Can you keep a totaled car?

by Guest » Thu Sep 06, 2007 06:18 am

When your car is beyond repair because of an accident or costs more than the Actual Cash Value (ACV) of the car, it is considered totaled. When a car is totaled, only the salvage value of the metal is considered when determining the value of the car.

How is a car determined to be totaled?

Whether a car is totaled or not can be defined by keeping in mind these 2 different perspectives:
  1. The Individual's point of view: For an individual a car is totaled if the damage is beyond repair or if the owner cannot afford to get the car repaired. This usually occurs when the owner has only the minimum amount of insurance.
  2. Insurance point of view: A car is 'totaled' if the cost of repairing the car exceeds the cost of replacing it. Insurance companies consider only a percentage of the current worth of the car, and it is important that individuals are aware of the percentage their insurance companies will consider. Normally the percentage insurance companies deem the car totaled ranges from 51% to 80% of its current market value.

Settlement procedure for a totaled car

An insurance adjuster inspects and photographs the damaged vehicle to determine the degree of damage and the cost of repairs compared with the value of the car in its current state.

If the cost to repair the car exceeds the percentage fixed by the company, it will make a settlement rather than get it repaired. This settlement will take into consideration a few other factors like:
  • The make of the car.
  • The model.
  • The condition of the car and the mileage it has.
If the cost to repair the car exceeds a certain percentage fixed by the company, it will make a settlement rather than get it repaired. This settlement again will take into consideration few other factors like:
  • Make of the car
  • Model
  • Condition of the car and the mileage it offers
  • Comparison with other similar vehicles in the same area
Essentially, the insurer is looking at the Blue Book value of your car. The settlement may include sales tax, title, and registration fees of the car if your state law requires it to.

How to keep your totaled car

Even if your car has been deemed 'totaled' you might want to keep it. In this case you have to convince the insurance company to let you keep the car. However, you can try one or few of the following tips to be able to keep a totaled car:
  • Talk to your insurance claim adjuster and fight for your car. Remind the agent that you are the one paying the premium and that you have the right to change insurance companies.
  • Document all maintenance performed on your car. This will help you decide whether or not you should accept a particular settlement offer.
  • Insurance companies offer their own choice of repair shops. Use your own discretion. However, do your own research and also on the repair shop suggested by the insurance company.
  • If you wish to retain your totaled car, the adjuster will deduct the salvage value while determining the final settlement offer. You may try negotiating with your adjuster to settle for a lower salvage value of your car.
  • If you want to know the ACV of your car, don't depend on your insurance company. Get a second opinion, and do your own research online or at your local library.

Related readings

Hi all, I am in a trouble. I was in an accident some days back. Although, none was hurt but it has caused a great damage to my car. I had approached to my insurance company and filed a claim. Now my insurance company wants to ‘write off' the vehicle. My question to the community is- when is a car considered totalled ? What are my chances if I want to retain my vehicle? Will the insurer compensate me under such circumstances?


Total Comments: 152

Posted: Sat Oct 10, 2009 03:19 pm Post Subject:

Depends 100% on the condition of the vehicle

Posted: Thu Oct 29, 2009 01:30 am Post Subject: feel unfair

I have a 2006 car in 2006 my car was sold to me for 19k I paid 13k already and the insurance company deamed car loss and gave cash value of car 6k which was just enough to pay it off, my question is i dont think its fair that i paid more into the car and the insurance company paid only 6k and they get to keep car, i feel i paid more i should get to have it or aleast be able to buy it back so i can choose later if i want to get it repair and use it as second car.

Posted: Thu Oct 29, 2009 05:28 am Post Subject:

I didn't quite understand in which sense you've come to conclude that you paid more. The car was sold to you for 19k in 2006, which is true. On the other hand, it has depreciated since then, which is also true.
Did you propose a buy back to your insurance carrier as yet?

Posted: Thu Oct 29, 2009 12:46 pm Post Subject:

anonymousmama, You thinking is all messed up the what is owed for your vehicle..I'll explain that if need be...

You can keep/buy back your car, as the owner you have first option to do that...Talk with your adjuster about it.

Posted: Thu Oct 29, 2009 02:08 pm Post Subject: Forcing car repair

My husband was in a accident which left the front of his 2004 Chevy Blazer (90,000 miles) severely mangled, undrivable, pieces everywhere.... The insurance company recommended we tow the vehicle to a preferred repair shop. I did so under the impression an independent 3rd party would do adjusting and then repair shop would use that. Well repair shop also did the adjusting. They inflated the ACV and lowballed the estimate to get the repair job and avoid a total loss.

I told the insurance company I was just going to take the repair $$$ and buy another vehicle and sell the Chevy for scrap. (When I told the repair shop this they then tried to sell me a car). The insurance company sent us 75% of the repairs amount ($3,000 out of $4,000) and said they would not give the rest ($1,000) without a completion of work - meaning I would have to repair it to get the rest - they said they were required to do so under Mass law but would not cite any specific section. I have searched high and low the law in Massachusetts and cannot find anything that requires me to fix a car I do not think will be worth the $$ going in to it. I also cannot find anything in my policy on this that would require me to do this.

Any advice? Thanks

Posted: Thu Oct 29, 2009 02:38 pm Post Subject:

This is the first time I've heard of this in an auto policy. Check your auto policy and I'll check the Mass dept of insurance for you...this is first party (your carrier) right?

Posted: Thu Oct 29, 2009 02:54 pm Post Subject:

Well it appears Mass has some unusual policy language I've found the following:

I got $500 to replace my stereo. Can I use the money for something else?
Liability Claim
If you are collecting from another driver's company, you're entitled to the cash. Do what you want with it.

Comprehensive/Collision Claim
Your own company may not pay the full replacement cost until you actually buy the new stereo. And if the stereo did not come with the car, you may need to show the company receipts to prove you had it in the first place.

This would apply to ANY first party loss/damage.

Sorry, check your policy I'm sure under "how losses are settled" or some such wording (under collision/comp coverages) you'll find where they can make partial payment until repairs are completed.

Sorry for you, but glad for the knowledge. I had no idea that ANY auto policy in ANY state had this type of language, see it in HO policys all the time. At any rate, appears the adjuster is correct.

Posted: Sat Oct 31, 2009 03:48 pm Post Subject:

Hello, i need some advice!
my car is deemed totaled by the insurance company because they claim the estimate equals or exceeds the acv. BUT I have found someone to fix the car for an estimate way less than the acv. All i ask is to be able to retain my car and for the insurance company to pay for the repairs! I've been paying this car off for 4 years and only have 2 more years left. I have spent so much money just on the maintenance of the vehicle. Can an EXPERT please advise me on how to go about this so i can RETAIN my vehicle. I feel like i'm being shortchanged by the insurance companies who just wants to sell MY vehicle! I have refused to sign over the title and they told me they have the right to TAKE IT??!! :( :cry:

Posted: Sun Nov 01, 2009 02:33 pm Post Subject:


They likely cannot change their opinion on the vehicles total loss. You however (in most states) can retain the vehicle. They will just subtract the salvage value from the ACV then you can have this person you found fix it 'cheaper'. Have you asked the adjuster about retaining the vehicle/salvage?

Posted: Sun Dec 13, 2009 06:42 am Post Subject:

What information do you need to give the car repair shop in order for them to actually sell your car to the junk yard?

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