What Does “Total Loss” Mean?

No one likes the dreaded phrase, “Your vehicle is a Total Loss.” There are so many questions that come along with that phrase, and it can be a very confusing and difficult time for people, but we do the best we can to help you through the process.

First of all, what does “Total Loss” even mean? It means that the damages from the accident are significant enough that the cost of repairs has exceeded the value of what the vehicle is worth, or getting pretty darn close to it. This is happening more and more because of the rising cost of repairs and/or the fact that people are driving older vehicles. The body shop will evaluate and estimate how much the cost of repairs will likely be and the insurance company will determine if the vehicle is a total loss based off of that evaluation. (At times, body shops aren’t involved at all. The insurance might do the inspection themselves.)

Let’s say, for example, your vehicle is worth $5,000, and the cost of repairs is $5000 (to make the numbers simple). Normally, the insurance company would pay you $5000 for what the car is worth, take your car, and then you would get another car with the money they give you.

The idea is that you should be able to go out and buy another car just like yours to replace. We all know that you could never find another car just like yours, because you know the history of the car, and it probably has sentimental value. However, that is the insurance company’s idea, to give you enough money to replace what you have.

Resurrecting A Total Loss

Another option when the insurance company totals a vehicle is to buy it back and fix it. Every situation is different, and this is not always the best idea, as you may be putting far more money into a vehicle than it is worth.

When you buy it back from the insurance company, you have to re-register it with a Salvage Title. After the repairs are done, it will usually need to be re-smogged, have a brake and light inspection done, be inspected by the DMV, and have some miscellaneous paperwork filed. (For all the correct information about salvage titles, check out your local DMV website.)

Cosmetic Totals

Sometimes minor cosmetic damage can total a vehicle because costs of repairs exceed the value of the vehicle. If you have an older car, and it gets totaled by a dent in the quarter panel and rear bumper, you don’t even have to get it fixed as long as it’s safe to drive. You can buy it back from your insurance company and put the rest of the money in your pocket!

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