What Makes a Car Totaled and What Does That Mean?

January 8, 2021

What Makes a Car Totaled and What Does That Mean?

Accidents happen. And they cause damage to vehicles.

Sometimes after an accident, the damage is so severe the vehicle is beyond repair. When this happens, the insurance company decides the car is classified as totaled.

They declare it a total loss.

But what exactly does that mean?

What Is a Total Loss?

Each insurance company has their own guidelines for totaling a vehicle. Here are three common scenarios leading to them totaling the car:

  • The vehicle has so much damage it can’t be restored safely
  • The necessary repairs cost more than the value of the vehicle
  • Repairs are extensive enough state regulations declare it a total loss

Utah’s regulations use the Total Loss Formula. They add the cost of repairs plus the scrap value of your vehicle. If this number is higher than the car’s value before the accident, the car must be declared a total loss.

What Happens If Your Car Is Totaled?

If your insurance company decides your vehicle is a total loss, they won’t pay for the repairs needed. Instead, they’ll send you a check for the cash value of your vehicle, minus your insurance deductible.

To figure out the cash value of your vehicle, the insurance company looks at many factors.

Using local data, they compare sales prices of vehicles like yours. This helps them get a rough estimate of the value.

Then, the insurance company looks at information specific to your vehicle. They look at how old your vehicle is, how many miles it has on it, and any pre-existing damage. The options on your vehicle also play a part in finding it’s worth.

Make sure you ask for a Total Loss Valuation Report from the adjuster. This will show you what information your insurance company used to determine the value of your vehicle.

Remember you have the right to dispute this report if you don’t think it’s a fair value.

What Should You Do If Your Car Is Totaled?

You’ll work closely with your insurance adjuster during the totaling process. This person might ask you to:

  • Remove the license plates and all of your personal items
  • Have a key to the vehicle available, and send in any extra keys
  • Complete a variety of forms

Be sure to read the paperwork carefully and ask questions if you don’t understand anything.

You’ll also want to ask about a timeline. Make sure you know when your paperwork is due.

Then find out how long it’ll take to get the check. Most insurers issue this within a couple of days of declaring the total loss, but some may take longer.

Decide If You Want to Keep It or Not

You have the right to keep your car, even if your insurance companies declare it a total loss. If you decide to keep it, your insurance company will deduct the scrap value from the amount they owe you.

Since your car is now considered a salvage, it will have a branded title.

Branded Titles

A branded title means the vehicle is either rebuilt, or a salvage. In Utah, the branded titles are marked with Salvage or Rebuilt/Restored.

If you decide to sell your salvage car, you must disclose the type of title. There are strict regulations in place to protect consumers.

Repairing a Totaled Car

Some people keep their damaged vehicles to do the repairs themselves. By using used parts, and not paying for labor, these repairs are often less expensive than estimated.

But, before you take on any repairs, check the regulations in your state. You don’t want to find out halfway through the repair process that you’re in violation of some obscure law.

Also talk to your insurance company. Sometimes it’s hard to get insurance policies on vehicles with a branded title. In some states, you may only be able to get liability insurance.

Need Parts to Repair Your Totaled Car?

If you’re working on fixing your totaled vehicle, be sure to contact Tear-A-Part. We have an extensive inventory and can help you track down the parts you need.