How Much Value Did My New Car Lose Now That I Had an Accident?

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Photo: Oxfordshire County Council Fire & Rescue Service

As Jalopnik’s resident car buying expert and professional car shopper, I get emails. Lots of emails. I’ve decided to pick a few questions and try to help out. This week we are discussing the loss of trade-in value for a recent accident, when to fix a high-mile car or cut it loose, and expensive leases on the new Mazda3.

This story was originally published on April 19, 2019

First up, how much of a resale value hit does a brand new car take if it was in an accident?

“What is the value of a clean CarFax? I have a 2019 Hyundai Tucson with 300 miles on it. It was hit in the side with $8,000 in damage. The insurance company guarantees it to be like new when repaired. How is the value affected with a bad CarFax?”

A car with an accident history will naturally be worth less than a similar car without that damage history on the report. But how much less depends on when you decide to sell or trade it in. If you plan on trading this car in three or four years from now, you can likely expect to get a few grand less than you would have without the accident history.

However, if you keep the car for 15 years where it’s only worth a grand or two in resale anyway the difference isn’t going to be that dramatic.

Image: CarFax

Image: CarFax
Photo: CarFax

You might be able to pursue a diminished value claim through your insurance or some other organization that specializes in that to offset the loss in resale.

Next up, when is it worth putting money into a high-mile car or just using that toward another car?

“We currently have a 2010 Jetta S with 141,000 miles on it that we’ve used as our daily commuter for about 8 years now (daily round trip of about 30 miles, usually a mountain or distance road trip of several hundred miles once every month or two). All services done on time but it is getting a bit long in the tooth and starting to build up expensive recommended repairs, such as the vacuum pump being suspected of having an oil leak and has a bit of a stinky AC. KBB trade in for it is about $1550, and the local dealership has offered that for it.

We are trying to decide between 3 options:

1) Do the minimum essential work to keep it road worthy (probably about $500 for misc little things and brake rotors).

2) Do the full recommended work (probably around $2,000-$2,500) and hope nothing major breaks soon to make it a bad investment of money.

3)We can trade in and get another car.”

If the car is only worth $1,550, throwing another $2,500 at it doesn’t seem like a good use of money. It’s not like that additional $2,500 is going to get you another 100,000 miles—in all likelihood it’s just going to buy you some time whether it be a few months or maybe year and you are back to square one. It’s one thing to put that money into a beloved classic. I’m sorry to say a 2010 Jetta probably isn’ t that.

Rather than spend $2,500 now to prolong ownership where your best case scenario will only be worth $1,500 on a trade later, I would take the combination of that $1,500 trade offer and the $2,500 potential repair investment and use that $4,000 toward another car.

However, if that $4,000 downpayment doesn’t really get you something that you are happy with, perhaps doing the smaller maintenance of around $500 to buy some time while you save up a bit more could be worthwhile.

And finally, the new Mazda3 seems really expensive to lease. Is it worth waiting it out?

“My lease is up on my Acura TLX at the end of this month. I am not interested in any of the new Acura’s so looking at possibly a Civic Touring or the new Mazda 3 premium. I really like the 3, but being that they just came out, they gave me a price much higher than what I’m paying now for the Acura and I can’t justify spending more for a Mazda than an Acura. Do you recommend extending my lease on the Acura for 3 months or so and then trying again to get another price for the 3?”

Almost any time an all-new car is just hitting the showrooms, the leases tend to be on the pricey side. The automaker doesn’t have to incentivize those programs with low money factors (interest rates) and/or rebates to move the units. The cars are going to be in demand.

Since Mazda still has a bit of inventory on the old car to clear out, that is where the deals are going to be. However, if you prefer the new 3, it would be wise to wait it out a bit. As inventory builds, deals should get better.

Got a car buying conundrum that you need some assistance with? Email me at [email protected]!

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