid it off a couple of years ago and planned to find an equivalent car that cost no more than our settlement. This was a challenge. Finding a used car with specific options and mileage was tough - there was not a lot to choose from.

We ended up with something pretty close, but it took a lot of nail biting, phone calls, waiting, hoping, panicking... so yeah, I admit, I kind of freaked out last weekend that I had no car to buy and no more rental coverage. I got lucky in that something popped up in our price range earlier this week - I could have been waiting for a while. I should have some salesmen searching for something during the entire claims process.

I wish I'd figured out where my smashed up car's title was immediately
This was kind of a mess. After we settled with the insurance company on the amount, they told me I needed to sign and send in the title to my car. I went to our files and... no title. I went to the DMV to replace it and couldn't without a copy of the release of lien letter from the bank that once held our loan. So then I had to wait for the bank to give me that document. It added a few days to a process where time was already of the essence.

Also - be sure to get your wrecked car's license plates. This will save you some money and time with the DMV. I just found this out today when I went to buy my car. The CDs, carpool number and reusable shopping bags that I did get out of the car have not been nearly as useful.

I wish I'd hounded the insurance company to release the check ASAP
Boy did they drag their feet. They don't like letting go of their money. I had a car waiting to be bought and a claims adjuster who had everything she needed... and still sat on the check for a few days. It's enough to make an already hormonal woman go mad. I should have called her boss.

Ok, so now that I evaluate, I guess there were more mistakes than things we did right. And I can't even really take credit for the thing we did right - that was all Brad. I told him tonight when I came home with the new car that I couldn't have done this without him. And he told me if I hadn't smashed up my car, he couldn't have done this without me either! Ahh, it's nice to be useful.

I really do love my new car. I thought for a while I was just going to have to feel disappointed in what I ended up with because there were so few options out there for me. And that just made me madder at myself for getting in this stupid accident in the first place.

I'm trying to get over that. Accidents happen, and I was very, very fortunate mine was not any worse and nobody got hurt. But there is no better incentive to drive extremely safely than going through the headache of the "total loss" process. So I hope you never have to.


Fe Penley said...

I’m so sorry that you had a bit of trouble with your insurance company. I’m sure it was very frustrating because you were very much in need of a new car. Perhaps it’s time that you switched car insurances. I suggest getting a suggestions from your friends regarding which car insurance company will be the most helpful to get you out of that tight spot.

Steven Keltsch said...

Getting your car totaled must've been a terrifying experience! However, that nasty event was not without some lessons that would guide you in life. At the very least, it gave you an idea on how to deal with this kind of event. Not only for you, but for those people around you. Thanks for sharing, and stay safe!

Steven Keltsch @ Allied Insurance Manager