Can I Keep My Totaled Car & Fix It to Drive?

You’ve been in an accident, and the insurance company is saying that your car is totaled. Perhaps you’re surprised as you think the damage wasn’t that bad. Maybe you know the car is drivable, want to keep it, and can’t understand how a drivable car could be totaled. 

So, can you keep your totaled car? The short answer is maybe, but before we get into that, let’s take a look at what it means for a car to be totaled. 

Contrary to what you might think, a car can look fairly unscathed and still be totaled. Here’s why: Whether the insurance company considers a car to be a total loss is based on a threshold, which varies by state, used by insurance companies or by what’s called a total loss formula (TLF).

In states that use a threshold, whether a car is totaled is determined by whether the cost of the repairs equals a certain percentage of the car’s value. For example, in Texas, it’s 100%. In Oklahoma, it’s 60%. 

Here is an example using the state of Texas’ 100% threshold:

A car with a value of $3,000 is a total loss if the repairs would cost $3,000 or more. That same car in Oklahoma, where the threshold is 60%, would only need repairs of $1,800 in order to be totaled. 

State-by-State Thresholds

AL75%
AKTLF
AZTLF
AR70%
CATLF
CO100%
CTTLF
DETLF
FL80%
GATLF
HITLF
IDTLF
ILTLF
IN70%
IA50%
KS75%
KY75%
LA75%
METLF
MD75%
MATLF
MI75%
MN70%
MSTLF
MO80%
MTTLF
NE75%
NV65%
NH75%
NJTLF
NMTLF
NY75%
NC75%
ND75%
OHTLF
OK60%
OR80%
PATLF
RITLF
SC75%
SDTLF
TN75%
TX100%
UTTLF
VTTLF
VA75%
WATLF
WV75%
WI70%
WY75%

Twenty-eight states use a threshold, while the other 22 states use the TLF. 

How TLF Works:

The cost of the repairs is added to the scrap value of your vehicle. If the number is equal to or greater than the actual cash value of your car, it will be totaled. If not, the insurer may decide to repair it. 

If you feel your car was wrongly declared totaled by the insurance company, you can negotiate with them by presenting evidence such as a different value for the car or different estimates from repair shops. 

Can I Keep My Totaled Car?
In most cases, yes. While laws vary from state to state, in most locations there is the option to keep your totaled car, but that doesn’t mean it’s the best decision. You’ll have to replace your title with either a salvage title or, once it’s fixed, a reconstructed title. Both make it difficult to sell the car down the road. 

Another major consideration is that a salvage title lowers the car’s value. That means if you get in another accident, it’s not likely you’ll get enough from the insurance company to make any needed repairs—even if that accident wouldn’t have been considered a total loss. 

Can a Totaled Car be Fixed?
The answer to the question can a totaled car be fixed depends, of course, on the extent of the damage. Often, adequate repairs can be made. Remember, declaring a car totaled has less to do with the type of damage and more to do with the value of the car vs. cost of the repairs. 

For example, a driver in Texas had a 15-year-old SUV with a value of around $4,000. She was rear-ended, causing the bumper to detach. The damage didn’t look that bad, and she was able to easily continue to drive the car. When she brought it to the shop for an estimate, the cost was going to be $4,200 as there were issues that couldn’t be seen. What looked like minor damage resulted in a total loss. 

Can You Drive a Totaled Car?
As in the example above, it is often possible to drive a totaled car, but you should not do that without verifying that it’s safe to do so.  If you drive a car you know has been damaged and end up in another accident, you can be liable for driving an unsafe vehicle, and that comes with potential financial and legal consequences. 

With that in mind, you should have the car inspected by a mechanic as soon as possible after the accident. This will give you peace of mind, and you’ll be able to show you did your due diligence before hitting the road with a damaged car. 

What Should I Do with a Totaled Car?

Now that you know what you can do with a totaled car, let’s consider what you should do. When you consider the problems and potential inconveniences associated with a totaled car, it makes sense in almost all cases to let it go. 

Unless the car has significant sentimental value, it rarely makes much sense to keep it. Here are a few reasons why:

  • The salvage title permanently decreases the value of the car. If you get in another accident, you’ll be on your own for most of the repair cost.
  • If you ever want to sell your car, it will be difficult to do with a salvage title. 
  • You can put the insurance money towards repairing a total loss car that will never be worth much again, and that likely will only last a few years, or you can put it towards another quality vehicle that will last for several years. 

Yes, you’ll have to get another vehicle, but it’s better to put the money you got from the insurance towards a car that you know is safe and reliable and that doesn’t have to have a salvage or rebuilt title. 

AutoSmart has a large selection of quality pre-owned cars and trucks at great prices. If your check isn’t enough to cover the entire cost of the vehicle you want, you can take advantage of our simple buy here pay here financing—and we work with all buyers regardless of their credit. 

Let the salvage yard keep your totaled car! You deserve better, and you’ll find it at AutoSmart!