What Does it Mean When a Car is “Totaled?”

Going through a car accident can be incredibly scary and stressful. While your first concerns are likely for the safety of yourself and your vehicle’s passengers, you’ll probably find yourself wondering what will happen to your car. In some cases, you may be lucky enough to get away with minor, easily-repairable damages. However, in some cases the car may be declared “totaled.” 

This article dives into the concept of a totaled car. We’ll discuss what it means when a vehicle is deemed a total loss, how this evaluation is made, and what may happen to your car in such a situation. Keep in mind that a car accident lawyer in Charleston may be able to help if your car is deemed totaled after a loss you were not liable for.

When Does a Car Become a Total Loss?

Insurance companies play a crucial role in determining whether a car is considered totaled. When a vehicle is involved in a collision, insurance adjusters will assess the extent of damage and compare the cost of repairs to the car’s actual value. The car’s value is essentially how much it would have been worth before the collision. If the cost of repairs exceeds the car’s pre-collision value, the vehicle is deemed a total loss.

It’s important to note that a totaled car is not necessarily unrepairable. Rather, the cost of making extensive repairs is economically unfeasible for the vehicle owner’s insurance company, so the car’s owner would need to take the burden of the repair bill upon themself if they decide to attempt to salvage the vehicle. The total loss threshold typically falls within a range, often around 70-80% of the car’s value. When the repair cost exceeds this threshold, the car is totaled.

Several factors can influence this decision. Perhaps the most important context is the severity of the vehicle’s damage. Extensive structural damage, frame damage, or damage to irreparable components like airbags or engine blocks can quickly skyrocket a vehicle’s repair costs. It’s also important to consider the age of the wrecked vehicle. Older cars with lower market values are more likely to be totaled, even if the damage they suffered in a collision was relatively mild.

Evaluating Vehicle Damage and Determining a Total Loss

When it comes to determining whether repairs can reasonably be carried out, insurance companies often rely on the expertise of vehicle inspection professionals. They will have these professionals inspect a crashed car to determine the extent of any damage, estimate repair costs, and offer an expert opinion on whether the vehicle is economically repairable. The final report from the collision expert will play a significant role in whether the car will be declared totaled or not.

What Happens to a Totaled Car?

In the unfortunate event that a car is deemed a total loss, the responsible insurance company generally takes care of the process of its disposal. In most cases, the aftermath of a salvaged car includes:

  • Receipt of an Insurance Payout: The car’s rightful owner will receive compensation based on the pre-accident market value of the wrecked car. The exact amount of payment received depends on the owner’s insurance policy and any applicable deductions.
  • Procurement of a Salvage Title: The car will be assigned a salvage title. This indicates that the car is unsafe to operate on public roadways. You may be able to repurchase the salvage title from the insurance company if you would like to have the car repaired and recertified as a “revived salvage vehicle.” It’s important to note that the process of a rebuild can be complex and incredibly costly. If you elect to have your car repaired, it will not be legally drivable until it has been properly fixed and re-titled.
  • Determining the Car’s Future: If you choose not to repurchase the salvage title, the car is most likely going to be sold to a salvage yard. The car will either be broken down for usable parts or used for scrap metal recycling. The insurance company should help choose a reputable salvage yard that handles the disposal responsibly and adheres to environmental regulations.

What Should You Do If Your Car Is Totaled?

Facing a totaled car can be overwhelming. We offer some steps to take in the aftermath of a crash:

  • Communicate With Your Insurance Company: You should stay in touch with your insurance company to ensure you aren’t left in the dark regarding your car’s status. Be sure to carefully review the settlement offer you receive. Don’t hesitate to ask any questions that come to mind and clarify any doubts you may have.
  • Explore Your Options: You’ll need to make the best choice for your family’s needs following the loss of your vehicle. Consider whether you want to repurchase the salvage title, rebuild the car with proper repairs, or move on to a new vehicle. 
  • Purchasing a Replacement Vehicle: If you decide that you want to purchase a replacement vehicle, research your options carefully and compare prices. You’ll want to take your budget, needs, and preferences into consideration.

Understanding what it means when a car is totaled and the options available can help you navigate this situation with renewed confidence. At the end of the day, the most important thing is making sure that you and your passengers are alright. The process of dealing with a totaled car can be stressful, but as long as you have your health that’s what matters most!

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