5 Lessons I Learned From a Totaled Car Accident

Photo by Matt Hudson on Unsplash
Photo by Matt Hudson on Unsplash

Well, it’s still not easy to process everything, but I want to share at this point at the end of the year after the accident happened on April 26th. After a car accident that resulted in my car being totaled, I want to share what I learned with more people.

The Accident

It was a Wednesday, and I was driving my family, which included my wife, a 3-year-old son, and my in-laws, to the zoo. Unfortunately, an accident occurred in downtown San Jose at Reed Avenue and 6th Street. A driver ignored the stop sign and collided with our vehicle.

The car collided with the right side of my BMW X3, causing it to spin around 360°, and then it hit a street light pole. The severity of the impact can be compared to a side crash test shown in the safety video from IIHS.

The police, ambulance, and the maintenance team for the streetlight arrived at the accident site promptly. I was sitting on the sidewalk, watching the swift action, and I couldn’t believe it had happened so quickly.

Luckily, no one was severely injured. I was not guilty at all; just bad luck. 

Later on, I also learned from the insurance company that the guy who crashed our car didn’t have insurance; that’s a bummer. This means we have to go to our insurance and pay everything for ourselves and then sue the guy who hit us.

Lesson 1: Buy Underinsured Motorist Coverage

Photo by Artem Beliaikin on Unsplash
Photo by Artem Beliaikin on Unsplash

Please check if you have Underinsured Motorist Coverage on your insurance policy. Adding this coverage could cost as low as $5 to $10 per month and is worth the extra protection. 

The fact is many drivers don’t carry insurance today. Especially after COVID, too many new drivers need proper driving training on the street. 

The other day, my wife was involved in a minor car accident. While merging into another street, a car in the front slipped backward and collided with our vehicle. Upon further conversation with the other driver, we discovered that the other driver didn’t have a driver’s license, insurance, or even valid registration for the car. 

We: “Why are you driving without a driver’s license or insurance?”

The driver in the front car: “There are many people on the street doing so.”

Isn’t that scary? 

When driving on the street, I prioritize safety and encourage others to follow the rules and respect one another. If someone goes over the speed limit too much, it is not a reflection of their driving ability but rather a sign that others on the road fear the consequences of reckless driving.

Lesson 2: Buy a Safe Car

Buying a reliable car doesn’t mean it’s a safe car. 

A reliable car is about the vehicle itself; it won’t break when needed and costs less. A safety car is about the surroundings and how much the vehicle can protect you. 

A reliable car is about convenience and money. A safe vehicle is about life. I prioritize safety over reliability when buying a car, even if it costs more and only has a 0.27% odd it happened. 

In my case, I am fortunate to have chosen a high safety rating car, the BMW X3 from IIHS; I couldn’t imagine if I were driving a sedan or some low safety rating car.


Lesson 3: No guarantee down payment back for leasing

Photo by Ian Chen on Unsplash
Photo by Ian Chen on Unsplash

When leasing a car, many online sources suggest putting no money down. I followed this rule, but I needed to understand why. After totaling my car, I realized that putting no money down was good.

My insurance company values my totaled BMW X3 at 45k; since this is a leased car, no penny went into my pocket, and BMW took all of them. At the time of the accident, I only owed BMW 33k on the lease. Ideally, the difference of 45k-33k = 12k should be returned to me as equity. However, this is different from how leasing works. 

BMW will take the 12k as cash and give you half of that money for your next lease or finance on BMW—basically, a 6k BMW gift card with one year of the expiration date. 

Now, if I were to pay a down payment for the totaled car, let’s say I put 5k down. I probably only owe BMW for 28k as a down payment reduced the MSRP. That’s 45k-28k = 17k. Remember, BMW only gives you half back, so that’s just 8.5k left. Your initial down payment is only 50% back.

Even worse is getting the money back; you still have to choose another BMW by leasing or finance, no matter how worse the MF/APR is. 

Avoid paying any down payment when leasing a car, as it may not be fully refundable.

Lesson 4: Drive Slow

I am more conservative in driving after the car accident. 

I want to avoid the riots on the street and keep my distance from those cars. I always prefer the lane for the slower traffic, and I drove on the right side of the road on the highway. My kid is in the back, and I don’t care if the car is behind or trying to rush.

If you are driving locally, especially on two lanes, the right lane has too many problems: people ignore stop signs, parked car suddenly open their doors, kids run into the street to pick up a ball, etc. So, drive slowly; it gives you enough time to react to inspections.

Slow here doesn’t mean being too slow, but following the speech limit and not going beyond 10 miles over the limit would be a good starting point. 

Lesson 5: Help others

Photo by Tim Mossholder on Unsplash
Photo by Tim Mossholder on Unsplash

No one wants to have a car accident. I was involved in a car accident and a totaled car, and with a kid, I was in desperate need of help at that moment.

On the accident day, after the car was towed, everyone left. I was trying to figure out how I could get home with my kid, maybe take an Uber, and needed a car with a car seat (you cannot take your car seat as it is involved in an accident)

A gentleman stopped me and asked if I wanted to ride home; he even had a car with a car seat for my kid. I almost cried that someone helped at this hopeless time. He told me that he had seen four accidents in the same place last year, so I was not alone. 

After experiencing the desperation of needing help, I now understand the value of offering support to others.

Final Thoughts

Experiencing a car accident that results in the total loss of your vehicle is a difficult situation to deal with. However, I am grateful that everyone involved in the accident is safe and that we received help from someone. 

Whether you stumbled upon my article randomly or are going through a similar experience, I hope my five lessons learned from a totaled car accident can be helpful to you. I wish you a smooth recovery and a quick return to your normal life.

About Me

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