My car is (supposedly) totaled. What to do?

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grog
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My car is (supposedly) totaled. What to do?

Post by grog » Tue Mar 31, 2015 8:09 pm

I have a 99 Toyota Corolla with 67K miles. I live in a city and don't drive much. I'm putting 5K miles a year on it and don't rely on it for work. It's been a good car and has had no mechanical problems at all.

A couple weeks ago the car got side swiped (hit and run) and there was damage to the bumper, fender, side mirror, and a bit to the door. I took it to a USAA recommended shop and got the estimate this morning. The mechanics debated whether the door was fixable ("it's close" they said) but ended up deciding it needed a new "skin," though to my inexpert eye it didn't look very badly damaged. They submitted their estimate (I believe it was about $2,500) and USAA very promptly called and said my car was a total loss. They said I have two options:

1) They take the car and give me $3,150.

2) I keep the car and they give me $2,600. If I do this they said I have to get a salvage title with the state.

My gut is saying to go with #2 since that payment will be enough to cover repairs and then I would have my same old car back without any cash expenditure. Option 1 would seem to only make sense if I decided I wanted to take the opportunity to upgrade to something nicer. That is tempting, and but given how little I drive I wouldn't want to spend much more than maybe 10K, and based on a perfunctory online search it doesn't look like 10K gets you much these days.

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rob
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Re: My car is (supposedly) totaled. What to do?

Post by rob » Tue Mar 31, 2015 8:14 pm

Not sure what you mean by option 2... I didn't think you could register a salvage title car in most places.... so you not going to be able to drive on public roads in most cases... no idea if that changes by state (probably in some ways)
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rgs92
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Re: My car is (supposedly) totaled. What to do?

Post by rgs92 » Tue Mar 31, 2015 8:18 pm

$3150 ?? That's a lot of money for that car. I would take the money and run.
(Zip car maybe for you? Just a thought if you have it where you are.)
I wish someone would give me that for my 2000 car (and more expensive) with less miles.
Last edited by rgs92 on Tue Mar 31, 2015 8:22 pm, edited 1 time in total.

dailybagel
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Re: My car is (supposedly) totaled. What to do?

Post by dailybagel » Tue Mar 31, 2015 8:20 pm

I have been in your shoes before: owned a 15-year-old Toyota with relatively few miles for its age.

If I were you, I would fix the worst cosmetic damage, and absolutely fix any safety-related issues (e.g. Side-view mirrors). I would then keep the car for as long as you can. Option #2, all the way.

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Re: My car is (supposedly) totaled. What to do?

Post by randomguy » Tue Mar 31, 2015 8:21 pm

rob wrote:Not sure what you mean by option 2... I didn't think you could register a salvage title car in most places.... so you not going to be able to drive on public roads in most cases... no idea if that changes by state (probably in some ways)
In CA, you need to get inspected after repairs and then you get a titled with Salvage stamped on it. You can then drive wherever you want. Basic serves as a big warning flag to the next people when you go to sell the car.

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Re: My car is (supposedly) totaled. What to do?

Post by LadyGeek » Tue Mar 31, 2015 8:26 pm

Ask your insurance company about salvage title coverage. I'm betting that they won't cover comprehensive: Can you insure a car that has a salvage title?

If you keep the car, fix everything that the "experienced" mechanics wanted to do. They're the experts.

I'd take the money and start shopping. OTOH, you've stated that you don't need a car. Do you have (or need) a loaner now?
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donall
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Re: My car is (supposedly) totaled. What to do?

Post by donall » Tue Mar 31, 2015 8:29 pm

I'd take option #1 and not buy a car. I would rent a car for the few times I need one.

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Re: My car is (supposedly) totaled. What to do?

Post by leonard » Tue Mar 31, 2015 8:31 pm

If someone offered you a car with a salvage title that had been totaled AND it wasn't a car you had already owned - would you buy it?

I'm guessing that any time you have set about buying a car - you haven't started with totaled, salvage title cars. I wouldn't start now. Also, the fact that you once owned this car is a "sunk cost" in as much it pertains to whether you should repurchase it.
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Re: My car is (supposedly) totaled. What to do?

Post by sport » Tue Mar 31, 2015 9:03 pm

I don't understand why you would have to get a salvage title. The car is considered "totaled" by the insurance company only because it would cost them more to fix it than it is worth. This would seem to be between you and the insurance company. If you decide to fix it anyway, it is still your car. Why would this affect the title? There are lots of cars on the road that have been repaired. They certainly all don't have salvage titles.

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Re: My car is (supposedly) totaled. What to do?

Post by Jack FFR1846 » Tue Mar 31, 2015 9:17 pm

Depends on the State. In Massachusetts, you get an "owner retained salvage" title and can keep the car registered.

$2500 sounds exactly right. My son scraped a concrete post with our 09 Fusion and the damage was one rear door and very little around the door. They ended up replacing the entire door with a junkyard unit and repainted the area. Great job with perfect matching. Don't know the value of the Fusion, but we ended up footing the entire bill anyways. The car only had 30k miles on it.

If you don't really use the car, would joining zip car make sense? Or perhaps just rent a car when you need to. $3k will go a long way in rental cars and save you all the insurance costs and everything else.
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LadyGeek
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Re: My car is (supposedly) totaled. What to do?

Post by LadyGeek » Tue Mar 31, 2015 9:38 pm

jsl11 wrote:I don't understand why you would have to get a salvage title. The car is considered "totaled" by the insurance company only because it would cost them more to fix it than it is worth. This would seem to be between you and the insurance company. If you decide to fix it anyway, it is still your car. Why would this affect the title? There are lots of cars on the road that have been repaired. They certainly all don't have salvage titles.
Perhaps, but that's how the law is configured. Not obtaining a salvage title when required by the insurance company is fraud. Here's the info for my state (PA): Salvaged Vehicles in Pennsylvania. Note that the vehicle must pass inspection.

Here's more insight on what possessing a car with a salvage title means: What Is a Salvage-Title Vehicle?
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Re: My car is (supposedly) totaled. What to do?

Post by freebeer » Tue Mar 31, 2015 10:27 pm

Would you buy a salvage title 99 Toyota Corolla for $550 with sales tax waived, with the stated damage? I would, for sure, so I would go for option 2.

sport
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Re: My car is (supposedly) totaled. What to do?

Post by sport » Tue Mar 31, 2015 10:29 pm

LadyGeek,
Thank you for the explanation. I need to look up the rules for my state.

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Re: My car is (supposedly) totaled. What to do?

Post by SimonJester » Tue Mar 31, 2015 10:42 pm

Couple of things to consider, can you find a 99 corolla with 67K miles in your area for $3,150? If not make them show you where they find one for sell, you might get them to come up on the price if you take either option.

Is your corolla burning any oil? How low does it get between oil changes more then 1 qt? Some of the 98 to 02 corolla have oil consumption issues due to various reasons. These begin showing up around your millage, if yours if burning oil eventually it will need an engine rebuild if that is the case take option #1.

Beyond that I would take option #2 and drive it until it falls apart, if the door still operates I wouldn't fix it. You can purchase a replacement corolla mirror for as low as $20, its three bolts once you pop off the trim and takes about 10 minutes to replace.
"They who can give up essential liberty to obtain a little temporary safety, deserve neither liberty nor safety." - Benjamin Franklin

JGoneRiding
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Re: My car is (supposedly) totaled. What to do?

Post by JGoneRiding » Tue Mar 31, 2015 11:24 pm

my state allows the original owner to get a title reissued as."salvaged" without having to prove its been rehabilitated

jordank
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Re: My car is (supposedly) totaled. What to do?

Post by jordank » Wed Apr 01, 2015 12:51 am

If you are ok with driving a "less-than-pefect" vehicle - #2 all the way! The insurance company just gave you most of the car's value in cash, and let you keep the car! I would fix any safety-related stuff (mirrors?), and drive it, period.

As a guy who maintains his own vehicles, as well as restores really old cars for fun - a Toyota Corolla is one of the most reliable, fuel efficient, and functional vehicle you can buy. (note, it should have a timing CHAIN, not a timing BELT, which means no $1,000+ expense when ~100k miles rolls around). 67k miles is nothing, I have double that on my primary daily vehicle, and aiming for 250,000 miles at least. Given that you don't rely on it for daily work commute, and only use it from time to time - you're basically looking at having your own car (whose history you know), for a total of about $550 + a couple side mirrors (probably $20 each at your local junk yard). For an extra piece of mind, get 24/7 roadside assistance. If it does end up developing any issues - the most you are risking is $550. You can always donate it to NPR (they will pick it up for free, sell it at an auction, and allow for a tax write off).

While salvage title 'looks' bad - it is only bad if you ever intend on selling the car. Most likely, you will just drive it until it falls apart, and then dispose of it. For insurance purposes (as others have pointed out) - it CAN make a difference if you are looking to insure the vehicle itself, but at this point - I would only get insurance that covers anyone else's property. If you are ever in an accident - do you really care if the insurance company does not pay you for your 500 dollar wrecked car?

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Re: My car is (supposedly) totaled. What to do?

Post by texaspapas » Wed Apr 01, 2015 1:12 am

Hello? How about option #3... Take the money, don't repair the car, pocket the cash for expenses/EF/debt/taxable/whatever, and drive the car with a little character around until it croaks. This is legal as they're paying you for your loss of value (to the car). What you do with that payment is totally up to you. Just a thought...
I've done this before, but there was no issue with salvage title, so check that out...
It's also very freeing with regards to anxiety over general car damage stuff, like door dings, minor fender-benders with the uninsured, chipped glass, etc.

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Re: My car is (supposedly) totaled. What to do?

Post by dolphinsaremammals » Wed Apr 01, 2015 7:04 am

texaspapas wrote:Hello? How about option #3... Take the money, don't repair the car, pocket the cash for expenses/EF/debt/taxable/whatever, and drive the car with a little character around until it croaks. This is legal as they're paying you for your loss of value (to the car). What you do with that payment is totally up to you. Just a thought...
I've done this before, but there was no issue with salvage title, so check that out...
It's also very freeing with regards to anxiety over general car damage stuff, like door dings, minor fender-benders with the uninsured, chipped glass, etc.
My car got body damage during a move, but it had no effect on its driveability. I kept the insurance money and drove it for years until eventually I had the body damage fixed when it was repainted. No one ever mentioned anything about a "salvage title." Maybe a little chat with the insurance company is in order about do they really need to require this or not. I can see if the car got major damage that really could never be made right, but these are minor parts we're talking about.

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Re: My car is (supposedly) totaled. What to do?

Post by bottlecap » Wed Apr 01, 2015 8:21 am

Something similar happened to me about 5 years back. The estimate is based on new parts, you might be able to get it done more cheaply. I received about $2,800, bought the car from the insurance company for $500, fixed it for $1,800 and pocketed the extra $500. I still drive it today.

Once totaled, it will be considered salvage, which took the DMV a bit of convincing to register it because it showed up as salvage in their computer, but I've had no issue since. The salvage issue isn't a big deal because I don't plan on selling and, if I do, I'll just explain it. It won't have much more value than salvage anyway! I still had the option of comprehensive in my state, too.

So if you like the car, shop around for a shop and fix it. If you think its time for a new one, take the cash and do a different sort of shopping...

JT

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Re: My car is (supposedly) totaled. What to do?

Post by sunny_socal » Wed Apr 01, 2015 9:32 am

What's with everyone suggesting he rent a car? He drives 5000 miles a year - that's 100 miles per week! Rental would be at least $50/week, or $2500/year. Not an option, IMO.

The best option is #2, but don't even get it fixed except for the mirror. You'll be driving a free car, with a great nest egg for the "new car" fund :)

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Re: My car is (supposedly) totaled. What to do?

Post by takeshi » Wed Apr 01, 2015 9:41 am

grog wrote:though to my inexpert eye it didn't look very badly damaged.
In addition to the recommendation above on looking into salvage titles in your jurisdiction, insurance for a salvage title vehicle, etc have an another expert look at it and ensure that they understand that you're footing the bill. Often a shop will handle things differently when they know that insurance is paying for the repairs versus when an individual is paying. Instead of new parts they can look at used, for example. They'll also be less likely to look for every possible billable item whether or not it significantly impacts the safety and integrity of the vehicle. If you're not qualified to assess the damage and what it takes to get a vehicle safely on the road again then don't rely on your expertise alone. What's visible isn't always all of the damage. What may seem minor to the untrained eye may not be minor. Some parts can just be replaced. Others are welded to the frame and require more work to repair.

A salvage title will affect resale but given the age and miles it may not matter much anyway. You definitely want to equip yourself with as much information as possible to make your decision.

You can also work with insurance on the value of the vehicle if you can find supporting evidence of recent comparable sales that demonstrate that the value of your vehicle is higher than stated by the insurance company. The insurance company may not budge at all but it can be worth a shot.

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Re: My car is (supposedly) totaled. What to do?

Post by surfstar » Wed Apr 01, 2015 9:53 am

#2 and get a shop to use junkyard parts/etc to just get it fine mechanically and never worry about washing it again.
that car has lots of life left

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Re: My car is (supposedly) totaled. What to do?

Post by William4u » Wed Apr 01, 2015 10:01 am

#2 for sure, as long as it is safe. I actually own a 99 corolla with 150k miles, and it runs like a top!

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Re: My car is (supposedly) totaled. What to do?

Post by LadyGeek » Wed Apr 01, 2015 3:40 pm

texaspapas wrote:Hello? How about option #3... Take the money, don't repair the car, pocket the cash for expenses/EF/debt/taxable/whatever, and drive the car with a little character around until it croaks. This is legal as they're paying you for your loss of value (to the car). What you do with that payment is totally up to you. Just a thought...
I've done this before, but there was no issue with salvage title, so check that out...
It's also very freeing with regards to anxiety over general car damage stuff, like door dings, minor fender-benders with the uninsured, chipped glass, etc.
The OP needs to be very sure that the car is in a safe condition. If it won't pass state inspection and there's a subsequent accident needing liability coverage, things are going to get very complicated.

The mechanic is the best judge of that.
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Re: My car is (supposedly) totaled. What to do?

Post by Johnny Thinwallet » Wed Apr 01, 2015 4:11 pm

grog wrote:I have a 99 Toyota Corolla with 67K miles. I live in a city and don't drive much. I'm putting 5K miles a year on it and don't rely on it for work. It's been a good car and has had no mechanical problems at all.

A couple weeks ago the car got side swiped (hit and run) and there was damage to the bumper, fender, side mirror, and a bit to the door. I took it to a USAA recommended shop and got the estimate this morning. The mechanics debated whether the door was fixable ("it's close" they said) but ended up deciding it needed a new "skin," though to my inexpert eye it didn't look very badly damaged. They submitted their estimate (I believe it was about $2,500) and USAA very promptly called and said my car was a total loss. They said I have two options:

1) They take the car and give me $3,150.

2) I keep the car and they give me $2,600. If I do this they said I have to get a salvage title with the state.

My gut is saying to go with #2 since that payment will be enough to cover repairs and then I would have my same old car back without any cash expenditure. Option 1 would seem to only make sense if I decided I wanted to take the opportunity to upgrade to something nicer. That is tempting, and but given how little I drive I wouldn't want to spend much more than maybe 10K, and based on a perfunctory online search it doesn't look like 10K gets you much these days.
What about option #3, which is that they actually fix your car and you get your car back repaired? Or option #4, which is they give you more than $3,150?

If either of those are an options you'd like, then I'd suggest fighting for it. First thing I'd suggest is researching your geographic area to determine if you'd be able to replace a 15-year-old Corolla that was in good mechanical condition and had low miles for $3,150. Chances are you'll find similar type vehicles being listed for higher dollar values. I just looked in my local market (LCOL area), and there are several 15-year-old Corollas on the market for more than $4,000. One is even listed for more than $5,000. And these are all higher mileage vehicles. If $3,150 is not enough money to replace a similar vehicle for your market, then you have a lot of evidence to fight for more money.

Insurance companies love to low ball their valuations. Do the research, determine a more accurate market value and you might be able to tell them to pound sand on their $3,150 offer.

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Re: My car is (supposedly) totaled. What to do?

Post by PowDay » Wed Apr 01, 2015 4:44 pm

Take the $2,600, and then go home and list it on craigslist for $2,500.

Then take the $5k, and go buy a used economy car that is 10 years newer.

grog
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Re: My car is (supposedly) totaled. What to do?

Post by grog » Wed Apr 01, 2015 5:53 pm

Thanks for all the responses. I appreciate it.

Regarding the offers, I should have mentioned that I had a $1,000 deductible that lowered the amounts. So 3,150 actually means they priced it at more like 4,150 (grossed up for sales tax). They sent me a fairly detailed report with some comparison listings, several high mileage 2000 models with adjustments for all the features, etc. They estimate the salvage/scrap value at only around $500 and that is basically the difference between the two offers.

Also, yes, the original ~$2,500 estimate was to restore the car to its perfect pre-accident condition. That is apparently a non-negotiable standard if you go through insurance. Any repairs I do on my own though could be done to a less exacting standard.

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