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How to Handle a Totaled Car

Insurance companies “total” a car when the cost of repairs exceeds the vehicle's market value. Even if the car is fixed, they could still deem it a total loss if it poses a risk to other drivers. So what to do with totaled car parts from your wrecked vehicle? We’ve outlined everything you need to know when dealing with a damaged vehicle.

Learn when it’s wise to keep it and when it’s better to sell it, how insurers determine whether a car should be totaled, and more.

What To Do With Totaled Car Parts

When dealing with a car that’s damaged beyond repair, there are several steps to follow:

  • Make a claim — Just like you should do when involved in a collision, you should contact your insurer to make a claim.

  • Evaluate the harm – The insurance provider will send an adjuster to evaluate the car damage. They will perform a visual evaluation and give a repair estimate.

  • Learn the fair market value of the car — The insurance company will assess whether to declare your vehicle a total loss using the actual cash value of the car just before the damage, so it’s good to be aware of its current market price. You may determine your car's market value by using online resources or looking up what nearby automobiles are selling for.

  • Negotiate the payout with the insurance carrier — If you believe that the ACV assigned to your motor vehicle is too low, you can try and negotiate with the insurer. But you'll have to prove that your car is actually worth more than the auto insurance company is willing to pay.

Should You Junk the Car or Fix It?

After having your car damaged, you’ll need to coordinate with insurance companies to decide what should be your next steps. When your vehicle is destroyed, you have several options at your disposal. Here are a few suggestions on what to do with totaled car parts:

  • Accept the cash settlement. Your insurance company will give you an estimate of the vehicle's value following an accident. They will declare the car as totaled once they know its value and the cost for repairs. If the insurer decides it isn't worth fixing the car, it will give you a payout for its value. Every insurer uses a different calculation, and every state has another cutoff point for classifying a vehicle as totaled. Not all destroyed cars are how you may imagine them—smashed to pieces or scorched to a crisp. Insignificant body damage to older cars may actually increase the cost of repairs above the car's worth.

  • Repair the car. You might be able to fix your car and continue to drive it if the damage is minor. In some cases, you might still be able to drive a totaled vehicle, so if your financial position makes it challenging to obtain a car to replace your totaled one, fixing it can be your best alternative. You must, however, confirm that the insurer still deems the vehicle safe to drive before taking it to a repair shop. If the car has the potential to cause you significant injury or worse, the insurer might decide it's not worth risking your life to save a few dollars.

  • Junk the car. If you sell your vehicle to an auto salvage yard, you can get cash for it. Be careful to locate a licensed auto buyer who will accept to tow your vehicle free of charge. Research the worth of your junk vehicle and how much it will cost to have it recycled so you can rest assured you get the best monetary compensation.

  • Trade the vehicle in. Trading in a car with problems can sometimes be better than getting money from your insurance provider. Some car lots may accept trade-ins for totaled vehicles if they can be fixed and sold for a satisfactory profit. Doing some comparison shopping can help you find a dealer who will accept a totaled car as a trade-in for a fair price.

  • Donate the vehicle. Vehicle donations are a simple way to get rid of a car that doesn’t run. Contact local donation services to make an appointment and get your car towed for free. You can deduct the depreciated value from your taxes when the company sells it for parts. Also, when you donate a junk car, most services let you choose the charity to receive the cash payment.

  • Sell It For Parts. When an insurance company purchases a totaled vehicle, it sells the vehicle's parts. If you think you can receive a better deal for the car parts than the insurer offers, you can do this on your own. This is also a fantastic option if you enjoy working on cars and want to use the salvaged parts on a different car.

How Does an Insurance Company Determine if a Car is Totaled

If you file a claim, your insurance company will assign a claims adjuster to your case. The adjuster's job is to determine how much the company should pay out on the claim.

If your car isn't worth fixing or isn't repairable at all, the adjuster may decide that it is totaled or a total loss. Keep in mind that each insurance firm uses its own calculations. For instance, if the cost of restoring your car surpasses 80% of its worth, the insurance company can declare it a total loss. The 80% cutoff would indicate that repairs over $14,000 would probably not be approved if your car was worth $18,000 at the time of the accident.

Totaled cars are usually older models, which tend to have very low resale values. However, when severe damage is done to an older model, replacement parts and installation costs can easily exceed the car's value.

Where To Sell Your Totaled Car

Once your insurance company declares your car totaled, selling it privately for a cash payout can be tough. In addition, your vehicle may have to be towed, an expense that cuts into your asking price. The best option is to sell it to a reputable damaged car buyer. Such buyers pay extra cash for totaled vehicles — even for cars without a title — and provide the fastest, easiest way to get quick money for your junk car.

Final Thoughts on What to Do With Totaled Car Parts

Although it's never nice to say goodbye to your car, you can still survive financially. Before deciding what to do with totaled car parts, take your time and study each of the possibilities we’ve provided here. Sometimes, the easiest option is to simply take the money from the insurer, whereas other times, it might be wiser to repair the car. Also, if the vehicle is beyond repair, you might need to junk it. If this is your best option, be sure to find a reputable damaged car buyer so that you can get a top-dollar offer.


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