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 Apr 23, 2011 09:33 pm Post Subject:

It is your vehicle and you can decide whether or not you want to keep it if the damages are that bad, sell it, donate it etc. However, if the amount to repair it does not render it a total loss, then the insurer will not total it. So you have the option of not filing the claim and getting rid of it yourself. Have you had a repair shop review the damages with you? A reputable repair shop should have no problem repairing the damages and could quite possibly restore some value.

Posted: Fri May 06, 2011 04:04 pm Post Subject: 2001 Dodge Grand Caravan Sport

Hit from behind their insurance company wants to total it , repairs cost $3,400, before accident just had some repairs on brakes, struts and new tires never in accident before no major problems is there a way to force farmers to repair car, blue book 3,700, online quote found one 180,000 miles $6,900. I do have 245,000 miles on it mostly freeway miles great car, in good shape.

Posted: Fri May 06, 2011 07:10 pm Post Subject:


Aside from the tires, perhaps, none of the rest of this means anything.

245,000 MILES ON IT

On a ten year old Dodge Caravan, if the insurance company will give you $3400, that's overly generous. $2000-$2500 is probably a closer call. You would have been unlikely to get that much as a trade-in from a car dealer before the collision. And $6900 for one with 180,000 miles . . . is way overpriced!

Posted: Mon May 23, 2011 06:46 pm Post Subject: Hail Damage

I have a '98 Eclipse with relatively low mileage (apprx 80,000 miles.) Car runs great, but was recently in a huge hail storm. The hail damage is extensive. Would require replacing damn near ALL the outer metal. The title is clean up til now. Question is: do I file a claim and try for an owner retained salvage? There's no way the car will be deemed worth the cost of the repairs, but the car still runs like a champ. What should I do?

Posted: Mon May 23, 2011 11:50 pm Post Subject: totalled Car

I have a balance on my car of 12000. It was totalled and I received an offer of 16500. Which is 12000 times the one third my lawyer is charging me. I wont even have anything left for a down payment on a new car? What should I do?

Posted: Tue May 24, 2011 11:50 am Post Subject:

It was totalled and I received an offer of 16500. Which is 12000 times the one third my lawyer is charging me.

Something's wrong with your math here. I think you mean $16,500 equals what you owe ($12,000) plus $4,000 for the lawyer. What did you need an attorney for if your vehicle was totaled?

If you don't have enough left to make a down payment on another vehicle, whose fault is that? It's not the insurance company's fault.

Posted: Fri May 27, 2011 06:00 am Post Subject: insurance on a financed car that is now totaled

hi - so... I have a confusing question - hopefully some one has heard of this before and can help - I purchased a car almost 3 yrs ago and totaled it about 1 1/2 yrs ago - my insurance company paid less than what the loan was for. the loan company declared it a loss and I used the insurance money to buy the car back and to fix the car per the banks request. so does the bank still own the car even though I did a buy back and they declared it a total loss? the reason why I ask is because they're still making me carry full coverage on the car which took me forever but I finally did find a company that would and they're trying to charge me almost 3,000 for a lapse of full coverage for a 2 month period because I was dropped down to liability from an insurance company when they realized it was totaled. the car's value isn't even that much any more. I also never signed a revised finance contract since the total does that mean anything? thanks so much

Posted: Tue Jun 14, 2011 08:29 pm Post Subject: car insurance and dmv

I car was totaled and I'm still paying the insurance..My question is, do I have to deregister my car with the dmv to stop paying the insurance? The accident was deemed the other persons fault.

Posted: Wed Jun 15, 2011 02:50 pm Post Subject: Car Insurance

I bought a 2005 Suzuki XL7 in excellent condition and it was involved in a hail storm. The insurance adjuster has deemed the car totalled. The bought the car for 9,999 plus tax. We paid $2000 down and traded another car for $500. Our bank loan ended up being for 8,100 with the payoff being 8,500. Yesterday the insurance compant offered us a settlement of $9,000 minus our deductible...this would barely pay off the loan...basically we just paid $2,000 to drive a car 3 weeks. Any advise on how to proceed? Oh and it's been 2 weeks and they are just now offering us a settlement? What's a fair amount of time to wait?

Posted: Wed Jun 15, 2011 03:10 pm Post Subject:

Yesterday the insurance compant offered us a settlement of $9,000 minus our deductible...this would barely pay off the loan...

Did you expect the insurance company to buy you a new car AND pay off what you owed on the damaged one? Did you expect the insurance company to pay you more than the vehicle was worth?

Many people misunderstand the concept of insurance. And many people pay too much for used cars. Regardless of what you paid for the car, or how long you've owned it, all your COMPREHENSIVE insurance coverage promises is to pay the cost of repairs, replacement, or ACTUAL CASH VALUE (ACV = replacement cost less depreciation), whichever is LESS.

When the cost of repairs or replacement exceeds about 75% of the vehicle's depreciated value, the insurance company is free to deem it a total loss and pay you the fair market value less depreciation -- the ACV.

Your insurance does not promise to pay off what you owe (there is optional coverage for that), it does not promise you a new car in the event of a total loss, and it is a lucky thing for you that you even purchased the COMPREHENSIVE (other than collision) coverage, because, without it, you would not be entitled to any money at all.

basically we just paid $2,000 to drive a car 3 weeks. Any advise on how to proceed?

You might see it that way, others, like me, would say you overpaid more than $2000 for your Suzuki. Consider yourself fortunate that you did not overpay more for your 6 year old car than you did. At least you will now have no car payment and can buy another car of your choosing. That you don't have much, if anything, for a down payment is the result of overpaying $2000 for your XL7.

NADA lists the LX version (60,000 mi, no extras) as having a "clean trade in" value of $8325, and the EX version at $8950. Your $9000 less deductible is apparently a very fair offer.

When shopping for another vehicle, pay closer attention to used car pricing using the NADA website (or others), and negotiate a decent price for what you are getting.

Oh and it's been 2 weeks and they are just now offering us a settlement? What's a fair amount of time to wait?

Two weeks? You're complaining about two weeks? That's close to the speed of light in astronomy. But feel free to wait as long as you want to accept their offer. Waiting longer will not improve the offer. And involving an attorney will only result in less money in your pocket than you have today.

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