1. Home
  2. Articles
  3. 5 Ways to Deal With a Totaled Car After a Car Crash

5 Ways to Deal With a Totaled Car After a Car Crash

5 Ways to Deal With a Totaled Car After a Car Crash

If you’ve been in a major car crash and your vehicle has sustained major damage, it may be declared a total loss. Experiencing a car crash and seeing your car written off as a total loss is a difficult experience – and that's before you call your car insurance provider to work out what happens next.

How insurance companies decide if the car is a total loss

Each state has a total loss threshold. If your state's threshold is 70%, that means that if the damage equals 70% or more of the car’s value, then the insurer will consider the car a total loss. In California, for example, there is no specific threshold percentage and instead uses the TLF, or "total loss formula," which is the cost of repairs plus scrap value and how this compares with the pre-crash value of the car. Check out our list of total loss thresholds by state.

What you can do with your totaled car

1. Keep the car and repair it

In many situations it makes sense to repair your car if it’s still safe to drive (perhaps cosmetic damage, not mechanical damage, is what made it a total loss), if the settlement money isn't enough to buy a replacement car, or if you drive an older car that holds sentimental value to you. In this case, the insurance company deducts the salvage value (the money it expects to get for your wrecked car) plus the deductible if you were at fault, and you get the remaining money.

You’ll get a salvage title for the car (as opposed to a clean title). It's the law that any car that has been determined a total loss by an insurance company have a salvage title, and it is fraud to claim your car has a clean title when it actually doesn’t if you decide to sell it later.

It may not be easy to get car insurance on a salvage title car. Some companies won't insure them at all, and others will only offer liability insurance, not collision or comprehensive insurance.

2. Keep the car but don't repair it

You may want to simply keep the car if it is still safe to drive, and accept whatever cosmetic damage has deemed it a total loss. This is common with scratches, paint damage or severe dents, such as from hail damage. But if the airbags didn’t deploy and the drivetrain, including engine and transmission still work, it may still be in good enough shape to meet your needs. This also may be a smart option if the payout from the insurance company isn’t enough to cover a replacement car.

3. Sell the individual parts

When a car insurance company buys totaled cars, it sells its parts or materials. You may want to do this yourself if you feel you are knowledgeable or skilled enough to individually remove and price the many parts of your car. You could receive more money selling parts on your own than what the insurance company is offering you. Also, this may be an option if you work on cars and want to use the parts on another car.

4. Take the money

Frequently, people opt to take the money paid out by the car insurance company; they are essentially buying your damaged car from you. Your insurer or the at-fault driver’s insurer will tell you the car's actual cash value and give you a check with that amount. If you were at fault in the crash, the insurer will pay that amount, minus your deductible.

Remember that you can always negotiate the payout on your totaled car. When negotiating, be clear on how the insurer has determined the value of your car: They find five cars that are "comparable" to yours and determine their value. They leave out the most expensive car and least expensive car, and take the average price of the middle three cars. That's what they pay you.

The problem with this process is that the insurer may not have accurate representation among those five cars. These cars might be lower end models, or cars with minimal accessories. Ask your insurer how they arrived at the offer price, and insist that they consider the exact model, trim, and mileage of your car before the crash. Be prepared to prove the value of your car, which requires receipts for anything installed on your car (receipts for maintenance and repairs won’t help you, because they theoretically only get your car to a drivable condition and don't raise the car's value).

5. Donate the car

You can donate your car to charity if you want to get a tax deduction on the depreciated value of the car. Donation services will often tow the car for free and sell it for parts, and let you choose the charity that receives the money from your totaled car. Some popular ones include:

You’ll need to fill out a form to gift the vehicle to the charity along with a title transfer. These processes vary by state. If your car is worth more than $5,000 an independent appraisal will be needed. Donating your car will likely bring in less money than if you sold it for parts yourself, but if you simply want to dispose of your car and move on, donating it is a good option.

This article is adapted with approval from carinsurance.com: http://www.carinsurance.com/Articles/5-things-to-do-with-a-totaled-car.aspx

The statements expressed above are only for informational purposes and should be independently verified. Please see our terms of service for more details

Skip the repair shop, our top-rated mechanics come to you.

At your home or office

Choose from 600+ repair, maintenance & diagnostic services. Our top-rated mechanics bring all parts & tools to your location.

Fair & transparent pricing

See labor & parts costs upfront, so you can book with confidence.

12-month, 12,000-mile warranty

Our services are backed by a 12-month, 12,000-mile warranty for your peace of mind.

Get A Quote

Need Help With Your Car?

Our certified mobile mechanics make house calls in over 2,000 U.S. cities. Fast, free online quotes for your car repair.


More related articles

How to Buy Fuel Treatments
Adding a fuel additive to your gas tank when you fill up is one way to clean vital engine parts of deposits, improve the performance of your engine,...
Veteran and Military Driver Laws and Benefits in New Mexico
The state of New Mexico offers a number of benefits and perks for those Americans who have either served in an Armed Forces branch...
P2422 OBD-II Trouble Code: Evaporative Emissions Control System (EVAP) Vent Valve Stuck Closed
Diagnostic Trouble Code (DTC): P2422 P2422 code definition Evaporative Emissions Control System (EVAP)...

Related questions

Q: Flooded car please help, potential damage? write off?

When the under vehicle got soaked and sat in the water the brakes tend to lock up after that if you had the parking brake on and then when you go to release it the rear drum brakes may stick...

Q: Multiple new problems after collision repair

When there are problems that were not there before an accident that show up after repairs are done, then the problems may have been due to the last repairs. However, you know best if any of the problems are new....

Q: Advice on buying the first car

Unfortunately, I don't want to jinx you, but the first car people get is the first car they wreck. I would say get a nice, used Toyota. You pay less, your insurance will be a lot cheaper. As time goes...