Late last November, I was involved in a collision. While neither I nor the other driver were seriously hurt, our vehicles didn’t fare quite so well. I drive a 1989 Can Opener, while the other driver (who failed to look before leaping into my lane, resulting in the collision) was driving a 2009 commercial full-size van. Upon exiting each of our vehicles to inspect the damage, the results were somewhat surprising, or not, depending on your point of view.
Insurance companies and car manufacturers will spend hours attempting to fill your heads with data (from mostly unnamed or obscure sources) that newer vehicles are the way to go. That they’re safer, more efficient and more economical. I beg to differ on a number of different levels.
I have a number of different passions but close to the top of Lisa’s List of Loves, are recycling and my 1989 Can Opener. OK, it’s a Ford Bronco, but you get my meaning. When the other driver collided so rudely with my front passenger fender, my fender was pushed in slightly between the passenger door and fender. While aggravating enough, the damage was not in any way debilitating and I was able to safely and normally drive away to the nearest police station (in an attempt) to file my side of the collision report. Even my signal lights were still intact and working as I changed lanes to do so. The other driver was forced to stay behind because his NEWER, SAFER, and MORE EFFICIENT vehicle’s front driver’s side wheel popped clean off and was laying on its side on the pavement. In addition, part of his plastic bumper and mirror assembly had unsurprisingly cracked and were shattering into tinier pieces as each passing motorist sped by that morning.
So, thus began the process of filing the claim with my insurance company, the filing of police reports, and all the fun all of that entails.
My husband and I maintain each of our vehicles (we have a bit of a collection) in as fine working order as possible, likely better than most other people would considering the vintage of our collection. While it’s true that a lot of people aren’t as diligent or enthusiastic as we are in that respect, I would certainly also not suggest that people don’t take regular care and maintenance of their vehicles either. After all, they, too, must rely on their vehicles to safely transport them and their families in their daily travels. What I’m getting at here is that presumably the commercial vehicle sees regular maintenance as it was part of a fleet of similar vehicles which, in order to serve the company’s customers, must be kept in reasonable working condition to ensure timely deliveries of service to its customers. And so, one must wonder just how long that employee was driving around in that vehicle when its wheel(s) presumably could have popped off at any time just in its normal rounds around our city.
When it came time to obtain an estimate of repair from my insurance company’s “preferred” collision shop, it became almost immediately clear that this process was simply a formality. The repair estimator took one look at my truck, asked me the age and nearly as immediately advised that it was “unlikely” they would be authorised to fix it. This was later confirmed by the insurance adjuster advising that it was simply “too old” a vehicle to “waste the money on.” As I glanced around the parking lot which contained a number of other, NEWER, vehicles awaiting repair, I could not help but wonder what wisdom there was in fixing a NEWER Honda Accord which was so badly damaged that the impact of the collision evidently pushed the motor into the passenger seat of the vehicle. It also did not escape my notice that if the impact had pushed the motor into the passenger area, that the driver must also have sustained severe injuries, or worse. I asked if that vehicle was slated for repairs and was told that yes, in fact, it was.
So, let me get this straight: the insurance company was unwilling to fix my fender which, in reality, likely would have cost no more than $1,000.00 in repairs between pulling out the dent and repainting, but was willing to spend tens of thousands in repairs on a new Honda Accord which was undoubtedly rendered unsafe from frame and body damage, and additional countless of thousands of dollars in insurance coverage on the driver who is likely still recovering from their injuries. O. K.
In the end, and after several persuasive arguments on my part, the insurance company very reluctantly agreed to not only pay me for the loss of my vehicle (a measly $1,500.00 CAD) and waive the $300.00 deductible, as well as let me keep the vehicle in my possession even though they said they were obligated to declare it as ‘salvage’ (meaning it could not be re-registered until it was re-certified roadworthy by the provincial body which governs these things).
In essence, while I have received financial compensation on one end of this transaction, I am effectively being punished for keeping my vehicle out of the landfill by dint of the fact that I must incur further costs in repair and recertification of the vehicle in order to return it safely to the road. While I agree with the wisdom of recertification, in this particular instance, I do not agree it was wholly necessary given the information I have supplied you with above. While everyone is preaching that we should have clean, efficient, vehicles on the road, they are at the same time so quick to write them off and declare them unusable and thus relegating these vehicles to landfills rather than encourage that they be repaired and REUSED. On one side of the coin we all agree that we should save the planet. On the other side, let’s keep filling those landfills and keep creating replacement vehicles instead of re-using the ones we have, thus resulting in further greenhouse emissions from car manufacturing plants, killing our planet quicker than we can replace the cars being written off.
The other issue which confounds me is why, if I were anyone else, I should be forced to buy a new vehicle and incur the added expenses of car loans, additional insurance coverage (required by lenders for new car loans), etc. when I could just as easily repair my still-working and still-roadworthy vehicle. My vehicle, while older, is not as inefficient as you might think. Again, this is thanks to the hard work and maintenance by my conscientious and talented husband. We did, in fact, have a new vehicle once for a few years. Adding insult to the injury of several hundred dollars a month being gleaned from our bank account, that “new” vehicle was in for warranty work every second weekend and in return for our Jeep TJ, we were handed the keys to a Dodge Neon as a loaner till the warranty work was completed. Again…explain to me where the newer vehicles are more efficient and safer and just plain better all around?
Here’s the thing: I don’t need or want a “pretty” vehicle. I don’t need a lot of bells and whistles like seat warmers, GPS navigation systems (anyone ever hear of a map?) or Blu Tooth handsfree telephoning capability. What I need is value for my money. What I like is power. I also like the knowledge that my vehicle is paid for in full with no hovering loans earning interest at a rate higher than my mortgage, while all the while the value of such vehicle is depreciating faster than I can make payments. This system does NOT work, People!
Instead encourage me and my ilk to responsibly maintain my vehicle, to be conscientious enough to ensure that vehicle – whatever it may be, regardless of how pretty it may be deemed – runs as efficiently as possible and, most importantly, that it stays out of the landfills as long as possible. I am not naive enough to believe that vehicles returned as write-offs get fully recycled. I see evidence of this each time I visit an auto parts graveyard with my husband as we search for replacement parts of our own vehicles. Aside from their hulking metal forms taking up space, I see much newer vehicles in there leaking antifreeze, oil and fuel into the land set aside for such institutions, which land is usually situated to a rather nice parcel of farmland, sometimes with a lovely body of water running through it.
So, once again, I am asking you, Insurance Companies, to explain your logic because it completely escapes this wholly rational mind.