If your car gets crunched in an accident and your insurance company pays for repairs, you may decide to take the money instead. This sounds tempting, especially with severe damage or if you decide the car's not worth the repair. But whether you have to get it repaired or can cash out depends on your own choices and whether you've fully paid for the vehicle yet.
Does Your Insurer Care?
According to autoinsurancetips.com, once your insurer cuts you the check, you can do whatever you want with the money. In fact, cashing out may save the company some time and paperwork. However, your deductible still applies no matter what you do. The check will arrive with that amount already taken out.
When You Must Get Repairs
You have little choice if you haven't paid for your car yet. Technically, you don't fully own it; your bank or lender also shows up on the title. Because of this, the lender has a special interest in the car's condition. In fact, your lender may require you to carry full insurance, including comprehensive and collision. The insurance check may be made out jointly to you and the lien holder. If you take the money and run, you're risking legal action.
Other Reasons To Fix It
If the damage is to your wheels or suspension system, brakes or any safety equipment, you'd better get it done. You don't want to cheat on your safety to save a few dollars, and you don't need to risk a fix-it violation. Even if you already paid for your car, it may be new or nice enough that you want to keep it that way. If you keep pictures of your car in your wallet, you might want to make your repairs as soon as the money comes in. However, that's your call.
When To Not Bother
On the other hand, if your car carries more filler than body, you may want to skip the repairs and cash out. If it has a few dents, no one will care if it collects a few more. In fact, you're wasting money if you carry collision coverage on an old beater. The cost of repairs may be more than the car is worth, so save your money. You can probably find a better use for it. Also, if you're selling the car, any cosmetic improvements probably won't make enough difference in your selling price to cover the repair cost.
Al Bondigas is an award-winning newspaperman who started writing professionally in 1985. His print credits include the "Mohave Valley Daily News" and "The Mohave County Standard." Bondigas studied journalism at San Bernardino Valley College in California.