After an automobile accident, an insurance adjuster will review the damage to your car and make a determination what they will pay to have it repaired. If the cost of repairs will be more than the value of the car, the insurance company will “total” your car. This means that the adjuster has determined the car to be a total loss and they will offer you what they determine is the value of the car rather than pay to have it fixed. But what happens when you believe the car can be repaired? It may be possible to have the vehicle repaired but there are steps you need to take for that to happen.
Know the Value of Your Car
It may help if you can learn the value of your car before the insurance company makes its determination. You can usually find an estimated value for your car online through Kelley Blue Book or other sites that valuate cars. Knowing what your car might be worth before the insurance company determines whether it can be repaired may be helpful. Most insurance companies us a 60 percent repair to value ratio. In other words, if they determine your car is worth $2,000 and the repairs will be more than $1,200, they will total your vehicle. If you can prove that your car is actually worth $4,000, that means the repairs can be as much as $2,400 before the car will be totaled.
What Happens After Your Car is Totaled?
Once the insurance company determines that your car is a total loss, they normally send a check for the value of the car to you and the car heads to the junkyard. One thing to remember is that refuting a totaled claim is possible. It is your responsibility to prove that the vehicle is worth more than the insurance company’s value which means it could be repaired. If you have records showing extras like air conditioning, leather seats, performance packages or vehicle enhancements you added to the car that were not the factory standard, you may boost the value of the vehicle. You can also reach out to body shops and ask them to take a look at the vehicle for written estimates on what it would actually cost to repair the vehicle rather than the estimate created by the insurance company.
Can You Keep Your Vehicle Even if it is Totaled?
If you cannot negotiate with your insurance company and they insist on totaling your car, you still may have options. In many states, you can tell the insurance company you want to keep the car rather than have it sent to a junkyard as long as you own your car outright and do not have a lien on your title. If you do this, the insurance company pays the actual cash value of the car minus the deductible and any payment they would have received from the junkyard. You are free to use that money to repair your car on your own. If the damage is simply cosmetic and you can drive it, this may be the best option. If you can make the repairs yourself, you can do so, or you can take it to a trusted auto body shop.
Keep Hidden Damage in Mind
One thing to keep in mind when a car is totaled is that there may be hidden damage that you cannot see. This may include a cracked or broken frame which could make your vehicle unsafe to drive. There may also be damage to engine parts that could be expensive to replace. Insurance companies rarely declare a car totaled without valid reasons, but if you are experienced in car repairs or have a trusted mechanic who can confirm there are no hidden damages, keeping your car may be a better option for you. You also must keep in mind that there will be a notation on the title that it has a prior condition, such as salvage or reconstructed. This could impact your insurance rates and resale value in the future.
Finding a Body Shop
In most cases, a good collision shop will repair a car that the insurance company has totaled. The key is to find a shop that will offer detailed estimates after a thorough review of the vehicle. You want a shop that will review hidden areas of the car and look at all locations where damage exists to give you an accurate price on repairing the car. Once they have provided you with an estimate, you want to ask if they are using original equipment from the manufacturer (OEM), aftermarket or used parts on the vehicle. Often, after market parts may be of the same quality as OEM parts and insurance companies often prefer them to OEM parts. However, if you prefer OEM parts, you can request that the shop use those other than aftermarket parts when possible. If your car is an older model, it may be difficult to find OEM or aftermarket parts which means the shop may have to install used parts. Because the insurance company will not be paying for the repair when your vehicle is totaled, you can request the type of part you want but understand the age of your car may determine the type of part that will be used.
If your insurance company has determined your car is a total loss after an accident, contact Elmer’s Auto Body. We can provide you with a detailed estimate after a thorough review of your car to determine if it may be beneficial for you to keep your car and repair it rather than send it to a junkyard. With over 70 years of collision repair experience, you can trust Elmer’s Auto Body to make your repairs and send you out in a vehicle that is safe for you and your family. You can set up a no obligation appointment by calling 856-218-0202 in Washington Township, 856-456-7018 in W. Collingswood Heights or 609-714-4050 in Medford Township. You can also visit our website at www.elmersautobody.com and fill out the easy online form to schedule your appointment.