Insurance Totaled My Vehicle! How Can I Keep the Car?

Your auto insurance company may deem your car totaled after an accident, but there are steps you can take to keep your car still.A bad car accident often leads to a totaled car, and it seems like it always come at the worst time. You just shelled out big bucks to replace the brakes on your vehicle, have had transmission work done very recently at the repair shop, and then a few days later the whole car is destroyed. After you’ve put so much into this car, you just don’t want to see your insurance hook up a tow truck and haul it away. You might wonder, after it’s totaled is there any way that you can buy back and keep your car?

The Law

The biggest hurdle to keeping your totaled car is state law. Each state decides how a car has to be titled. In most states, once a car is totaled it has to get a special title called a salvage title. Cars with these titles are worth less, and sometimes the state has to inspect the car to ensure that it’s been repaired adequately before it can be put back on the road with a rebuilt title.

Also, some states will not allow the car back on the road again if the damage is severe enough. In this case, states will issue a scrap title, meaning that the car may only be sold for parts. In many cases, selling the car for parts may get you more money overall than the payout you would get by allowing your auto insurance company to sell it. Remember, when your insurance company picks up your car they’re taking it to a salvage yard to sell it. Doing the same yourself may help you to maximize your total loss value.


The other obstacle that might keep you from keeping your car is your bank, as they’re technically owners of your car as well. If you think you might want to keep your totaled vehicle and you still have an outstanding car loan, you’ll have to call your bank and get their permission. Not every bank will allow this, which can be challenging if you’re also underwater on your loan. It’s always a good idea if you’re in that situation to call your bank and see what options are available to you. (In this case, having GAP insurance on top of your collision coverage comes especially handy!)

How Much Will I Get?

If everything works out in your favor and you’re able to keep your totaled car, it will be a lesser amount than if your insurance company had kept the vehicle. It may not feel fair, but there will be an amount withheld for the actual cash value of the car in its present condition. You will have to decide if this lesser amount is going to be in your best interest. Generally, it is in the best interest of people that fall into two groups.

The first group that benefits from keeping a totaled car are those who have an older car with minor damage and a still driveable car. Then, you can decide whether or not the cost of repairs is reasonable and potentially whether to just pocket the cash from the settlement. If you happen to know how to complete mechanical or body repairs yourself you could benefit enormously in this situation. Or, you could use both the cash and the older car itself as a trade in on a new car. Either way, you’ll often come out ahead.

The second group of people have a car with damage to a specific area, like the front or the side, but still have a car with plenty of salvageable parts. Then, you can sell your car to a salvage yard or even part it out yourself if you have the expertise. Call and get a quote for scrapping your car and then find out how much your car insurance company will deduct for keeping your car before making a final decision.

To Keep Or Not To Keep: What Makes the Most Sense for Your Wallet?

It’s not always the easiest to keep your car, but there are definitely circumstances where it makes the most financial sense. Ultimately, you’ll have to decide if you’re able or willing to overcome the hurdles that may stand in your way. But, selling your totaled car to a scrap yard might get you the most overall for your total.