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Making the Best of a Bad Situation: Can I Keep and Repair My Total Loss Car?

A sickening crunch. Screeching tires. You’re trying to forget all those horrible noises from a recent car accident.

But you can’t forget the low value the insurance company tried to offer as a settlement amount on your total loss car. Don’t worry, you’re not stuck yet.

There are options for your totaled car, and we have the ultimate guide right here. Look at all the options before you take the check and run. Read on for help with your totaled car.

What Does “Totaled” Mean?

When you get in an accident, sometimes your car gets the worst of it. If the insurance company thinks the repair cost of a car is more than its total value, they’ll write you a check instead of paying for repairs.

That’s called a total loss, or totaled. On occasion, insurance companies get it wrong. If the damage is almost all cosmetic and you disagree with their assessment, you can argue.

You must refute a claim with proof, and you are the one who has to prove that the car is worth more than they said. Here are some documents you can submit to prove that the car is more valuable:

  • repair estimates from mechanics
  • letters or official documents from the seller that describe its luxury features
  • receipts for any upgrades you made to the car

But most of the time the insurance company sticks with their previous assessment. While this isn’t the best news, you can still work with a totaled car if you don’t want to take the check and move on.

The Ins and Outs of Repairing A Total Loss Car

Consider all the reasons you want to repair your car instead of replacing it. When you’re certain about your decision, you can begin the long process of making your car road-worthy again.

If you owe money on your car, you’ll have a harder time repairing your car. Whoever holds the lien on the vehicle gets to make the final decision. You have to convince them that it’s worth the money to let you repair the vehicle and keep driving the car.

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Get an estimate from someone you can trust. If you can do the repairs yourself, make sure that you state the source of your parts. A mechanic who upcharges can make your repair costs skyrocket, so you need someone who will charge a fair price.

When you own your car, you get to make your own decision. Or if you convinced the lienholder to let you get the repairs you submitted an estimate for, congrats! It’s go time.

Passing Inspection

Before you can drive your car again, you need to have it approved by the state. Keep all receipts if you repair your vehicle on your own. The government official will want to check that you got your parts from a legitimate source.

You can schedule your appointment as soon as you think your car is ready. You won’t be able to drive it on the road unless you pass inspection and they issue a salvage title, so make sure you’re sure about the car repairs. The US Department of Transportation takes vehicle safety seriously.

Most states publish literature or guides on their website about how to pass inspection. They tell you what they’ll look at, what you need to bring, and describe how the inspection will go.

Make sure you take a look at the guidelines so you aren’t surprised by anything during the inspection.

As long as everything goes well, you’ll get a salvage title from the state. Sometimes it’s called a rebuilt title or reconditioned. Either way, it lets anyone who looks at your title know that it had to have significant work done for the state to consider it driveable.

The only hurdle now is to get your car insured again. Some insurance companies have a problem insuring vehicles that already got written off once. You may only be able to get liability, not full coverage.

How Much Money?

Sometimes your chief motivation for recovering a salvage vehicle is that the amount the insurance company offered you wasn’t enough. 

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After a car accident, you’d like to be able to get a car like the one you had. If the money isn’t enough, your best bet may be to repair your old car. You can also ask an attorney about a suit, in particular if you suffered injuries from the crash.

Keep in mind, the insurance company won’t give you the full total amount they offered if you decide to keep the car. They’ll subtract the amount the salvage company offered for your vehicle. You can’t be sneaky and try to get the full amount.

Selling A Salvage Vehicle

Another way to get more money after an accident is to sell the car with salvage title if you don’t decide to keep it. It can be hard to make a sale with a rebuilt title, but it is possible.

Line up all your ducks for potential buyers. Show them your receipts if you replaced parts yourself, or show them the documents from the mechanic and the state department.

Don’t try to lie to buyers about the vehicle. Hedging can make you seem untrustworthy, and they won’t want to take a chance on such a big purchase. Most people will walk away and choose another vehicle.

Make sure they know it is a salvage title and be upfront about what happened during the accident and why the insurance company totaled the car.

You can also try selling the vehicle on consignment at a used car lot if you can find one that will take it. A dealership will have more clout than you will as a private seller.

Making the Best

A total loss car isn’t how you wanted to start the week or the month, but you can turn it into a good situation. Whether you find a fair mechanic, do the repairs yourself, or sell the repaired car, you have options.

Get rid of the headache and make the most money you can with your totaled car. And for extra info about cars, including maintaining and selling, read more of our blog.