Driver's Guide

How to Get a Totaled Car Back on the Road

Howdy, Driver? I reveal how to get a totaled car back on the road in this article. Despite that a totaled car has been awarded the salvage title, you could still make it roadworthy.

how to get a totaled car back on the road

When an insurance company declares a car a total loss, it does not sentence the car to the junkyard mandatorily. Of course, you can still retrieve the vehicle from the insurance company, rebuild the vehicle, and drive it on the road legally.

Somehow, however, it may not be worth getting a totaled car back on the road if you consider the amount the insurance company will give you and how much you can put down on the cost of repairs.

In the sections below, I explain how you can get a totaled car back on the road and I have answered a few interesting questions too.

What Does a Total Loss Mean?

A total loss is when an insurance claim adjuster declares that it would be better to replace your car considering the cost of repairs to make the car roadworthy. Typically, the insurance has a formula for determining when a car is totaled, and it differs by state. So, you may have to consult the claim adjuster for details.

How does a claim adjuster determine that your car is totaled? The adjuster determines the ACT (actual cash value) of your car using a specified formula, sometimes the Kelley Blue Book price. They determine the cash value of your vehicle before the accident plus its current market value.

Next, the adjuster estimates the cost of repairs after a thorough inspection of the car. If the cost of repairs is higher than the percentage of the car’s ACV, it is declared a total loss. Depending on the state, the percentage could fall between 75 and 100 percent.

An insurance company could declare a 20-year old car a total loss despite suffering minor damages. They determine the market value of the car by comparing its current value with the high cost of repairs.

In this regard, an insurance company may not declare a luxurious vehicle a total loss considering that the value of the car is greater than the cost of repairs.

In some states, the TLF (Total Loss Formula) is used to determine whether a vehicle is a total loss. The adjuster adds up the salvage value of your car (instead of its value before the crash) and the repair cost.

The condition of the parts in your car aids a claim adjuster to determine the salvage value of your car. If the value is greater than the actual cost value, your car is declared a total loss.

How to Get a Totaled Car Back on the Road

In this section, we will discover a summarized step to make a totaled car legal for driving.

Below are steps to get a totaled car back on the road:

Determine the Cost of Repairs

First, determine the cost of repairs for the totaled car. Find out what the insurance company will offer as the ACV of the car and decide how must to put down on repairs.

If the estimated cost of repairs and the amount you will put down approach the actual value of the car, it is not advisable to repair the car.

Reject the Salvage Value Offer

Typically, when a car is totaled, the insurance company will offer the ACV of the car plus the salvage value. You may reject the offer for the salvage value and keep the car.

If the insurance company has the car already, you may buy back the car as junk from them at a bargain.

Take the Car for Inspection

After you receive the ACV for the car, put down some more money to repair the car. You will take the car for inspection by the motor vehicle department to determine whether the car is okay to be on the road again. You should read tips to pass a smog test to help pass the inspection.

Since your vehicle has a salvage title and is not legal to be driven, you have to tow it for the inspection. Of course, you will be charged a specified fee.

Get a New Title

The vehicle department will issue the car a new title but it does not erase the salvage title from the history of the car.

If you want to erase the salvage title and give the car a clean title, you may wash the title in states like Washington, Texas, Mississippi, Massachusetts, New Jersey, North Carolina, Virginia, Georgia, Tennessee, California, and Illinois.

Inspect the Car Again

It is advisable to inspect the car again with the mechanic after it passes the inspection. There could be hidden problems that must be sorted out before for your safety and the safety of other road users.

Insure the Car

Typically, it is difficult to obtain insurance for a totaled car with a salvage title.

An insurance company like State Farm may give collision and comprehensive coverage for a car declared a total loss but it would have been rebuilt, subject to underwriting and file development. Note, also, that some insurance companies will not insure a car that they totaled out.

After you obtain insurance coverage for the totaled car, you may get it back on the road.

If My Car is Declared a Total Loss Can I Still Drive It?

Unless you repair and take your car for inspection, you cannot drive it. You may be arrested for driving a totaled car because it does not meet road safety specifications and it is hazardous for other road users.

After an insurance company declares your car a total loss, they will make an offer for settlement by cash, typically the ACV of your car plus its salvage value.

If you accept the offer, you agree to sell the car to the insurance that junks the car for a price in its value.

But if you reject the salvage value offer, the insurance company will pay for the ACV of your only while you keep the car.

Whether you accept or reject the offer, the insurance company will report the car as totaled to the motor vehicle department in your state. In this regard, the car will assume a new title known as ‘salvage title’.

When a vehicle has the salvage title, it means that the vehicle is best for part or to sell to scrap and cannot be driven on the road legally unless you remove the salvage title.

Can I Clear a Salvage Title So I Can Drive My Car Again?

Yes, you can clear a salvage title so that you can drive a totaled car again.

After you accept the ACV payout from the insurance company, you may add some more money to fund the repairs.

To move the vehicle to a repair shop, hire the services of a tow company because you cannot drive a car with a salvage title.

After the totaled car is rebuilt, you can apply for a clean title. You will also tow the car to the motor vehicle department of your state for inspection for a specified fee.

If the car passes the test, you will receive a new title for the car and put it back on the road.

Note, however, that the salvage title will continue to reflect in the history of the vehicle.

Is It Okay to Drive a Vehicle that’s Been Declared a Total Loss?

It is okay to drive a vehicle declared a total loss only after you go through the process of rebuilding the car perfectly.

However, there would be a significant level of damage to the car despite being repaired. Safety is not guaranteed if the car is involved in another crash.

After you pay to inspect the car to get it a new title, do not depend on the result of the inspection because it does not guarantee the safety of your car.

It is advisable to take the car to a mechanic for further inspection before you put it back on the road.

Moreover, now that the car is a branded title, sellers would be aware of its history and it may be difficult to sell at a good price.

Nonetheless, you could wash the title of the car illegally to get rid of the salvage title, give it a clean history, and sell faster at an even higher price.

Can You Insure a Car that Was Totaled?

Yes, if you rebuild a totaled car, you can insure it, but it could be challenging to obtain full coverage. Typically, insurance companies offer liability only for a car with a rebranded title.

To insure a car that was totaled, an insurance company may inspect the car to ascertain whether the car is roadworthy.

State Farm, for example, may allow comprehensive and collision coverage for a totaled car with salvage title if the car has been rebuilt, subject to underwriting, and file development. However, State Farm does not offer insurance for a car that they declare a total loss but may insure a vehicle declared total loss by another insurance company if they find it worthy.

Final Thoughts

In this article, I revealed the steps to get a car back on the road despite being totaled.

Instead of rebuilding and rebranding a totaled car, you could put some money down to get a new car after a total loss.

Before you get a totaled vehicle back on the road, make sure to inspect it thoroughly and get rid of faults that pose a problem to your safety and the safety of others.

If you must clear the salvage title completely, you may have to wash the title, but it is illegal to wash a car title since it conceals the history of a car from a buyer.

Latest posts by Bernard Juchli (see all)

Bernard Juchli

Bernard Juchli is an experienced racer, mechanic and team owner who trusts Avon Tyres.Bernard is the lead driver and force behind his Big Dog Garage Race Team. He is the General Manager and Chief Mechanic of Jay Leno’s Garage. Bernard and his crew of seven are responsible for all repairs, restoration and fabrication of Jay’s incredible automobile and motorcycle collection.

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