Aside from your house and perhaps some jewelry passed down through the generations in your family, your car is the most valuable thing you own. And for many professionals with a long commute, it’s something of a home away from home. You spend a great deal of time in your vehicle, but you also paid a great deal of money for it. So what happens after you’ve been in an accident? Whether the crash was your fault or the other driver’s, any time your vehicle is involved in an accident in which it sustains damage its value will drop. How much value is lost is not always in your hands. But even if your vehicle is in great shape and you completely repair the damage, you’ll probably still have to accept less money when you get around to reselling it. So how can you determine how much your car depreciates after an accident?

The most important factor is the type and significance of the damage your car incurs. There’s quite a bit of difference between a fender bender and a full speed crash, of course in the potential danger to you, but also what it will take to repair the car. If your car has obvious damage, such as misaligned parts, dents or serious gashes in the paint job, you could be looking at as much as 30-40% off the price of the same age and model vehicle in mint condition. No one wants to buy a damaged car, so dealers will have to work harder to sell it. In the end, you’ll have to swallow that difficulty through depreciated value. The real problem arises if your car was in a serious accident. If the vehicle had to be significantly rebuilt, the insurance company probably processed it as “totaled”. That means even after the repairs your vehicle will be considered salvaged. In that case, you may not find any dealerships that would buy the car at any price.

The specifics of your car, such as the make, model and age will also impact depreciation. Although it may sound backwards, the older the car the less depreciation it will incur after an accident. But older cars have already gone through years of depreciation, so there is just a smaller gap to impact. Newer cars will lose the most value. And if your vehicle isn’t popular in resale you’ll be offered far less. An unpopular car that’s been in an accident presents a difficult set of circumstances, and you may be better off simply keeping the vehicle and driving it for as long as you can.

The aspect of depreciation you can control involves the quality of the repair job done on the vehicle. Remember that when your car is being valued by a dealership they are considering how much they can get for it from another customer. Those new customers will certainly look at the vehicle’s history, but they’ll also want to see a car that was well maintained. So don’t skimp on the repairs. If the car has truly been restored as much as is humanly possible to its pre-accident state it won’t depreciate significantly. The same obviously goes for minor damage that is handled. But if damage is still apparent due to shoddy repairs you’re going to have a lot of trouble.

You might consider selling to a private source, hoping that will save you some depreciation. But thanks to the internet, someone answering a Craigslist ad for a vehicle has the same ability to research true value and uncover the car’s history as a dealership does. Any savvy buyer will know exactly when the accident occurred, whose fault it was, and even if a traffic solictor was brought in to review the case. You’re better off being transparent and receiving fair value, even if it isn’t as much as you hoped.

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