What Makes a Car “Totaled” After An Accident?

“Oh, my gosh! Your car got totaled?? Are you OK? What makes a car totaled, anyway?”

According to Allstate, “A car is generally considered totaled when the cost to repair the car exceeds the value of the car.” This does vary somewhat from state to state, though.

Here, we’ll look at how it’s determined whether a car should be declared a total loss or simply “totaled.”

What Else Makes a Car Totaled?

The process of determining what makes a car totaled is complicated. First, insurance adjusters calculate its actual cash value (ACV) at the time of the loss (meaning the accident).

The ACV is how much your vehicle was worth before the accident, after factoring in depreciation and damage incurred in the accident. Adjusters typically run the vehicle’s make, model and year through an extensive database.

This produces a generally accurate estimate of the vehicle’s market value based on mileage, condition, options, and other factors (e.g., any past accidents). A vehicle is considered a total loss if the anticipated repair cost exceeds its ACV.

Is There Anything Else Affecting How the Final Compensation Is Determined?

Yes. Unfortunately, if you were still paying off your car at the time of the accident, the bank financing your loan will take its share of the insurance money first. You’ll get what, if anything, remains of the car’s value.

Do I Have Any Means of Recourse?

You might dispute the valuation amount and compensation you receive. If so, there are a couple of options: having it re-assessed by an automotive professional and/or working with an attorney.

If you go with the automotive professional, you could discover that your car might not be a total loss and that you might be able to put your compensation toward an extensive repair instead—if you can afford it. This is a gamble, of course.

If the automotive professional can’t help and you still feel your car shouldn’t have been declared a total loss, you might consider working with an attorney. Just remember that legal fees can easily cancel out any other compensation you receive.

Can I Just Keep My Totaled Car Until I Can Get It Repaired Properly?

The basic answer  is “no.” Once your car has been declared a total loss, the state (most states, anyway) will convert its title to a salvage title, branding it a “total loss vehicle.”

This means you may not legally drive it anymore. You may, however, have it taken to a salvage business and instead of selling it for parts there, you can ask them about rebuilding the car.

If a rebuild is done successfully and you can find a company willing to insure the vehicle (which could take some searching), the title brand could be converted to “rebuilt.” This wouldn’t be a “clean title,” but at least you could drive the car again.

What Makes a Car Totaled: Follow-Up

What makes a car totaled comes down to a combination of factors, including:

  • How bad the accident was and which parts of the car were damaged (i.e., its potential for being repaired successfully)
  • The age and condition of the car at the time of the accident
  • Any degree of inaccuracy in the insurance company’s determination of the ACV
  • The opinions of professionals you might consult with
  • Whether you were able to have the title converted to “rebuilt”

After you’ve followed all or even most of these steps, there’s a fairly good degree of certainty that the right decision prevailed.

If you live in Pennsylvania, roughly between Philadelphia and Reading, and your car’s been in an accident, bring it to us. We do great work and just might make a difference in the fate of your car. We can at least advise you on next steps.

Car Accident Checklist: What Steps Should You Take During an Accident?

A car accident is one of the most traumatic things we can experience. This trauma can vary greatly depending on the severity of the accident and the injuries involved. Regardless, a key component to making it through this horrifying experience is knowing what to do immediately after the accident.

The following checklist will help you keep your cool and get through it with minimal stress.

Your Car Accident Checklist

Taking the right steps after an accident can greatly improve your ability to move on and make sure things like hospital bills, mechanic fees, and other costs are taken care of. Start by reading through this step by step car accident checklist.

1. Stay Calm

No matter what happened or whose fault it was, you must maintain your composure after an accident. Don’t allow yourself to become hysterical or lose your temper with the other driver. You need a clear mind to proceed with the next, very important, steps.

2. Make Sure Everyone’s Okay and Safe

First, you need to make sure no one is in immediate danger. People left in a car that’s on fire or in the middle of a busy road could become seriously injured or even die. Do what you can to make sure everyone is safe.

Additionally, assess everyone’s condition. You’ll be calling 911 next, and they’ll need to know how urgent the situation is.

3. Call 911

Now, call 911 to report the accident. Be sure to lead with time-sensitive information such as serious injuries and the immediate necessity for emergency medical care. This is one of the most important, potentially life-saving steps on our car accident checklist.

Once again, try to remain calm so the operator can understand you. You’ll also need to be able to tell them your location and various other details.

4. Get the Other Driver’s Information

Once all of the immediate and urgent issues are handled, you need to exchange information with the other driver, assuming they’re in a condition to do so. Get their name and phone number as well as their vehicle information (make, model, license plate number, color).

Additionally, you’ll need their insurance company name and phone number. You’ll also need their insurance policy number and its expiration date.

5. Record Evidence of the Accident

Next, it’s a good idea to get as much evidence of the accident as you can. You’ll need this for your records, your insurance company, the police, and possibly an attorney.

Take multiple pictures of both vehicles at all angles. Also, take pictures of the scene of the accident including things like tire marks, damaged signs, etc.

6. Report the Accident to Your Insurance Company

Once the dust has settled, you need to report the accident to your insurance company as soon as possible. Work with your insurance agent and send them the pictures you took. They should also have access to the police report.

Let them know of any injuries and/or evaluation results if you’ve already been to the doctor. If not, make an appointment.

7. Visit a Doctor

Last on our car accident checklist, you must make an appointment to get examined by a doctor, even if you don’t immediately feel any injuries. The sensation of injuries may be delayed due to adrenaline or the type of injury. It’s not uncommon for people to go days or even weeks before noticing symptoms.

What About Your Car?

When all is said and done, your safety and health are the most important concerns on your car accident checklist. However, once that’s all taken care of, what about your car?

If you need help getting your car looking good again, we can help. Contact us today to learn what we can do for you.