It was just a month ago when a coordination-challenged driver backed his BMW X1 SUV into the side of my 1991 Alfa Romeo Spider S4. I was in a parking lot in Edmonds, WA, waiting to begin a tour with the local Alfa club.

My partner Schön chased the driver down as he tried to flee the parking lot. She got the information necessary to let our insurance companies resolve things.

A high point in the comedy was the BMW driver of accusing me of “having the Alfa too close to him,” which is why he backed into my door. I explained that it was just his bad luck that I had one of those rare Alfas that could drive sideways across parking lots and into the rears of other cars.

I am wondering if I have a case for diminished value here. My car has 23,000 actual miles (verified by CARFAX) and had never been hit or painted. I found it on eBay, listed by an SCM member. I paid about $23k for it, which was on the high side, as it is an automatic. But it was worth it to me, as it was so pristine.

Now, while properly repaired by a repair shop and looking “like new,” I can never represent the car as “unhit” and “untouched.”

Does that lessen the value of the car? And if so, by how much? I know when I look at cars for sale online the first thing I want to see is a “clean” CARFAX.

We’re not talking about Bugatti Chiron or Ferrari Lusso values here. This is an inexpensive car and will never go up in value much.

But after this incident, it could go down. This was a $23k car. After the accident, is it a $15k car? Or even less as an automatic with a “dirty” CARFAX?

Or is it still a $23k car with an excellent repair job to minor door damage?

What are your thoughts? Should I ask for a diminished value settlement, and if so, how much?

Or is the potential loss involved so little it’s just not worth bothering about it?

I look forward to your opinions.



  1. Disclose & explain how it occurred. I do not see a reduction in value but if any, it is modest.

  2. Call me crazy, but I believe there is ( or ought to be) a category of cars named “Cars belonging to Keith Martin”. Anyone who buys a car from that group gains a vast storehouse of documentation about the car, which, compared to CARFAX is like the Atlantic ocean compared to a mud puddle. I suppose there is a chance someone somewhere might buy a former SCM car without any knowledge of Keith or SCM, but the chances are about as good as your next door neighbor saying “Hey, I met a nice woman recently. Apparently she’s in show business. Have you heard of her? Her name is Julia Roberts.”

  3. I think that the low miles and right color will always make it valuable to another Alfa fan.

  4. IMO, you are due full compensation for a professional repair. Ability to sue for diminished value damages vary by state, but it’s fair to say that 10-20% is typical range for a car like yours. Unfortunately, no lawyer is going to touch that on contingency and you’ll spend more paying a lawyer for their time.

    I know this from experience.

  5. Absolutely you should. Start at $5k

  6. Gabriel Hernández

    An expert repair is a tribute to the craftsman, it is part of the routine of taking good care of the car, and I do not see why it should lessen the value of your Alfa.

  7. Move on Keith! Do a fun drive in your immaculate and pretty Alfa and forget pursuing diminished value restitution. That is just a negative path you are going down, and if you get some compensation, it will be very little.

    The car having been owned by you will definitely make it desirable to other Alfa collectors. No offense, but when you tire of not shifting gears, it will be an extremely desirable car. Automatics have to be rare and will be a great find for someone’s girlfriend or wife.

  8. It’s a good question. At a certain point a never hit car is definitely worth more, but at the same time as a car ages, it’s unreasonable to expect nothing ever happened to it ever. I dont think a cosmetic repair like this was, done right, should reduce the value. What about a key scratch that results in a partial re-paint or a shopping cart ding? These things are inevitable in “drivers”. That’s just my opinion.

  9. It’s was a beautiful car, and is again a beautiful car. Given the potential amount of money that you might be able to recoup – truly Keith – is it worth it? You have so many better things to think about, like when can you take that Alfa out for another drive? Today for instance – Take a run up Washougal River road and stop by for a visit!

  10. Some times a dent in the door is just a dent in the door. I see no diminishment in value as a result, and if others do they shouldn’t buy the car on down the road. Up to them. Someone else will always want the desirable car on its own merits.

  11. I am confused about ‘diminished value”. Who would be involved in the claim? Your insurance company, or that of the perpetrator? Is it a specific policy amendment? I own a classic car and would be interested if I can obtain diminished value for the exact situation that is discussed here.

  12. 15-20 years ago DV became a hot topic in the bodyshop / collision business. The discussions were in most of the industry trade publications and the major industry forums. Several startup businesses that offered a DV reports for owners and lawyers became prosperous and successful. I remember one was “Wreck Check”. The insurance companies pushed back, and many tweaked their policies and the DV claims have pretty much gone away. You could still get a professional report and a lawyer then sue for DV damage value, the problem here is you will spend $10K to win a $5K judgement.

  13. This IS a very common and frequent concern for anybody who has the misfortune of having an accident . Thanks to Carfax values and marketability are absolutely affected by even a minor “hit” . Collector cars are especially vulnerable to decreased value . Insurance companies are absolutely avoiding that fact and always resist acknowledging their responsibility to actually reimburse owners for that real loss . Good luck Keith ! Do a major article on this concern in your magazine but then maybe lose some advertisers ! Agreed value is one way to address this problem but only in case of a total situation .

  14. I would pursue a criminal charge for leaving the scene of an accident.

  15. Interesting to see all the opinions regarding filing a DV claim. I have been assisting clients for over 20 years with DV appraisal reports, but I do not accept the assignment unless, in my professional opinion, there is a signficant claim. If I had to appraise your car, taking into account the previous sales of vehicles you have owned, it is apparent that a Keith Martin car has more value than other comparables, probably because of the many $$$ you sink into maintenance and repair. You can rest assured that if the car declared a total loss in the future, this accident would be used to justify a lower settlement. All your cars end up better than before your purchase, even though the car only has 23k miles on it, it is not a museum piece and the repair was cosmetic. I recommend not to pursue a DV claim.

  16. Short answer: Yes. Car is no longer ‘all original, including paint’ which is, as you know, a big deal In our hobby.

    A person backed into our inexpensive (but completely awesome in every way, btw) Fiat 500e (100% electric) in a grocery store parking lot; and when I called and asked about ‘diminished’ value they basically said ‘you just have to ask’ (ie. They don’t offer it automatically). So ask away!

    I recall it being about 20-25% of the vehicle’s value as he said it’s going to be on the carfax and therefore is now worth less…

  17. my experience is that insurance will deny the claim for diminished value and lawyer will not take on the case. You then would have to go to small claims court to try to get money from the driver.

  18. My 1995 Porsche 911 Carrera was hit on the passenger door/front fender. It was repaired. An attorney friend sent a letter to the offenders insurance company requesting a diminished value settlement. I received a settlement worthy of the effort.

  19. It will certainly lower the value of the Alfa, once it goes up for sale. It’s the price we pay for driving our vintage cars.

  20. I filed a diminished value claim when my 2 year old 4kish mile rarely in rain never in snow 2012 Boss 302 was slammed in the rear by a red light runner. Total damage to my car was about $14K ($44K car) and the car was expertly repaired by a local high end facility. My DV appraiser put the diminished value at $12k or so. Took a year but finally got a check for $9K out of the other drivers insurance company. When added to what I got for the car on BaT was just about book value. YMMV.

  21. Keith’s Alfa on re-sale (despite damage) > No problem
    The rest of us selling a damaged Alfa > we’re screwed!!!

  22. I have done diminished value appraisals.
    Car is no longer totally original. They’re only original once.
    Repaint will show years later as the paint fades at different rates. I once had an Alfa receive damage in the rear. They wanted to repaint the rear clip only. I knew that in a few years the rear would look like a baboons *ss. Wound up shooting the whole car.

  23. Move on. This is like discovering that your new girlfriend is not a virgin!

  24. If you have an electric guitar from one of the major producers from the Golden Age of the 1950s, and if you have a quite common neck crack which has been expertly repaired and the function and appearance left uncompromised, the value of that vintage guitar would still be reduced by 50%. Your Alfa is a lot more complex machine and although there would be some debatable question about the effect on value on your car after a good repair, I would have to guess that the condition of the car in total and the effectiveness of the repair could overwhelm the issue of your relatively minor accident. And how many Alfas like yours are in a virginal state, as somebody mentioned, anyway? Unlike guitars, mass produced cars are subject to the wear and tear of use on the road. Typically that is riskier than drunks in a club. Except for the unfortunate paint removal your dents could be removed by a good dent remover for few hundred $. In conclusion: just fix it and live yer life. But please keep us informed.

  25. W Malcolm Barksdale

    Move on, not worth the effort for this car and this amount of damage.

  26. DV – Yes, absolutely.
    Ask InsuranceCo for DV settlement of 25%? – Yes Absolutely.
    Pay a lawyer for a letter – Yes.
    File suit – No.

  27. You buy “drivers” – just the type of classic category I prefer. If I found a desirable car that did not have a perfect CARFAX, I would get the facts of the accident and repair and, if not structural, perhaps offer a bit less than the median price. If the owner drove a hard bargain, I would compromise to get the car.

  28. I’m perplexed; why didn’t the person who hit you get charged with attempting to leave the scene of an accident?

    I would pursue the claim for diminishing the value of the car. You are right that you can’t ever represent the car as ‘never damaged’, and you are enough of a public person that anyone seeking to buy the car would know about this damage even before you disclosed it to them.

    There’s this lawyer who writes for SCM. His name is John Draneas. You should see what he thinks. You can use my name, tell him I suggested you speak with him. Nice guy.

  29. I have been doing Diminished value reports for over 15 years, and YES, any and all repaired damage will lower a cars resale value. The formula I use is based off of the same formula used by the insurance companies ( Autosource Appraisal software ) to devalue a damaged vehicle that has major previous accident / repair history. The lost value is based off of a percentage of the repair amount, combined with a deduction, or not, for the quality of the repair. Obviously a perfect repair, will not be as bad ( value loss wise ), as a poor repair. There are many court cases out there that substantiate this loss, and it is best to get a lawyer involved, who specializes in these types of claims. Depending on the area that you live in, your insurer may have something written into the policy that says you are not covered for Diminished Value loss, but, under what is called TORT law, you may be able to go after the at fault driver directly. – still, best to have a lawyer on your side to counter any objections from the other side.

    Ed Grieve
    Owner – Diminished Value Canada

  30. Request DV be included in settlement but do not get into expense of filing a suit. Hard to believe original paint color has not faded some so matching will be a challenge, shine and texture will also be different from factory so it’s likely the door will not match the rest of the car. even if body work is perfect. Your pain and suffering looking at it each time after repair should also be part of the DV.

  31. We agree with everyone about increased value of ex-Keith Martin cars, so it’s probably not a problem for Keith but would be for the rest of us. If this were a $1M car and its value was diminished significantly, it could be worth the legal battle. However, the fight here is not worth the legal cost. As our wonderfully wise body shop guy regularly tells us, “just drive it.” You have a beautiful Alfa, it’s what you needed, and not every wrong can be made right.

  32. What about “paint-less” dent repair? Doesn’t get reported to Carfax but does mean the car is no longer pristine. Do you tell a potential buyer? My 45-year-old Mercedes had about a dozen dents repaired like that. But if they’re not reported and it’s still all original paint, did it really happen? Is it like the tree falling in the woods and nobody’s there to hear it? Again, is the value diminished because the car is no longer a “virgin”? All things being equal, someone would probably select the untouched car over one that’s been repaired but things are never equal. I personally would rather have the car with properly repaired minor damage but has been maintained to your standards than the one with supposedly perfect body but more mysterious maintenance history.