A “totaled car” is a vehicle that has sustained significant damage, and the cost of repairing it exceeds its current value. Typically, this means that the insurance company has determined that the cost to repair the vehicle is greater than its actual cash value (ACV). In most cases, insurance companies will declare a car totaled if the repair costs exceed 70-75% of the car’s ACV at the time of the accident, taking into account its age, mileage, and condition.
In this unfortunate situation, the owner may choose to keep the car and receive a reduced payout, or they can surrender the car to the insurance company, which will salvage or sell it for parts. But how do you know when a car is totaled? Here are some tell-tale signs that your car may not be worth saving after an accident.
The first step in determining if your car is totaled is to assess the damage. Visible signs of damage such as a bent frame, broken windows, or deployed airbags are clear signs, but there is also damage that may not be visible from the exterior.
If the damage is severe, it may be an indication that your car is totaled. If you’re unsure about the extent of the damage, take your car to a trusted mechanic or collision repair specialist for an assessment. Some signs of severe damage include:
Deployed Airbags: If the airbags in your car have deployed, it’s a clear indication that the accident was significant enough for them to be deployed. Therefore, it’s likely there may be more serious damage than what is visible from the exterior.
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Broken Axles: If a car’s axles are broken, bent, twisted, or worse, it is unlikely that the car will be drivable. The axles are one of the main structural foundations of a car, and repairs on them alone make for enormous costs in repairs to the point the car isn’t worth saving.
Engine Damage: Obviously, if a vehicle’s engine is destroyed or severely damaged, the car isn’t going anywhere. Fixing a car’s engine is far more difficult, time-consuming, and costly than any kind of cosmetic repair, and if the damage is bad enough, most people cut their losses.
Transmission Damage: Similarly, if the transmission is damaged beyond repair, it may not be worth the cost to fix it. As described by How Stuff Works, The transmission is a complex system that controls the flow of power from the engine to the driveshaft, which sounds expensive because it is.
Flood Damage: If your car has been flooded, the water damage can cause significant electrical and mechanical problems that typically render a car completely out of commission.
Your insurance company will use a specific calculation to determine if your car is totaled. Generally, if the cost of repairing the car exceeds a certain percentage of the car’s value, it will be considered a total loss. This percentage can vary depending on the insurance company and the state you live in.
Ask your insurance company to provide you with a copy of the calculation they used to determine if your car is totaled. However, as suggested by the accident attorneys at Shaw Cowart, if you are weary about whether to speak to your insurance company it can always help to talk to a car accident attorney first to discuss your strategy.
If you’re not satisfied with the insurance company’s calculation, you can get an independent appraisal of your car’s value. An appraiser can assess the condition of your car and provide an estimated value based on the current market conditions.
This can be particularly helpful if you have a rare or vintage car, as it may be difficult to find an accurate value online. Much like when dealing with your health, in situations such as this, it can always be beneficial to get a second opinion. By doing this, people may discover discrepancies that could end up saving them money or making the wrong decision.
Regulations regarding totaled cars can vary by state. In some states, a car may be considered totaled if the repair costs exceed a certain percentage of the car’s value, but there are always exceptions. It is important to never assume and be sure to check your state’s regulations to determine if your car is totaled, because you may be making an uninformed choice to consider the car totaled or not.
As if getting into a car accident isn’t stressful enough, determining if your car is totaled or not adds a whole new layer of complexity. If you’re unsure about the extent of the damage or the value of your car, it’s important to seek out expert advice from a trusted mechanic, accident lawyer, or collision repair specialist. Ultimately, the decision of whether to repair or replace your car will depend on your individual circumstances and budget.