Insurance Write-offs - Torrens 409

By: Glenn Torrens

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Write-off? Glenn Torrens wonders at the willingness and wisdom of insurance companies

The pictures on my screen showed a light blue VY Commodore Berlina V8. It was missing its driver’s front guard and headlight and the front bumper. The edge of the bonnet was dented and Holden’s carefully designed, easily replaced bolt-on cross-car reinforcing beam that sits behind the bumper to help absorb impact damage was damaged. No airbags – four in this model – had been deployed. The accompanying information said the car had 175,000km on it and drove fine.

To a trade-qualified panel person, or car enthusiast who has the skills to repair the car (someone like myself and probably hundreds of Unique Cars magazine readers) it was all looking good… but the information also said the car was a statutory write-off so could not be re-registered.

Another one I’ve seen recently was a car bought at auction by a bloke I know, Darren. The sticker on the windscreen advised it was a write-off. Once again, a V8 Holden (Sorry – but I’ve been looking lately!), this time a Statesman but with absolutely no panel damage at all. The reason for this car’s early demise? Nothing more than a bent tie-rod on the driver’s side front suspension where – I reckon – the car had hit a car-park edge or gutter while being driven, full left lock, in reverse. Darren bought the car as an engine transplant donor and I saw it before he chopped it up, retaining the bits he needed to re-power something else and sold the seats and the rest of the parts.

So what is going on here? Why were the insurance assessors so keen to write-off these cars that could have, for the sake of a few hours’ work, been put back on the road? These were two cars that I could have had fixed in a weekend – heck, the Statesman’s suspension could have been fixed in half an hour with a $40 component from the wrecker and an $80 wheel alignment – that were write-offs.

Of course, neither of these cars were worth $50K anymore. Being the age they were, they were $5-7K cars and yes, the repair bill at present trade rates of $100-plus per hour, plus the parts and the paint required, would have soon added up to being half – or more – of the Berlina’s second-hand value.

But why not make them economic write-offs, so they could be repaired and put back on the road? Over the years I’ve met plenty of tradespeople who have happily repaired cars in the times when business is slow, giving themselves a nice car to retain or sell for a modest profit. There are also plenty of home restorers – and I count myself in this group – who could confidently and competently repair cars either solo or with the assistance of a shop for some tasks such as painting… Much like many street machiners do when rebuilding a show car.

And the question must be raised: if these cars, only around 12 to 15 years old – and with relatively easy access to parts to repair them – are being written off, how many cool older cars are being killed by being put into the ‘too hard basket’ by the insurance company assessors?


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