Leslie Kasperowicz holds a BA in Social Sciences from the University of Winnipeg. She spent several years as a Farmers Insurance CSR, gaining a solid understanding of insurance products including home, life, auto, and commercial and working directly with insurance customers to understand their needs. She has since used that knowledge in her more than ten years as a writer, largely in the insurance...

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UPDATED: Jul 14, 2021

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Important facts to know...

  • When an insurance company writes it off, they will not pay for repairs of that vehicle
  • You should consider whether keeping the totaled car is worth it or not
  • The insurer will likely pay for the replacement costs of a new car, but they will not put any money in on repairs for your old car

When comparing and shopping for insurance, one of the questions that sometimes comes up is whether you can keep your car if the insurance company rules it a total loss. Continue reading to learn more, and then enter your zip code above to find car insurance rates that fit your budget!

Total Loss Definition

Oftentimes we can simply look at a vehicle and tell that it is a total loss. Other times, it may be less obvious, but the insurance company rules it a loss. This is because there is so much damage done by the accident that the cost of repairs exceeds the value of the vehicle.

In other words, the amount of damage done to the vehicle makes the vehicle either undrivable, or the damage is sufficient to cause the insurance company to write it off as a loss. If the hood is so damaged, for example, that you cannot see over it to drive, the car is a total loss.

There is no way that a car in this shape could pass inspection, much less serve any purpose. In some cases, it might be considered a “salvage car.” These cars are severely damaged, but they can pass inspection. This means that, if your car is ruled to be salvageable, you could keep it and drive it.

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Are you a junk dealer?

 

If you are a junk dealer or own a salvage yard; you might consider keeping the wrecked car for parts. Some people will pay high amounts for good usable parts from previously-owned vehicles. But the parts must be in working order and undamaged to legally sell them as working parts.

Online auction sites such as eBay and others will let you sell usable parts or even slightly damaged parts, so long as you state in the auction that the parts are as is. Alternately, you may even find a buyer for a salvage car on eBay or other online sites.

However, you are not going to be able to drive it if it was ruled a total loss in most cases. So is it worth keeping a car that you are not going to be able to use?

So the question should be “Should I keep a car that is a total loss?” rather than, “May I keep it?” Many people do decide to do this for whatever reason, but it is most likely not the most practical thing to do after an accident.

Can I sell my car to someone else?

One thing you could consider doing is to put your car on your lawn with a For Sale sign and resell it to someone who collects damaged or salvage cars.

However, this is a legally risky thing to do. If you sell someone a car that is dangerous to drive and they think it is safe; you could be liable for damages that no insurance will cover.

Remember that, once an insurance company writes off the car as a loss, they will not reimburse you for anything regarding the wrecked vehicle. So this could mean you will be out money for damages that you cause by selling someone a dangerous car. In most cases, this is just not worth the legal risk you will take on to do so.

Following State Guidelines

 

One factor to keep in mind when your car has been written off by your insurance company is whether there are any state laws that prohibit you from keeping the car.

State jurisdictions mandate that cars which are deemed unsafe on the roadways remain undriven. If you drive a car that is a total loss on the roadways, knowing the dangers involved, you may run the risk of additional fees and citations.

Driving unsafe cars is a hazard, and this can also severely increase your insurance premiums as well. It’s considered highly risky behavior.

Some businesses such as Oldjunkcar.com offer to buy your junk car and take it off your hands if you have a car that is unusable. They will most likely use it for parts and resell the car in some way for cash. This is a recycling program for old cars that have outlived their usefulness.

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When to Let it Go

Sometimes you just have to learn when to let things go. Think about what you do with old computers, old clothes, or old jewelry that has broken in your house. Do you hang onto it, hoping that some miracle will bring it back to its original state?

This is unrealistic and is not the type of logic that you should practice. Things are just things. Once they have served their purpose, we have to learn to let go of those things that are no longer useful. Recycling them is the best solution for giving them a purpose beyond their former use.

Is it drivable?

The question you should always ask after a wreck, no matter how much you loved your car, is whether is it drivable or not. If the car is drivable and can pass a vehicle inspection, you may be able to get it repaired.

But if insurance companies rule a car a total loss, that means that they are going to give you a replacement car. But all of their money for your loss is going to be tied up in replacing your vehicle and getting you a new one. They will not spend any funds on repairing your vehicle that is written off.

So before you decide to keep the old car, consider the fact that you will have to pay for the repairs for it all on your own. Is it worth it?

Moving On

 

The best thing to do when your car has been written off as a loss is to move on. Unless you are a junk car dealer, owner of a salvage yard, or other car parts business owner, it will be hard to find the value in keeping an old wrecked car, except for sentimental reasons.

We all get attached to our cars. They are a part of our lives in a big way. But feelings and sentiment don’t pay bills, and you can’t afford to keep something that will end up costing you more than its worth.

So, once you know the insurance company has written off your car as a loss, accept it and move on.

The best thing you can do is to look forward to the new car that you will get since you have lost your other one, and be glad if you were not injured in the accident.

Purchasing a new car can be an exciting experience, and it will remind you of when you first got your other car and gave you a chance to start anew.

While you are shopping for your new car, it’s a great time to consider your insurance plan.

Remember that your insurance that you had was for your previous car. You will have to purchase or update new insurance when you buy a new car so that it will match the specifics of your new vehicle, rather than the old one.

As you shop for new or updated insurance, here are some things to look for:

  • Get the required state minimums in liability.
  • Get enough collision to cover any damage you might experience to your new car in a fender-bender.
  • Consider comprehensive insurance.
  • Consider whether you want to upgrade your insurance to a higher amount.
  • Consider all options before you purchase.

Getting the state required minimums on liability is mandated by law. If you do not know what your state requires, you can visit this car insurance liability page which has a list of all of the required liability amounts per state.

Collision insurance is usually optional except for new cars or cars that you are buying through a lending institution or lease company.

You will need to check with the company to see if the collision is required with your finance or leasing company. Some lease companies carry some insurance for you, but this is often limited to set periods of time and is often considered temporary insurance.

It’s just not worth the legal risk to yourself or others to keep a severely damaged car. You could cause another wreck driving such vehicles on the open road and risk high fees and restitution for the damages.

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