When a car is "totaled," what that means is that your insurer has marked it up as a "total loss." That is, to repair the car would cost more than it would to replace it.
So, what happens to a totaled car after you've filed your auto insurance claim?
You Will Typically Retain Ownership of The Car
In more cases than not, you're going to retain ownership of the totaled car. This means that what happens next is up to you. You have a few options available to you:
- Sell it to your car insurance provider. Some insurers (though not all) will offer to buy your totaled car. In more cases than not, this isn't a bad idea. Your car may be useful as a "salvage" car. That doesn't necessarily mean that the car is salvageable, rather, there may be parts in it that are still of use. These are the cars you see in those scrap yards where you can go in and pull your own parts.
- Get a salvage certificate. If you're going to keep the car for the time being, you'll want to get it to the DMV and swap your title for a salvage certificate. One thing to note: A salvage car is always a salvage car. This means that even if you can get it working like new, it's still going to be classified as a salvage car.
- Sell it to a salvager. You can sell a totaled car directly to a dealership that specializes in salvage vehicles, or you can sell it to a private buyer who will tow it themselves. If your insurer doesn't want to buy the car, then you can sell it to just about anyone who wants it.
Once your car has been scrapped, it's most likely going to wind up in one of three places:
- A scrapyard where it will be used for parts.
- Broken down for its metal content, or...
- Sold to someone who really likes this make and model and is willing to bring it back to working condition. Not uncommon with classics, but far from likely with most compacts and sedans.
It always hurts to say goodbye to your trusty steed, but there's not much point in keeping two tons of steel in your driveway for sentimental purposes. The sooner you can sell your totaled car off, the better.