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The aftermath of a car accident it is often devastating. When you add to it the stress of working with insurance carriers to figure out what to do next -- and possibly saying goodbye to your car for good – you likely feel overwhelmed. The good news is that you have a lot of good options as a consumer when your car is completely totaled. Here are a few:
Take the Money
After an auto accident, your insurer or the driver at fault will let you know the value of the vehicle. Once the company knows the value of the car and the cost to make all the necessary repairs, the company will decide whether or not to deem the car totaled. Basically, the company will write a check for the value of the car if it’s not worth fixing.
Every company has its own formula (a great insurance provider will readily explain their policies) and each state has its own threshold for declaring a car as totaled. All totaled cars aren’t what you may picture, either -- smashed flat or burned to a crisp. Older cars with minor body damage may actually cost more to repair than the value of the car.
Keep the Car and Repair It
If your car can still be driven safely or towed to a repair shop (whether through DIY towing or hiring a towing company), it might be smart to keep it. You don’t have to file a claim and can instead drive it with some damage and make necessary repairs on your own dime. This is especially smart if you have an older car where a claim likely won’t get you money you need to buy something that’s more reliable.
Sell Your Car to a Salvage Yard
You can get cash for your totaled car if you sell it to an auto salvage yard. Make sure you find a scrap car buyer that is licensed and will tow your car for you for free. Also take the time to learn the value of the car – some junk car buyers don’t pay top dollar for junk cars.
Keep the Car, but Don’t Repair It
Sometimes a scratch on the side of a car that you can barely see will require a paint job that costs thousands of dollars to look right. Just the same, hail can damage a car to the point it’s deemed totaled, but you can still drive it if it has a dented hood and roof. If your car runs okay and you can keep driving it because it has only cosmetic damage, you may opt to go ahead and go that route.
Donate the Car
Check with your local donation services and schedule a time to have your car towed for free. The company will sell the car for parts and you will get a tax deduction for the depreciated value. Most services will allow you to select the charity that receives the money for your car.
Keep the Car and Sell for Salvage
When the insurance company buys cars that are totaled, it sells the car parts. You can do this yourself if you believe you can get more money for car parts than your insurance company is offering to pay you. This is also a good option if you like to work on cars and want to salvage the car parts to use on a different car. A hybrid of this option is to call a junk or salvage yard to come take care of this for you (see earlier point).
Saying good-bye to your vehicle is never fun (although you can MAKE it fun!), but you can still come out financially unscathed. Each of these options have pros and cons, so take your time and do your research before you decide what to do with your totaled car.