Can I Keep My Car if it’s Totaled?

The answer to this question depends on many factors. The most important of these is whether you own the vehicle free and clear. If you’re still paying for it, then the final word will have to come from your bank or finance company.

You should also consider whether the vehicle is worth keeping in its present condition. Sometimes a totaled car or truck can be safely repaired. Other times, it’s just not in the cards.

Insurance companies use a complex set of metrics

Americans love their automobiles. The ability to go where we please when we please is integral to our way of life. But no mechanical device runs forever. Sooner or later, it’s time to let it go.

In many cases, it is the result of an accident. But whether it’s worthwhile to repair a damaged auto is up to an insurance adjuster– whose opinion may or may not be shared by the vehicle’s owner.

Insurance companies use a complex set of metrics to judge whether a car can be safely repaired. The keyword here is “safely.” No insurance company will risk putting one of its clients in an unsafe vehicle– that’s asking for trouble.

But safety is only one factor that adjustors consider. An added question is how much the needed repairs will cost. If the tab adds up to more than the vehicle is worth on paper, then the company will likely declare it a total loss.

What happens when your car is deemed a total loss?

The company will write you a check for the book value of the car– unless it’s financed, in which case your bank will get the check. Whether you still owe anything will depend on the loan balance.

For example, let’s say that you own a 2010 Nissan Sentra. You’re involved in a crash, your insurer sends an adjuster to evaluate the damage, and he declares your Nissan a total loss.

Let’s also say that you still owe $5,000.00 on your loan. But your insurer says that the vehicle is only worth $2,000.00 in its present condition. The bank gets a check for $2,000.00, and you still owe the remaining $3,000.00.

Are there good reasons to repair your vehicle and keep it going?

Making payments on a vehicle you no longer own can be frustrating– which is one reason to repair it and keep it going. But is this a wise move? It depends. Here are some of the factors that can affect your decision:

  • Your ability to do the repairs yourself: Let’s say that you’re an accomplished DIY mechanic with a back yard full of used auto parts. After looking over the vehicle, you decide that you can get it back up and running for a few hundred bucks, far less than the cost of replacing it.
  • The bank’s perspective (if the car is still financed): You will need to obtain the lender’s permission to keep the totaled car. If they refuse, then you have a legal obligation to let them claim it.
  • The feasibility of insuring the repaired car: Even if you’re able to complete the repairs, you may have trouble getting an insurance company to extend coverage. Insurers are usually reluctant to insure a vehicle that’s considered a total loss, no matter how skillful the mechanic is who works on it.
  • The safety of you and your passengers: Even if you make the car drivable, for your own sake, you’ll need to make sure that it’s safe to operate. Otherwise, you’re setting yourself or your passengers up for a calamity down the road.
  • Your emotional attachment to the vehicle: This is a subjective matter, of course. But, if you’ve grown sentimental about the vehicle and can’t stand to part with it, then who’s to fault you for moving heaven and earth to keep it around.

Still have questions? Contact us at Douglas and London today

Insurance and auto finance are complex topics that often require expert assistance. Get in touch with the New York City car accident lawyers here at Douglas and London—over $4 billion in accidents and settlements. Our results speak for themselves.