My daughter Christina (who lives in Tampa) recently had a fender-bender on the way to work.
The good news is the other driver was ticketed, so it wasn’t Christina's fault. Further good news: he has insurance.
So what’s the bad news? Christina’s car is old with high mileage (read: little value). The minor damage done to it was sufficient to “total” the car.
To me that was no big deal. When my daughters were in college they drove old, used, high-mileage Toyotas. And unfortunately they were involved in several crunches. The insurance company would inform me that the car was “totaled.” I would accept the payment less the salvage value and keep the car. Then I would go to a junk yard, buy used body parts, put the car back together myself. After a cheap paint job I would take pictures to send to the insurance company, they would again insure the car, and my daughter had wheels.
I think I did that three times over about 6 years.
So my advice to Christina was to find someone in Florida who would do that kind of work “on the side” (get a recommendation from a body shop — maybe one of their employees would do the work on a weekend for extra cash) and keep driving her paid-for vehicle as long as possible. That’s assuming, of course, it was safe (the lights worked, and it wasn’t going to come apart on a freeway).
Ah! Not so fast!
In Florida, she was told, the law states that once a car has been totaled it can never again be titled or used for transportation.
So fixing the wrecked vehicle is not an option, and now she has to buy a car. She’s only going to get about $2,200 from the insurance company for the wreck. She’ll have to finance the rest, and make car payments—tough for her to afford right now.
I know the insurance company pays “blue book” retail value for a totaled car, but it always seems that the car you were driving can’t be replaced with a car that’s in as good shape for the money.
Life, like shit, happens.