About a month ago my wife was driving her leased Highlander SE. Driver behind her was distracted and rear -ended her, resulting in her car being totaled by the insurance company. The car was in mint condition, with only 27,xxx miles and the buyout is $29,xxx. Initially the insurance company only wanted to offer $31,xxx despite the car being worth significantly more. They said it wouldn’t matter because Toyota would keep all the entire amount, including the overage, or equity if you will. We checked with Toyota and they said we would be getting a check back from them for the overage. After going back and forth, the insurance company finally conceded that “we may be getting the difference.” At this point, I can’t help but thinking this is a dishonest tactic employed by the insurer to reduce their outlay (even though they will be fully compensated by the other driver’s insurance).
We reviewed the comps provided to develop their settlement value. Mysteriously, almost every one was unable to be found. Being the skeptic that I am, I ran all of the VINs and it turns out, that 9 of the 12 comps were for lower trim levels. 1 other was 7,500 miles over the allowable threshold (NJ only allows a 4k mile differential unless the insured provides consent) and had significant accident history. Needless to say, I refused to consent to this addition. This left only 2 acceptable comps with a median value of $37,799.
The insurer agreed with the comp value, but dinged us on the condition of the vehicle, stating dings, scratches, worn interior, tears, etc. As the car was in almost perfect shape (no dings or paint damage, no interior wear), I asked for photos to back up these claims. They countered by increasing the valuation, but is still withholding a little over $1,300 by stating the below.
“The only things that were not moved was the tires since they were worn down to 6/32nd half the life is gone on them, the Engine was very dusty that would not be found on dealer ready car. The transmission was left at private owner as well this is due to the unit being sealed and always goes with the motor condition. That is no fault of your own since its driven everyday its going to have some signs of wear and dirt there. Whereas the dealers are sitting on lot and are cleaned inside and out. The interior dash has some dirt on it I can see dust on the gauge cluster that should have been accounted for and I did notice the pet hair in the back but I did not take off for it when I should have done so as well just trying to get you where you want but have to be reasonable here there is a difference between your vehicle and one on a dealer lot and I cannot disregard everything on there.”
Am I wrong in thinking that we should not be dinged by the tires? I don’t think any dealership would be replacing tires with 6/32" left, and the comps provided would not have brand new tires installed. Further, I’d like some feedback in regards to the engine bay. Does the lack of steam cleaning really affect the value? Regarding the interior, it would’ve taken 30 minutes to vacuum and wipe down the dash. Am I wrong in thinking this is petty to even be brought up? Anyway, appreciate the community’s feedback. Thanks.