Car Value Depreciation, and your Personal Injury Claim

When I was in college I drove a first generation off-red Dodge Neon. I loved the car. It was not the prettiest thing in the world, but it was fun to drive. As I owned this car during the height of the “Fast Furious” craze, I decorated it with neon lights, an aftermarket exhaust, and I even had a vanity plate that read “NeonJon.” The car was not without flaw. One day, on the way to my local mall, a lady hit me, and in the process killed NeonJon. So, it was time for a new car. The process of financing my first car took a lot longer than I expected. I eventually found a 2002 Kia Optima at a local dealer. I wasn’t in love with this car, but I was desperate, and it made a cool sound when I left the keys in the ignition. So, I bought it. In my haste to buy a new car I didn’t take the time to properly review the car’s actual value nor did I take the time to research the depreciation value of the car. It turns out that this information was really important four months later when I totaled the car by hitting a tree on Valentine’s Day.

Like a good motorist, I called my insurance agent to let them know what was going on. A few weeks later I met with an accessor, and then the bad news came shortly after. My insurance provider, who was supposed to be on my side, would not cover the total cost of the vehicle. Further, I even purchased gap insurance through my lender, and that was not enough to cover the cost of the totaled Kia. I was lucky, though, I only had to pay $25 out of pocket to cover my car. Granted that was in 2006 dollars, and I was a poor college student, but still, I was lucky. This is not always the case. Most people won’t get away with paying fewer than $30 to cover the cost of their totaled car.

Car value depreciation Here is a better example of how extreme this type of situation can be. Currently, the manufacturer on the market with the worst car depreciation value is Nissan. There are several reasons that contribute to this, but one of the main factors is the number of cars that the manufacturer makes. Nissan sells a lot of cars each year, and many of them are sold to fleets. This causes the value to depreciate quickly. Let’s say that in October of last year you purchased a new Nissan Rogue SL from your local dealer. Currently, the retail value of that car, per NADA, is $27,800. According to my local dealer, the price for an equivalent new model of this car (2017) is $33,835.  So, that car is worth $6,035 less than it was 6 months ago. Granted, in this example, you are buying this car with no money down, and no dealer or manufacturer incentives. While this is never recommended by lenders, many people still purchase vehicles this way.  If you total your vehicle, or if your hit by another motorist and the vehicle is a total loss, the insurance company is likely only going to pay you what the car is currently worth, or even less than that. Further, car financing is becoming unstable right now. More people are getting longer loans with higher interest rates than ever before. If you financed your Rouge at a high-interest rate for a long period of time, you could owe even more. Worst of all, you could be making payments on a car you don’t even own any longer.

So, what are you to do? One of the best things you can do is get GAP insurance on your car. While GAP may not cover the entire value of the car, in my situation listed above, the GAP depreciation of car value after an accident.insurance was the difference in me paying thousands for my totaled car, and just $25. Some lenders may require you to get GAP insurance when you finance the car. In this situation, it may be possible to finance the additional cost into your loan. However, not all lenders offer GAP. Your insurance provider may offer it to you when you register your new car.

Regardless of whether it’s your insurance company or the insurance company of the individual who hit your car, you don’t have to accept the offer that is made for the property damage. Do not cash the check until you are satisfied. Be sure to get your own estimates on the value of your car, and even get repair estimates. Some companies are quick to total a car, even when it is not beyond repair.

One of the smartest things you can do is to research the car you want to buy in detail before you sign the loan paperwork. You definitely don’t want to get upside down in a car loan. Try not to finance negative equity from a previous car. This can cause a lot of issues if you quickly total your new car. Also, look at residual values and see which cars depreciate the best. This is also true if you lease a car. You will likely get a better lease term if you choose a car with a high residual value. It’s also smart to put some money down on a car and finally make smart decisions and to be aware of what you’re getting yourself into with financing. Also, research your insurance company too. If you are hurt in an accident, be sure to give us a call to learn more about the services we provide. Our toll-free number is 1-877-526-3457. If you can’t talk now, once for a shorter term.

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Jan Dils, Attorneys at Law

Jan Dils, Attorneys at Law