Can I Sell a Totaled Car?

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How to Sell a Car That’s Been Totaled – With or Without Insurance

How to Sell a Car That’s Been Totaled – With or Without Insurance

Jun 30, 2023

It’s a common term used after a car accident, but do you know what it means when a vehicle is considered “totaled?

A totaled car essentially defines a vehicle which is damaged so excessively that the costs to repair it to a state of functionality exceed its actual cash value. In other words, the damaged car is deemed a “total loss” by the auto insurance company.

What is California’s Total Loss Law?

In the Golden State, the “total loss” laws are defined in California Vehicle Code § 544 and § 11515. Under the law, a “total loss salvage vehicle” can be either of the following:

  • A vehicle, other than a nonrepairable vehicle, of a type subject to registration that has been wrecked, destroyed, or damaged, to the extent that the owner, leasing company, financial institution, or the insurance company that insured or is responsible for repair of the vehicle, considers it uneconomical to repair the vehicle and because of this, the vehicle is not repaired by or for the person who owned the vehicle at the time of the event resulting in damage.
  • A vehicle that was determined to be uneconomical to repair, for which a total loss payment has been made by an insurer, whether or not the vehicle is subsequently repaired, if prior to or upon making the payment to the claimant, the insurer obtains the agreement of the claimant to the amount of the total loss settlement, and informs the client that, pursuant to subdivision (a) or (b) of Section 11515, the total loss settlement must be reported to the Department of Motor Vehicles, which will issue a salvage certificate for the vehicle.

When you hear about a car being a “total loss,” certain terms and phrases are often included, such as:

  • Total loss: The car accident/motor vehicle collision has damaged the vehicle completely beyond repair. Repairing said damage to the car would be greater than what the vehicle is now worth post-crash.
  • Actual cash value (ACV): The value of your vehicle before the damage caused by the accident is known as its “actual cash value.” By law, your insurance provider has to adhere to the ACV of your car should you choose to sell it back after being totaled.
  • Total loss threshold: This term represents legal standing with your auto insurance company. When your insurer considers your damaged car “totaled,” it’s officially eligible for a salvage certificate from the California Department of Motor Vehicle (DMV).
  • Cost of repair: This refers to the expenses you’ll incur for any professionals required to repair your damaged car and return it to a functioning condition.
  • Salvage value of the vehicle: How much can you get by selling your damaged car in its current state? That amount is deemed the car’s “salvage value.”

What Should I Do With My ‘Totaled’ California Car?

After a car accident leading to a totaled vehicle, you actually have a number of options to secure some form of financial compensation:

  1. File a lawsuit against the at-fault or negligent driver for financial compensation and recovery of physical/property damages.
  2. File an insurance claim with your auto insurance provider or the at-fault party’s auto insurance provider – if you were involved in a hit-and-run, file an uninsured motorist claim (UM claim).
  3. Donate the totaled car to charity or an auction (potentially receiving a tax write-off for its value).
  4. Pay for the repairs to your car “out-of-pocket” in an effort to restore it to a drivable condition.
  5. Sell your totaled car for cash, scrap, or parts.

Before you decide what to do with your totaled California car, it’s recommended that you have the vehicle appraised by a professional. Additionally, if you feel your rights are being taken advantage of or you may not be able to receive the financial compensation you deserve for the damaged vehicle, you can always contact the personal injury attorneys at Dordulian Law Group (DLG) by calling 866-GO-SEE-SAM.

If you choose to sell your totaled vehicle, there are certain steps you should take.

How to Sell a Car That’s Been Totaled

  • Step I – Determine That the Vehicle is Actually Totaled: As stated earlier, your car insurance company will have to inspect the damaged vehicle and determine that it is indeed totaled – that the cost to repair it is greater than its actual value. From there, you can move on to step two.
  • Step II – Officially Salvage the Car: Once your insurance company has deemed your damaged car a total loss, it will be considered a salvage vehicle. In some cases, you can then sell that damaged/totaled car directly to your insurance provider. However, if you choose this route, once the car insurance provider pays you, they then own the vehicle and have the legal right to do with it as they wish.
  • Step III – Obtain Your California Salvage Certificate: Once your car is considered a salvage vehicle, you can also take it to the California DMV and apply for a brand new title. You can get a salvage title instead of the old title from the motor vehicle department, allowing you the option to sell the totaled car on the private market.
  • Step IV – Sell Your Totaled Car for Maximum Cash: After obtaining a salvage certificate, you now have the power to sell your totaled car for cash. One way to do so is by taking the damaged vehicle to a dealership – many often pay cash for totaled cars. There are actually some dealerships which only handle purchasing totaled cars for various re-selling purposes – parts, auctions, etc.

Contact DLG’s Glendale, California, Car Accident Lawyers

When a vehicle is totaled in a car accident, serious and even catastrophic injuries can occur. If the other driver was at-fault, you could be eligible to recover a cash settlement for things like:

  • Pain and suffering
  • Hospital bills
  • Medical care costs (past and future)
  • Emotional trauma
  • Physical damage to your vehicle
  • Punitive damages

Ready to file a claim and pursue justice through a financial damages award? Our expert attorneys are available online or by phone now.

By contacting DLG’s experienced team of Los Angeles car accident attorneys at 866-GO-SEE-SAM for a free consultation, we’ll be able to ensure that your right to justice through maximum financial compensation is protected.


Go See Sam