General Question

emjay's avatar

What happens if your car is totalled?

Asked by emjay (681points) January 13th, 2014

About two months ago (before thanksgiving) I was in a car accident. This morning my insurance company finally got back to me about my claim and said I could go forward with getting it fixed. Because I owe more on it than it is worth I’m hoping it gets totalled, but I’m not sure what happens after they declare it totalled… anyone know?

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18 Answers

Judi's avatar

It sounds like they decided it ISN’T totaled if they told you to get it fixed.

Smitha's avatar

Usually cars are totaled when damage exceeds 65% or 70% of the vehicle’s market value. You can find out the details by contacting your insurance agent. If your car is “totaled” then the insurance company pays you fair market value for your loss and keeps the car. You may have the option to buy it back. If you wish to keep it, your insurer will pay you the cash value of the vehicle, minus the salvage value from the total amount of the settlement. You will then have to make arrangement for repairs.

pleiades's avatar

Totaled usually means most of the compression compartments are wrecked. If your car isn’t totaled must be that it may be more or less of cosmetic pretty damages vs drivability.

zenvelo's avatar

You get to get it fixed. The price of the repair is less that the value of the car, so the insurance company does not want to pay you the value of the car when they only have to pay you to get it repaired.

emjay's avatar

I haven’t even had it looked at yet because they originally denied my claim. It hasn’t been assessed at all yet.

emjay's avatar

So essentially I guess I’m really asking…. if when I get my car assessed they total it out, what will happen? Which @smitha seems to have answered. :)

YARNLADY's avatar

When that happened to us, they gave us a lump sum for the value they decided the car was worth. We were able to use the money for a downpayment on a replacement car that cost far more than the settlement.

jerv's avatar

Moot point; your car isn’t totalled. If it were, they would have already taken the car and issued you a check.

zenvelo's avatar

Wait, has it been checked by a claims examiner? Have you gotten estimates? Or did you just get the okay to get an estimate from some body shops?

You should have been bugging them a month ago. Call your agent and let them know you want some response.

Judi's avatar

Where is it? Wasn’t it towed to the body shop? They should have looked at it a long time ago. Your agent needs to be advocating for you.

jerv's avatar

The time I totalled an insured vehicle, they had it examined/appraised within 24 hours and already had the paperwork filed to get the title. If the car is still legally your’s then either the insurance company really dropped the ball, or it’s time to get repair estimates and they’ll pay for them. If they’re telling you to get it repaired, it looks like it’s still your’s, so don’t expect a pile of money out of the deal.

But it also depends on fault, so it’s possible that you’re just boned. Without knowing the circumstances or the details of your policy, it’s hard to say. Mine was a single vehicle no-fault (“Act of God”), so my circumstances may have been quite different.

Jonesn4burgers's avatar

I don’t know if the difference is laws where we live, or insurance company standard practice. I’ve had two cars totalled out. They gave me a check in each case, and I just continued owning/driving my zombie car.

livelaughlove21's avatar

If it hasn’t been totaled, it doesn’t matter what would’ve happened if it had. If you owe more on the car than it’s worth, I wouldn’t “hope” that it’s totaled. When they total your car, they pay you what the car is worth, not what you owe on it. If it’s worth less than you owe, you’d receive less than what you owe from the insurance company – meaning you’d still owe money to your lienholder for a car that you no longer have. That would suck, and you’d have no money left for a down-payment on a new car. Why would you want it to be totaled?

Skaggfacemutt's avatar

If the car is paid for, the insurance company will give you what they think the car is worth (I guess they get that from the Blue Book) and take your car. If they don’t take the car, then you are lucky, because you can then either sell it for scrap, parts, or have your cousin frankenstein it back together. These are the same reason that the insurance company usually takes the car. If they already paid for it, they would rather sell it for scrap themselves.

If the car in not paid for, the lienholder gets what is owing to them first. You get the remainder, if any. Insurance still takes the car. If you owe more than the insurance company will pay, you really get the shaft. The lienholder gets all the money, you still have to pay them any shortfalls, and you are out of a vehicle.

I think a lot of people are under the impression that if their car gets totaled, the insurance company hands them a shiny, brand new car. Ha!

jerv's avatar

@Skaggfacemutt For the same reason that they think they can consistently show up 2 hours late for work, not do anything, and still keep their job; a sense of entitlement.

@livelaughlove21 ~Because Insurance is free money, a totaled car is a jackpot, and you don’t have to pay for things you no longer have.

@Jonesn4burgers The only way I can see that is if the insurance company didn’t want the car. Given that most cars have at least $200 worth of scrap metal on them, usually the only way they won’t want a car is if you offer them more than they would get for scrapping it out. I didn’t even have that option with my first accident. The car was actually repairable, and was only totaled out due to the excessively high mileage reducing it’s value below the threshold, but they wouldn’t let me buy it back.

poofandmook's avatar

I’ve had a car totaled and the company didn’t take the car. In fact, we drove that car for nearly 10 years after it was totaled.

I still don’t know exactly why they said it was totaled… it was drivable after the accident. I drove it home from Queens to NJ just fine.

jerv's avatar

@poofandmook Probably totaled for monetary reasons. If mine had had normal mileage for it’s age, they wouldn’t have totaled mine. Maybe it’s different for cars <5 years old than for older cars?

ISmart's avatar

insurance will pay what’s your cars market value at the time of accident, you will have to pay the rest to pay it off your loan unless you got a special insurance for being upside down.

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