How Much Is My Car Worth after a Car Accident?

Whats my car worth after an accident - salvage value - dimished value - actual cash value


What’s my car worth after a car accident? This isn’t the sort of thing I normally write. But, apart from our usual car reviews and watch news, I thought I’d write something that’s actually useful. When I talk to people about TickTickVroom, there are a couple of questions that crop up in the conversation… What car should I buy? What’s a good watch? I have this watch, what do you think it’s worth? And… I got into a car accident, what’s my car worth now?


It just so happens that in my day job, I’ve done significant research on this particular topic and have written a bit on it car worth and car value (some of which is the foundation of this post). So you’ve had a car accident. A fender bender. A collision. But, after all the commotion has died down and everyone has recovered from the ordeal, one important question remains. It lingers in the forefront of your mind every time you look at your damaged car… What’s my car worth? What effect has the accident had on my car’s value?


Before the accident, your car was a prized possession. You cared for it, and it cared for you. It was a member of your family. Now, it sits there in your driveway as a twisted, torn reminder of former automotive glory. After the car wreck, you may have had it repaired. Now, it looks good, but something is off. It’s missing something. Or, you didn’t have it repaired, and now it’s sitting there as a damaged, depressing version of its former self.


With an unrepaired car, it’s easy to see why it has less value. It looks like crap. It’s bent. It doesn’t drive. However, sometimes it’s not quite as easy to see why your car is worth less. I mean, after repair, it looks like new, so it should be worth what it was before, right? Wrong. This post will explain what effect a car accident has on a car’s worth for both repaired and unrepaired vehicles.

Whats my car worth after an accident


What’s my car worth, repaired after an accident? This is a bit of a loaded question, and there isn’t really a clear answer. Car worth all comes down to: How bad was the accident to begin with? And, who’s answering the question? The insurance company? A car dealership’s trade-in appraiser? They’ll all have a stake to protect and will answer the car worth question accordingly.


The severity of the accident question is probably the most straight-forward to answer. If your accident was more of a fender bender with simply a broken headlight that was replaced with a new part, the accident won’t have much of an effect on the car’s value as the repair won’t really be visible. Actually, that teeny an accident may not even have been reported on your CarFax or AutoCheck vehicle history report.


When the collision is more serious… majorly dented body panels, frame damage, broken suspension, generally messed up… that’s a whole different ballgame. Let’s assume the repair was done by a kick-ass auto body repair shop that is I-Car Gold certified and employs master craftsmen. The paint between new body panels and old match perfectly and there are no big gaps between the replaced body panels. Basically, the once-damaged car now looks great… perfect… wunderbar.


Despite all that, your car still will take a big hit in terms of value. Yeah, sucks, right? Your looks-to-be-perfect-but-actually-used-to-be-damaged car will lose value to the tune of up to 30 percent. You car worth is now a third of what it used to be. That’s because when it’s time to sell a car, up to 55 percent of people won’t buy a previously damaged car, especially if it has a salvage title.


For one thing, the car now has an accident on its CarFax or AutoCheck vehicle history report. Plus, if there was frame or significant structural damage, even the best body shop will never be able to get the car back to perfect. There’s usually evidence of a major repair. Now imagine your car was repaired by someone less skilled than a vehicular van Gogh. Repair quality is a big deal.


From the point of view of your insurer or a car dealer’s appraiser the amount of monetary value your car has lost after an accident is called its Diminished Value, which is based on the pre-accident value of your car, the nature and severity of the damage and the quality of repairs. There’s no real perfect formula. Suffice it to say, the more significant the damage, the newer the car or the poorer the repairs; the worse the Diminished Value.


Hard to believe? Here’s an example. Down here in Miami, there’s a car dealership called CAS Miami that has a Ferrari F430 Spyder with about 9,000 miles for sale for $107,900. The car looks great. It runs. It drives. It’s a black Ferrari convertible. The only catch… It has a repairable title. That means at some point in time the car was damaged (possibly totaled) and repaired. While it may look good now, the answer to the question what’s that car worth is significantly less than one with a clean history. This previously damaged Ferrari has a price of $107,900 while other similar, non-previously damaged Ferrari F430 Spyders are going for $170,000 to $190,000 on AutoTrader. So, in this case, the previous damage resulted in a 40 percent reduction in value. Ouch…

Whats my car worth after an accident - salvage value - dimished value - actual cash value



Okay, so you haven’t gotten your wrecked car repaired yet. Maybe you don’t really think having the thing fixed is a worthwhile investment in time, money and aggravation. You may be right. Depending on your car’s specifics (make, model, age and severity of damage), your not-so-perfect car actually has some intrinsic value. So, How much is my car worth?


After an accident, collision damage is viewed in terms of percentage, cost of repair over value of car pre-accident. A car with under 20 percent damage isn’t really that bad and probably should be fixed. Once you hit the 40 to 70 percent range, repair might not be your best option. Getting rid of your car might get you the best bang for your buck. There are actually companies that specialize in buying damaged and salvage cars.


Above 70 percent damage and your car is getting pretty close to totaled. In fact, in six states as car with 70 percent damage or more is totaled. At the low end, Iowa totals a car at 50 percent damage. Colorado and Texas top out the spectrum with 100 percent damage. Although, it’s pretty obvious that if your the repair to your car would cost 100 percent of what it’s worth to repair, it should definitely be totaled. Twenty-two states use a calculation called a Total Loss Formula. If the repair cost plus the damaged car worth or car value is more than the Actual Cash Value (the value of the car pre-accident), the car is totaled (and worth the value of its scrap).


So, yeah, after an accident, the answer to what’s my car worth is higher than zero, but you’ll have to talk to a salvage car specialist to figure out just how much.



So what’s your car worth? In the end, if you have it fixed, your car’s value will probably take the 30 percent hit. If it falls into that 40 percent to 70 percent category, it might be time to sell your car. Above 70 percent, just let the insurance company take the damn thing and peruse the pages of TickTickVroom to find your next vehicular conveyance. Actually, How much is my car worth after a car accident is actually a pretty interesting question… Who knew? 

Author: Nick Glasnovich

Founder & Executive Editor of

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