That time I got hit by a drunk driver

I've never liked Sundays. Especially Sunday evenings. They feel like denial to me. It's like I'm clinging on to the last bit of weekend, and sometimes I actually convince myself that Monday isn't just a few hours away. But then the shops close early, I realize I can't stay up late, and there's no escaping the inevitable: the weekend is over.

Sundays are the worst.

But one particular Sunday evening, two weeks ago, really sucked. Brian and I were hit by a drunk driver — something I was surprised to learn has happened to a handful of people I know. Perks of living in a big city, I guess. Thankfully, aside from some dull body aches, we were able to walk away from the accident with only the headache of the clean-up process.

But damn this clean-up process.

I Vowed to Drive My Car Into the Ground, and I Did.

Well, actually, someone else did. But the point is, my car is irreparable. The other party's insurance, of course, is paying for the car. It's kind of hard to deny fault when your guy pulls a hit and run and then plows into two more cars while completely plastered. But now, I have the task of deciding to buy a replacement car, which, I know, is a luxurious problem. But I still don't have much time in my life for this.

Plus, to be honest, I'm kind of sad about the loss. I know it's just a car, but that car was one of the few pieces of my life from Texas that I had with me here in California.

The car used to be my brother's; he drove it in high school. When he wasn't looking, I'd always put one of those ugly Jack in the Box antenna balls on it to embarrass him. He'd take it off and throw it away; I'd buy a new one and sneak it back on. Finally, he relented, and it's been on the car ever since. In fact, while the car was in between impound lots, I made sure to keep that nasty old antenna ball. And maybe it's silly, but driving that car kind of made me feel like Draden and I were hanging out, despite him being thousands of miles away at college. I'm already feeling a little nostalgic about it.

But then again, I can't imagine how I'd feel getting back in that Corolla while remembering its windows shattering all around me. So perhaps a change will be good.

Used or New?

It was just today that I found out the car is totaled, and I've been spending some time reviewing advice, which includes a few Get Rich Slowly posts. For a new car purchase, I enjoyed J.D.'s post on The best way to buy a new car. In it, he suggests a technique that involves calling a bunch of car dealerships and asking what their best possible price is for a particular make and model.

Then, my dad suggested I contemplate a used car. As a remote worker who doesn't drive much, perhaps a new car isn't necessary. Perhaps I could get more value from a decent used car that's a couple of years old and has low mileage. “A used car already has the most depreciable years sucked out of it,” my dad said. So I looked at this: Ask the Readers: Is a used car still a good deal? Like a lot of personal finance questions, it ultimately comes down to how the numbers work for you. As J.D. wrote, “The key to making a smart choice is to take your time and crunch the numbers.”

For me, crunching the numbers has been comparing the total cost of ownership of a new vehicle to that of a used vehicle and then considering the price of each from there. Allstate also has a pretty cool calculator for comparing the value of a new vs. used car.

But this is oversimplifying it a bit, as there are lots of other variables to consider — mileage, cost of ownership expenses each year, how long you plan on driving it, when you're planning on buying it… August is supposed to be a good month for buying new cars, as the current year's models go down in price. But I imagine this logic would apply to used cars, too.

How Insurance Works When You're Shacking Up

As the whole living together thing is fairly new for Brian and me, we hadn't previously thought about combining auto insurance policies. For now, we have two separate Progressive policies. But in California, Progressive apparently requires unmarried couples living together to be on the same policy. Exception: we can have separate policies, as long as we both have Progressive, but these policies must be cross-referenced, which can be taken care of with a simple phone call and typing something into a computer. I learned this when Progressive sent me an annoying letter in the midst of dealing with all this car accident stuff. Upon calling and complaining, they assured me that the policies need only to reference each other. However, combining policies might be a cheaper option. It's worth looking into once everything else settles down.

The Power of an Emergency Fund

Thanks to responsible financial preparation, I was able to fully focus on what mattered at the time of the accident: our well-being. It's a frenzied scene at a car accident, and it's easy to get distracted by the hundreds of questions you're asking yourself. It helped that “how am I going to afford this?” wasn't one of those questions. Of course, worst-case money scenarios went through my head. I wondered whether or not the guy had insurance; I wondered how often people get screwed in these situations. But there was not the unsettling feeling of financial ruin like there would have been had this happened in my younger, less financially savvy days. In times of crisis, the last thing you want to think about is money. Sometimes, money problems are inevitable — it's tough to be prepared for everything. But this situation reminded me just how important it is to have an emergency fund. And when I had to pay the tow fees out-of-pocket while waiting on insurance formalities, this emergency fund did its job in giving me peace of mind.

Be Wary of What You Sign

Speaking of frenzy, it's easy to haphazardly give away your signature during times like this. When Brian went to the emergency room, for example, he was given a stack of paperwork. Had the situation been more dire, we probably wouldn't have been in a clear enough mind-set to question all that paperwork. A particular document required him to be responsible for the hospital bill if the insurance companies or guilty party refused to pay. “Uh, do I have to sign this?” Brian asked, already foreseeing the administrative nightmare that could easily fall back on him with this document on file. “Nope,” the nurse said.

“Oh. Then, uh, I'm not going to sign it,” he responded. She said OK, and that was that.

My Neighbors are Awesome

This doesn't have much to do with money, but it does reinforce the theme of community I wrote about a couple of weeks ago. Upon being hit, we were immediately shrouded with care from strangers on the street. One woman called the police for us. A man bought us bottled water from the local CVS. And a handful of others helped us find a place to sit and then calmed us down before the police and fire department showed up. I mentioned in the Fallen Fruit post that, lately, I've felt an urge to give back to the community; this experience fueled that urge even more. Also, slap me if I ever again complain about how “soft” Los Angelenos are.

I didn't realize just how much time I would spend dealing with the aftermath of this — it's almost been a part-time job. Luckily, the other party's insurance has been mostly accommodating in making sure we're reimbursed for our time, money and property. Mostly, I'd just like to move on and pretend like this thing was never in my life to begin with. I'd like to be in denial that it ever happened, and maybe get back to not liking Sundays just because they're Sundays, and not because scary things happen during that day of the week and that time of day.

The insurance and money-related hurdles have been a pain, and I'm ready to stop thinking about them. I'm ready get back to what matters — what I'm extraordinarily grateful to have walked away with from that accident — my health, my life partner and my antenna ball.

More about...Insurance, Transportation

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Hannah
Hannah
7 years ago

I’m sorry you were the victim of someone else’s poor choices. Yes, insurance helps, but it doesn’t seem fair that you have to spend time coordinating everything. It is definitely another reminder that life isn’t fair, so even when you’re not to blame for the circumstances, you have to be financially prepared for disasters like this to strike.

Elizabeth
Elizabeth
7 years ago

Sorry to hear about your accident! Glad everyone is okay though! If I may make a suggestion, before you get settle on new or used, take a look at what’s out there. When I bought my first car, I wanted to buy used but after a month of searching I couldn’t find anything suitable. I needed transportation for work and ended up getting a great deal on something new (which I bought with the intention to drive into the ground.) Some people I know had their heart’s set on new cars only to find a demo model or used car… Read more »

Lauren {Adventures in Flip Flops}
Lauren {Adventures in Flip Flops}
7 years ago
Reply to  Elizabeth

I agree with this whole-heartedly! When I bought my car I wanted used (for financial reasons) but as I did the research I found that many new cars would have been a viable option. As it was, all the research helped me find an almost-new car that WAS a demo car for a fantastic price.

M
M
7 years ago

So sorry you experienced this but glad that in the midst of someone’s stupid choices you also witnessed loving kindness. And I hope for all our sakes the Universe slapped some sense into the driver.

El Nerdo
El Nerdo
7 years ago

Wow. I was awake before the alarm went off so I grabbed my phone and opened up this page to read and I have to say I love the way this starts (I hate Sunday evenings too, the most depressing time of the week.) There are other beautiful passages too– and the photo! Lovely work, thanks. Lyricism in the face of horror is a good thing. Anyway, to practical matters: if you don’t drive that much and fuel consumption is not an issue, consider maybe (?) a truck? Last year my wife was in an accident (the other party’s fault)… Read more »

Peter
Peter
7 years ago
Reply to  El Nerdo

The irony of it all is large cars are “safer” because people drive large cars….

El Nerdo
El Nerdo
7 years ago
Reply to  Peter

I know, I know… but game theory says if you’re the only dove among the hawks, you’re first for breakfast 🙁

http://images.blog.autoshopper.com/310_Cloaseupsmallcar.jpg

Kristin Wong
Kristin Wong
7 years ago
Reply to  El Nerdo

Thanks, El Nerdo! I do love the idea of a truck (the Texas in me?) but I’m not sure it’d even fit in my tiny apartment parking spot, haha. And paralleling would be a pain.

I see your point about larger cars, though (the pic helped). But when I was researching options, I read a counterpoint about smaller cars being better able to avoid a collision in the first place. Not sure what kind of stats there are to back up that claim, but it’s worth giving some thought.

Debi
Debi
7 years ago

I’m happy to hear that neither of you were seriously injured. It totally sucks to have to jump into the car search unexpectedly. The same thing happened to me several years ago. I was hit by a drunk driver and totaled my perfectly fine 8 year old mini van. What I received for its value was minimal when I had expected to drive it for another 5 or 6 years.

AJ
AJ
7 years ago

So glad you and Brian are okay! I’m glad you were cared for and prepared!

Peter
Peter
7 years ago

Glad to hear you are ok. Car accidents can be a scary thing. Especially when its caused by someone being a complete dumb&#$

Heres some food for thought on your analysis. I’d say from what yo usay about your driving habits go used.

http://www.mrmoneymustache.com/2011/04/19/how-to-come-out-way-ahead-when-buying-a-used-car/

Rail
Rail
7 years ago

Glad everyone is OK! I’m probably this sites No.1 used car advocate but will admit there are times new can make sense. Take your time in looking, Kristin. Remember to not let emotion get in the way of financial reason, and look for a long term, drive into the ground vehicle. Happy hunting.

Mrs PoP @ Planting Our Pennies
Mrs PoP @ Planting Our Pennies
7 years ago

So sorry this happened to you, but I hope you guys are both okay. I was hit by a reckless (likely medicated) driver a couple of years ago and only recently finally settled with the at-fault party. Even though there was no shattered glass in my lower speed accident, I still sustained permanent soft tissue damage in my back. I encourage you to get checked out completely, and don’t assume because pain is low grade that it will go away! I kept assuming my pain would dissapate and it never did. I’m very glad we didn’t sign the waivers the… Read more »

John S @ Frugal Rules
John S @ Frugal Rules
7 years ago

Wow, so glad you’re both ok and that you were able to walk away from it. My mother in law was hit by one a few years ago and the driver had no insurance to boot. One thing you can do when you do get ready to buy your car – whether new or used is once you decide the brand you want then email those dealerships. We’ve done it and the beauty is that it’s all over the internet and often will get you a great price.

Ramblin' Ma'am
Ramblin' Ma'am
7 years ago

How scary and awful! I don’t drive, so I can’t offer any car advice, but I’m glad you guys are OK!

Matt @ Your Living Body
Matt @ Your Living Body
7 years ago

That sounds horrible. Consider yourself lucky. I work on a trauma unit in a hospital and believe me, others are not so lucky. Irresponsible people like that make me sick.

Lane
Lane
7 years ago

Glad you are OK.

Think about a Prius C if you drive a lot. I got an amazing deal in May on a 2012 that had never been off the lot, highest finishes with moonroof, Bluetooth etc. It gets 56-58 MPG, has a good safety rating and is very comfortable. I drive all cars “into the ground”, too, and frequently get used cars. But with gas hovering over $3.50/gal, I will do well with this car. Underrated, I think.

Mom of five
Mom of five
7 years ago
Reply to  Lane

A Prius only makes economic sense if you rack up a lot of miles.

We recently bought a Civic and have been getting 36 mpg. We considered a Prius, but we were told by Prius owning friends that it’ll cost about $3000 to replace the battery, which will need to be done in about 7 years. We figured that we’d save on average 300 dollars a year in gas with the Prius (over the Civic).

Uncle Snake
Uncle Snake
7 years ago

Buy a used Honda or Toyota. Can’t go wrong. It may cost a little more upfront to get a few year old low mileage Civic, than say a few year old low mileage Ford Focus or Elantra, but in the long run it will be cheaper. Especially if you plan on driving it into the ground.

Jane
Jane
7 years ago
Reply to  Uncle Snake

These days a used Ford Focus costs almost as much as a used Toyota. We are currently in the market for a mid-sized sedan, and this has been our experience.

Elizabeth
Elizabeth
7 years ago
Reply to  Uncle Snake

That’s one of the reasons I bought a Toyota — it would hold its value better than other makes I was considering. If I ever had to sell it, that would be a bonus.

But I’m driving it into the ground, so it’s lived up to its promise of a lower TOC than other makes.

Derek - MoneyAhoy.com
Derek - MoneyAhoy.com
7 years ago
Reply to  Uncle Snake

Glad to hear that everything seems to be OK after the accident.

I agree with this advice completely. Go used and get a Honda or Toyota. I wrote a post about how to get the best deal on a used car. Check it out here: Frugal guide for buying a used vehicle.

two fish
two fish
7 years ago
Reply to  Uncle Snake

If you go for a used Honda Civic, avoid model years 2006-2008. The engine blocks in those cars have the potential to crack because they were constructed with defective metal to begin with. Thank goodness I discovered that after I found, but before I committed to buying, the used 2008 Civic of my dreams. Owners had been alerted to the defect, but there hadn’t been an official recall so I didn’t find out that way. (I mentioned my impending purchase to a relative who owned an affected car.) I bought a used Hyundai Elantra instead, and have been very very… Read more »

mike
mike
7 years ago

Glad you guys are alright! 1.- Just because you don’t sign the hospitals document doesn’t mean they can’t come after you for services rendered or eventually send the bills to collections if not paid. I’m sure different states have different laws on this and on how medical coverage on auto polices vary by state as well. 2.- I could go on for hours about car stuff. I think going new vs used ends up being an emotional decision as much as a financial one. There is tons of resources out there regarding new and used car buying. Edmunds to me… Read more »

Mom of five
Mom of five
7 years ago

Glad you’re ok. If you do decide on a new car, this is the right time of the year for a great deal on a leftover. Unless you’re considering a used car more than 3 or 4 years old, you’re probably better off buying a leftover new one, but you should doublecheck the insurance rates to make sure. We’ve recently been pricing base model Civics and were able to get a price that was more than a thousand dollars under invoice (not MSRP). We paid the same price as Civics one to three years older on carsense.com We decided on… Read more »

Ely
Ely
7 years ago

Ugh, what an experience. I was in an accident a couple of years ago – a rollover on a rain-slick road – that wouldn’t have happened in a car, El Nerdo, but I was driving a borrowed truck. I didn’t have the insurance info with me at the hospital, so they gave me a form to fill out and mail in later. I’m sure I signed something I didn’t have to. All the bills – hospital, ambulance, tow truck – were initially sent to me, but I returned them with the insurance info and never heard from them again. We… Read more »

El Nerdo
El Nerdo
7 years ago
Reply to  Ely

Well, trucks and SUVs have a higher rate of rollover, for example, so they aren’t a guarantee of immortality. Driving a borrowed vehicle can also be a problem in that you don’t know how it handles, etc. But the way we drive, and where we drive, I think we’re safer in a truck. We know someone who was just sitting at a traffic light when a drunk driver came across and rammed into his car. He’s now paralyzed. I’m not making this up for this discussion, though it might sound like it. We used to drive a Mini, which handled… Read more »

Honey Smith
Honey Smith
7 years ago

So sorry this happened Kristin! Glad that you are prepared but yeah it stinks that you have to deal with it all.

MonicaOnMoney
MonicaOnMoney
7 years ago

Wow, sorry to hear about your accident with the drunk driver! Being in a car accident is such a stressful time and always come at a time when we’re too busy to deal with it. I’d buy a used 2-3 year old car and keep it for 10 years. My own car is 9 years old and that’s my plan for when its done.

Emily E
Emily E
7 years ago

I was hit on Friday by a woman who was on her cell phone. I haven’t heard yet whether or not our car is totaled, but I definitely understand the frustration of being thrust into the used/new car market.

Kristin Wong
Kristin Wong
7 years ago
Reply to  Emily E

Yikes–sorry Emily. Hope you’re okay! Yep, it’s been frustrating. But at the same time, a change will be kind of nice.

Tyler Karaszewski
Tyler Karaszewski
7 years ago

I’m waiting for someone to do an article on clothes buying that is like every article ever on car buying. “Pick one that’s only what you need. See if you can get a used one. Consider total cost of ownership. Get a small Japanese sedan. Drive it into the ground. etc.” If people bought clothes this way, you’d have a single pair of jeans you got for $5 at Goodwill, that originally were $19 at Walmart, and you’d wear them for a couple years until the seat wore through, and then you’d go get another $5 pair. Hey, it’d be… Read more »

Mike
Mike
7 years ago

You are right to extent. I still think you can work within intelligent parameters. I prefer new over used. I look at premium suvs and crossovers under 50k, small and large and couldn’t justify the extra msrp, cruddy mpgs if you have a long drive, high cost of maint. and premium fuel requirements. The ones that feel most in my wheel house (I could live with their financial downsides) was the acura rdx and audi q5 but my wife didn’t like them that much, which leaves looking at regular compact-midsize suvs. Besides this blog is called get rich slowly which… Read more »

Tyler Karaszewski
Tyler Karaszewski
7 years ago
Reply to  Mike

I understand that the site is about saving money, but the, “buy a used Japanese economy car” thing has been done to death. Maybe we could do, “how to drive a nice car for the price of an average one” or something like that. That’d be different.

Elizabeth
Elizabeth
7 years ago

You made a good point, but I think your comparison is based on a faulty premise. Japanese made cars like Toyotas and Hondas certainly aren’t cheap nor are they poorly made. I don’t know why you would equate them with the cheap clothing sold at Walmart. My dad remembers when Japanese cars were “economy cars” and not as good a quality as American brands, but with in my lifetime that reputation seems to have reversed! A car is a huge outlay of money, so people should put more time and effort in determining their needs versus wants and their budget… Read more »

Kristin Wong
Kristin Wong
7 years ago

Uh, sorry I don’t care more about cars? I mean, if nicer cars are your thing, then go for it. I get your point, but that’s not me; cars are mostly just about transportation for me. Is that okay? Just because I don’t find them thrilling doesn’t mean I don’t understand that other people might. But the fun and exciting elements of a car would be wasted on me, someone who doesn’t have a very sophisticated appreciation for them. Since this was a personal account of what’s going on in my life, I decided to discuss the options I’m considering,… Read more »

lmoot
lmoot
7 years ago

But think of all the clothes I could buy with the money I saved not caring about cars! Most people can’t afford to base their car selection on looks or status…then you’re getting into buying cars as a play-thing. Not too long ago even having a car was something only the affluent could do. Besides, it’s dangerous to get into the habit of buying cars for looks or status because like people, looks fade for cars too and if that’s an important factor in your car-buying purchases, then you will be finding yourself “needing” to buy cars more often to… Read more »

Jane
Jane
7 years ago
Reply to  lmoot

Excellent point, lmoot. Most people can’t afford to think of cars as anything other than something that gets them from point “A” to point “B”. In my neighborhood, I cringe when I see cars in the driveway that cost between 20-40% of the value of their home. There is also an aspect of degree. It might be out of whack for someone who makes $30,000 a year to wear $300 jeans, but the financial fallout from this decision is much smaller than if he decided to buy a car that costs more than he makes in a year. I noticed… Read more »

lmoot
lmoot
7 years ago

I’m sorry that happened and glad everything seems to be alright! Regarding new vs used, I’ve only ever had used, and don’t think I would ever buy new. I know enough people that have had problems with cars they bought new…usually after the warranty expires. I prefer to have a car that’s proven itself past the warranty. I currently have a 2003 honda accord that bought 7 years used and it’s a sweet car. Over 120,000 mi and have had it for 4 years with no issues other than normal maintenance requirements. I don’t think I would ever want a… Read more »

Mom of five
Mom of five
7 years ago
Reply to  lmoot

I don’t want to jinx you, but you’re on the verge, aren’t you? 120k miles and your timing belt is about up, and possibly your transmission, air pump and alternator. For sure, if you bring the car to the Honda dealer they’ll recommend replacing the timing belt. 20 years ago, I might have agreed with your perspective. Now solidly into middle age, I just don’t need the hassle of time lost to car repairs or the nightmare of breaking down in West Philadelphia after midnight (that actually happened to me, pre cell phones) because my alternator died. These days my… Read more »

Mike
Mike
7 years ago
Reply to  Mom of five

I leave in philly area. You can get the timing belt and water pump with surrounding belts down for around $500 with a coupon if you call around. The transmission should be fine atleast for 200k probably way longer. When you factor in the costs of squeezing in another 5 years its still way cheaper than purchasing a new or used car. But we usually get a new car every 6 years because wifey wants one, switching the 10 year old one out. I get the older car, my wife gets the newer one.

Mom of five
Mom of five
7 years ago
Reply to  Mike

Probably, but my reason for not holding on to an older car is more about the hassle and possible safety issues than the money.

lmoot
lmoot
7 years ago
Reply to  Mike

All of those things you mentioned still cost less to replace than the tags, title, and taxes on another car. I’ve had to replace some of them on my Mazda, until it died due to my ignorance (I was young and stupid and didn’t care for it properly…it was an expensive lesson). Honda has a pretty spot on maintenance tracker, so you know what you need to replace before something happens to get you stranded. As long as you are aware that those things will need to be replaced, and you do them in a timely fashion BEFORE they cause… Read more »

ROBERM
ROBERM
7 years ago

BUY AN EXACT DUPLICATE CAR AS THE ONE YOU HAD BEFORE.

If it is a different color, spend 300 paint it the same color.

You’ll save a ton of money. And everything is like it should be.

Kristin Wong
Kristin Wong
7 years ago

Appreciating all the comments and advice, everyone. Sorry I don’t have too much time to respond, but I’m definitely reading and considering them all!

Aryn
Aryn
7 years ago

While you’re looking at cars, it’s probably worth it to look at a new insurance company, too. Before we bought a house, my husband and I always found Mercury cheaper in Southern California. I believe Geico is cheaper in Northern California. I find it ridiculous that Progressive requires unmarried couples who live together to link their policies. What if you were just roommates?

Kristin Wong
Kristin Wong
7 years ago
Reply to  Aryn

Definitely considering other insurance options, thanks, Aryn. I thought the Progressive policy was a legal thing, but yeah. Apparently, not all insurance companies require this. I wondered about the roommate thing, too. Thanks for the Mercury tip!

SLCCOM
SLCCOM
7 years ago

Don’t forget to check what the insurance premium would be, too.

Mr. Bonner
Mr. Bonner
7 years ago

Whichever way you decide Costco has a no hassle program with good pricing if you are a member. I hate dealing with sales people and we wanted a new, basic car for the family, so we went though Costco for our base model Sonata last year. It was my first new car and I like it, but if I had to do over again I would look for a 2-3 year old car.

Jane
Jane
7 years ago
Reply to  Mr. Bonner

Mr. Bonner – can I ask you what your approximate savings were with the Costco program? We are currently pursuing this option, but they are pretty cagey about prices upfront. We want to determine if it is worth our while to keep working with them. The Toyota dealer we are working with through Costco pretty much calls every 3-4 days “just to check in”. It’s annoying but I don’t want to burn bridges if the savings are really good.

The Warrior
The Warrior
7 years ago

First, congrats on making out of the whole situation healthy. I have heard too many horror stories of lifetime injuries or worse death due to drunk driver accidents. Second, congrats for having the emergency fund established so that, at the least, it wasn’t a worry. I know that when I didn’t have funds for even the co-payment to cover a car accident, I was extremely worried over the whole thing. By having that emergency fund, I, now, am able to sleep a little better knowing that I would have one less worry in such a horrible situation. Third, great job… Read more »

BIGSeth
BIGSeth
7 years ago

What was the point of this article?

Andrew Hime
Andrew Hime
7 years ago

Used to work in car insurance in Texas. Unless the BF has a really bad driving record, you two should combine your policies. That multicar discount plus the savings on fees and crap will make it worthwhile. Then again, I’ve never been in a relationship that serious. But they’re putting him as a driver on your policy already and vice versa, so don’t put it off.

Madhavi @ Small Business Ideas
Madhavi @ Small Business Ideas
6 years ago

I still remember drunken car driver who hit me when I was taking my children to school. Luckily we all escaped….. Madhavi..

Missy
Missy
6 years ago

Just be thankful you’re still alive sister! The statistics of fatalities caused by drunk driving are grim

Much love

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