State Farm Mutual Automobile Insurance Company — Claims department
The State Farm claims adjuster told me that my BMW was considered a total loss. We went through the features of the car and what their source valued it at. She said that they said it was "good" across the board. Further, she said that the value of the car, when taxes are included, came to a certain amount. I was stunned. I disputed this, claiming that the car was worth AT LEAST $3000 more. She said that I would need to show this from comparables in my area, without specifying what my area encompassed.
I mentioned to her that when I spoke to a State Farm claims agent previously, I was told that the value of the car if totaled would be negotiable. She said there was no negotiation unless I had comparables. I disputed that with the following points.
First, I mentioned that a three-level comparison hardly takes into account a car that is in superb condition. If my car was on the upper end of above average or good, then it deserves to be valued higher. She said no. (I found out later that State Farm uses a four-level comparison, but that would only put my car in the top 25%. I mentioned that I was a professor and that there is a huge difference between a student who earns a 96 [an A] and one who earns a 76 [a D+]!)
Second, I noted that since only four other cars were included in the comparison, this would hardly take into account a car such as mine. On a bell curve, the top 1% gets thrown in with the top 25%. That is not a fair comparison. Those who take immense pride in car ownership are penalized severely.
Third, she specifically said that a car with paint chips no larger than a credit card would be considered in good condition. I was astonished. This underscores how broad a range "good" really is!
Fourth, I mentioned that there are things that are unseen in a car that can enhance its value. I specifically mentioned that I get it detailed every year or every other year, that I change the oil every 5000 miles even though the owner's manual says to change it every 15, 000 miles, and that about 90% of the miles are highway miles. I keep it in essentially mint condition, with a few minor issues from time to time, but I don't leave such things unfixed. She said that such things cannot be calculated into the value of a car. I mentioned that in that case I could have changed the oil every 30, 000 miles, and she said that that WOULD be taken into consideration in terms of the wear and tear on the engine. This means that an irresponsible owner is penalized (and rightfully so), but a responsible owner is not rewarded. It's obviously not a just comparison to only consider such negatives on a car and not positives. The fact that such a range in the personal care of a car is not considered in its value tells me that a truly outstanding car will be seriously undervalued.
Fifth, I mentioned that only the BMW dealership has maintained the car. This, too, is not taken into consideration.
Sixth, I mentioned that I was the sole owner, that the car was made to order, and that I had planned on keeping it the rest of my life. Obviously, with such a history I would be taking special care of the vehicle. Nope, doesn't count, she said.
I have been a member of the BMW Car Club since 1988. The surest way to find the best comparables to my car would be in the Roundel, the club's magazine. Yet even here it's rare to find a car in the same condition as mine. I highlighted some cars for comparison, noting that although they were two years newer, they had far more miles or unfixed problems, were second- or third-owner vehicles, and STILL were selling for quite a bit more than mine. None of this mattered.
Later I spoke with another agent. She told me that the state of Texas fixed how much the insurance company could pay. I asked, "So, when I mention this on social media I should say that you said it was state law?" She paused, then replied, "Well, um, no, not exactly." "So, there is some flexibility in how much I can get for my car, right—because, after all, the state has not dictated what the value should be?" She answered, "No, there is no flexibility."
Folks, if you take excellent care of your car, don't insure it with State Farm. You'll never get what it's worth if it gets totaled. On the other hand, if you don't give a rip what condition your car is in, you're in luck! State Farm will probably give you top dollar.
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