How to “Untotal” Your Vehicle
After a Big Accident, can You Untotal Your Vehicle?
When you have been in an accident, your vehicle will be assessed by your insurance company. The appraiser will look the vehicle over, compare its value to similar vehicles and like-models, and determine if the value of the car is worth it to justify the repairs. If it’s going to cost close to, or more than, the value, then the vehicle is considered a total loss, or as we often say, “It’s totaled.” Depending on the insurance company, it could be as low as 75% of the value of the car (e.g. car’s value is $10,000 and repairs will be $7,500 causing it to be a total loss).
After your vehicle has been declared totaled, and you go along with the assessment, you have two options. You can “sell” the car to the insurance company for an agreed upon value. Or you can keep the vehicle, and you will still receive a settlement, but it’s going to be less than if you give the vehicle up. Keeping the vehicle results in a salvaged title and you likely won’t be able to sell it for much.
What if You Want to “Untotal” your Vehicle?
Once the vehicle’s title has been updated, there’s not much you can do. But in certain situations, you may want your vehicle to not be declared a total loss, and have the insurance company do the repairs. Instances like:
- You just bought the vehicle and the settlement isn’t enough to replace it.
- Your vehicle is unique and essentially irreplaceable.
- You owe more on the car loan than the settlement will pay.
To get insurance to pay for repairs, instead of offering a settlement for the totaled vehicle, you want to justify the value of the car, not try to lower the cost of the repairs. Remember, cheap repairs aren’t good; good repairs aren’t cheap.
Hire a Third Party Appraiser
Most states have a clause that allows you to hire a third party appraiser to justify the value of your vehicle. At your own expense, you can have an appraiser inspect the vehicle more thoroughly than the insurance company would have. The insurance companies don’t have time to inspect every single car, so they rely on data (vehicles of this make and model cost this much in your particular area). This data isn’t always perfect, and may miss upgrades, modifications, or options you have (like leather heated seats).
Finding an appraiser will run you $100 to $500 (maybe more) depending on your vehicle. This appraisal may come back with a number that you like; one that can be submitted to the insurance company to sway the decision. The appraiser may also come back with a number you don’t like, and you just spent a few hundred dollars to get the same outcome.
To prevent frustration, be realistic about what your vehicle is worth. Sentimental value can’t be given a dollar amount, so even though that’s the vehicle your grandma used to drive, its dollar value just isn’t there.
How to Prove the Value of Your Vehicle
If you don’t want to shell out the money for an appraiser just yet, there are ways that you can justify a higher value working directly with your insurance company. Some of them include:
- Prove upgrades and repairs. If you recently replaced the engine, your vehicle is worth a bit more. If you have upgraded the stereo system, replaced seats, added custom wheels, or anything else; prove they were done. Just remember, you won’t get full cash value; $1,000 worth of upgrades doesn’t raise the value by $1,000.
- Regular maintenance isn’t going to help. Insurance doesn’t care that you changed the oil on exactly 3,000 miles for the last 10 years. They don’t care that you washed and waxed it every 6 months.
- Understand the laws. If your appraiser and your insurance company can’t agree, it may go to arbitration (basically a mediator works to come to an agreement). Arbitration isn’t free, and some states require you to pay half the cost.
Come to Big Sky Collision Center in Billings, Montana
Here at Big Sky Collision Center, we strive to be the best auto body repair shop in Montana. Every one of our employees has been trained in leadership, which means they take ownership of their job as though they run the business. The result is that you get expert work done on your vehicle, have it restored to full factory safety standards, and know that you’re driving away with a safe and fully repaired rig.
Need to set up an appointment? Give us a call at 406-259-6328 to schedule an appointment.