The frame of your vehicle is the structure that holds everything together. Finding out it’s been damaged is never good news.
If the structural damage to your car is extensive, it could lead to wear and tear on other parts or become a safety issue.
Bent frame doesn’t automatically mean your car is totaled. Advancements in vehicle repair have made damaged frames repairable. However, your insurance company may write off your vehicle as totaled if the repair costs exceed its current value.
The Definition of a “Totaled Vehicle”
The definition of ‘totaled’ is based on your insurance company’s assessment of whether it’s ‘worth it’ to repair a vehicle with frame damage.
Your insurance will assess whether the estimated repair costs exceed your vehicle’s present value. If they do, the car is considered totaled.
The insurer determines the current value of your vehicle, so even if you can repair it, they may not pay if they decide that the costs are higher than their valuation.
For example, if the car is valued at $4000 and the repair costs are $2000, the insurer will give you the $2000.
However, if the vehicle is worth $5000 and the repair costs are $7000, you will only receive what the car is worth (i.e., $5000).
In this case, the insurance company writes off your vehicle, so unless you want to foot the repair bill yourself, you’re better off buying a new one.
How To Know if Your Car is Totaled
There are a few main indicators your car is totaled: leaking fluids; the age of the vehicle; the extent of damage; and the number of miles.
A vehicle with leaking fluids means more than just structural damage, which will increase repair costs.
As a result, insurance companies almost always declare a leaky car totaled.
The issue isn’t just financial – there’s a safety issue as well.
Leaking fluids indicate something is seriously wrong with the vehicle, and you shouldn’t drive it.
For example, if you’re leaking brake fluid, your brakes could be compromised, potentially leading to another accident.
If your car leaks fluids of any kind, do not drive it and have it towed to a mechanic for an assessment.
Your Car is Over Five Years Old, and the Frame Damage is Too Severe
An insurance company will consider your car totaled if it’s over five years old and has extensive frame damage.
The costs to rebuild a frame in a vehicle that old will exceed its current value.
For certainty on whether your insurer covers the repair costs, key in your car information and condition before the accident on Kelley Blue Book (KBB).
The KBB will let you know if your car still retains some value, and although it’s just a guideline, it gives you a good idea of what to expect.
Your Car is Too Old
The repair costs for a ten or twenty-year-old car with extensive frame damage almost always exceed the vehicle’s value, even if repairs are possible, and most insurance companies won’t pay to fix a car this old.
Your Car Has Driven Many Miles
A car’s age and the number of miles on it are closely related, and a vehicle with a high number of miles is less valuable.
You can check the odometer to see how many miles your car has.
If the accident severely damaged the meter, you can reference previous reports to find an estimate.
Most modern vehicles can cover up to 200,000 miles. If your car’s mileage is close to that, your vehicle is considered totaled.
Can You Repair a Damaged Frame?
You can repair a damaged frame, but you should also consider the state of the vehicle post-repair.
In most cases, the adjusted frame won’t be as sturdy, putting a question mark on whether your vehicle is as safe as before.
You may have to reconsider the process if the mechanic concludes that a frame repair sacrifices safety and stability.
Repairs are usually fine if the frame damage is minor or in an area that isn’t essential for the structural integrity of the vehicle.
However, when dealing with a major component like the chassis, you put yourself, your vehicle, and other drivers at risk by proceeding with a fix that may impact functionality.
Though some insurers may insist on repairing a car with damage to essential components, most will write off the vehicle.
What is the Cost of Repairing a Damaged Frame?
The repair costs of a damaged frame depend on the extent of the damage. You can spend as much as $10,000 on frame repairs; however, such cases are extreme.
Comprehensive frame repairs require a frame rack – a piece of equipment that suspends your vehicle and allows thorough inspection and fixes – which is an expensive way to do repairs.
A vehicle that doesn’t sustain much frame damage may only require suspension mounts, a cheaper process in comparison but expensive nonetheless, with the final bill being at least $1000.
In addition to the frame repair, there are costs associated with cosmetic repairs like paint jobs and windshield replacements, which may lead to a higher final bill.
Should You Bother With a Damaged Frame?
In most cases, proceeding with a frame repair can be worth it.
Most frame damage can be repaired, with new technologies allowing mechanics to stretch bent frames back to their initial shape.
If your accident wasn’t severe, fixing your frame might be cheaper than expected.
After the accident, avoid driving your car until you repair it. In addition to the safety concerns of operating a compromised vehicle, if you make the damage worse, you make the repairs more expensive.
Also, don’t attempt to repair your car yourself as you might do further damage and make the vehicle unrepairable when a professional finally gets to it.
If your frame is bent or damaged, it doesn’t necessarily mean your car is totaled.
After a mechanic gives you a quote for repairs, your insurance company will determine whether the repair costs exceed the vehicle’s value.
If they do, your car is a write-off, and it’s time to look into buying something new.
If the repair costs are less than the vehicle’s current value, your insurance will cover the expenses.
Table of Contents
- The Definition of a “Totaled Vehicle”
- How To Know if Your Car is Totaled
- Can You Repair a Damaged Frame?
- What is the Cost of Repairing a Damaged Frame?
- Should You Bother With a Damaged Frame?