You've recently been in a significant accident, but you finally have your car back. The insurance company covered the repairs and everything looks good as new. Case closed, right? Sadly, this may not be the end of the long-term impact on your car. The reality is that vehicles are often never quite perfect again after severe accidents, and a diminished resale is generally reflective of this fact. Even with flawless repairs, future buyers may consider your car a greater risk than one that was never involved in an accident.
To account for this loss of value, you can typically file a diminished auto value claim with your own insurance company or the insurer of the responsible party. While this extra step may seem like a hassle, there are several important reasons that it is worth considering.
1. Your Loan Won't Change
If you have a newer car that you are still financing, then you will always be on the hook for the actual amount of your loan. A loss of significant value can be especially harsh on relatively new vehicles, and it's possible to end up upside down on your car loan if the value of the car drops by a few thousand dollars. Taking the settlement from a diminished value claim and putting it directly against your loan will help to make you whole by offsetting the effective loss of equity due to your car's reduced resale.
2. You May Have to Keep the Car For Longer
Do you routinely trade in your cars while you still owe money on your existing vehicle? Many people find themselves in a routine of trading up before they've fully paid off a loan, but dealerships are often reluctant to take cars with a major collision on their history. Of course, you'll still be able to trade your car in, but the reduced trade-in value may be considerable. These factors may make up the trade-in-and-replace routine a bit harder to swallow. If you decide to keep your car for longer, the money from a diminished value claim can help you to deal with potential out-of-warranty repair costs.
3. Your Loss Is Real
Finally, don't ignore the fact that diminished value represents an actual loss. It's easy to think that you've been made whole once repairs are complete, but your car has value beyond its utility as an appliance. It doesn't matter if you are financing your vehicle or if you've paid it off, you now own an asset that is worth less than it was before the accident. This case may be challenging to make if you were responsible, but in an accident where you were not at-fault, it is the responsibility of the at-fault party to compensate you for your damage.
If you believe that your car has suffered significantly diminished value, then one of the most important things that you can do is to hire an appraiser after repairs are complete. Compare the post-repair appraisal to the insurance's company post-accident appraisal, and use the difference as the basis for your claim. If you can show the change in value, many insurance companies will work with you to compensate you for your loss.