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Keeping a Totaled Car in Florida: Legal Considerations and Guidelines

Car Accidents

If your vehicle was severely damaged in a car accident in Florida, your insurance company may deem your vehicle a “total loss.” This is becoming increasingly common, as modern vehicles are becoming increasingly costly to repair. What does it mean if your vehicle is declared a total loss? If your vehicle is totaled, can (and should) you keep it? Here’s what you need to know:

Legal Considerations for Keeping a Totaled Car in Florida

Generally speaking, you have the option to keep your vehicle if it is declared a total loss. Once your insurance company determines that your car has been totaled, it will give you the option to either:

  • Transfer the title for your totaled vehicle to the insurance company; or,
  • Keep your totaled vehicle.

Why might you want to keep your totaled vehicle? In some cases, even a vehicle that has been totaled is still drivable—or can be fixed for less than the insurance company’s estimate. Or, if you know how to work on cars, you may be able to fix it yourself. While many people think of a mangled vehicle when they hear the word, “totaled,” the insurance companies base their decisions strictly on the cost of the repairs that need to be made. Oftentimes, it is surprising to see just how little visible damage can result in a car, truck or SUV being declared a total loss.

But, before you decide to keep your totaled vehicle, there are some important factors for you to consider. Some of the key legal considerations for keeping a totaled vehicle after a car accident in Florida include:

The Amount of Your Insurance Payout Will Be Reduced By the Salvage Value of Your Totaled Car

If you decide to transfer the title for your totaled vehicle to your insurance company, the insurance company will be able to sell your vehicle for its salvage value. This allows your insurance company to recoup some of its costs.

On the other hand, if you decide to keep your totaled vehicle, your insurance company can’t sell it. But, your insurance company is still going to make sure that it pays as little as possible. To do this, it will deduct the salvage value from your payout. This is why people often say that they “bought their vehicle back from the insurance company” after it was totaled.

You Will Need to Apply for a Salvage Title

Once a car has been totaled in an accident, it is no longer eligible for a normal vehicle title. After you get your vehicle back, you will need to apply for a salvage title (or “rebuilt title”). Not only are there costs involved in obtaining a salvage title, but vehicles with salvage titles are also generally more expensive to insure.

Your Totaled Car Could Have Serious Safety Issues

It is also important to keep in mind that your totaled car could have serious safety issues. Severe damage from a car accident can create issues that both increase your risk of losing control unexpectedly and increase your risk of being injured in a collision. While you might be able to get your car fixed (or you might be able to fix it yourself), you will need to be especially careful to make sure that it is safe for the road.

If You Have a Car Loan, You Will Still Have to Pay it Off

If you have an auto loan, your lender will not forgive your loan because your car was totaled. You will still have to pay off the balance, and this could take a significant portion of the funds you receive from your insurance company. As you think about whether it is worth “buying your vehicle back” and then fixing it, you should be sure to take into account your loan balance (if any) as well.

It Can Be Harder to Sell a Car with a Salvage title

Finally, it can be harder to sell a car with a salvage title. Some dealerships simply will not buy a car with a salvage title, and those that are willing to buy your car will expect a steep discount. Your private buyer pool will be much more limited, too, and savvy buyers will also expect to pay much less than fair market value.

Guidelines for Keeping a Totaled Car

With all of this in mind, is it worth keeping a totaled car? Ultimately, the answer to this question is up to you. Are you comfortable with the repairs that need to be made, and are you comfortable with the costs and risks involved? If so, then keeping your totaled car might be a good option. If not, then you will most likely want to let your insurance company sell your car and get as much money from your insurance company as possible.

If you decide to keep your totaled car, here are some guidelines to consider:

  • Accepting Payment from Your Insurance Company – Before you accept payment from your insurance company, make sure it is paying the full compensation you deserve.
  • Getting Your Car Inspected – Once you get your car repaired (or repair it yourself), you will need to get it inspected at an authorized service center.
  • Getting Your Car Insured – Before you can drive your salvaged car on the road, you will need to get it insured.  
  • Applying for a Rebuilt Title – After getting your car inspected and insured, you will need to apply for a rebuilt title.
  • Putting Safety First – While you may be anxious to get your rebuilt car back on the road, it is important to always put safety first.

Discuss Your Options with a Florida Car Accident Lawyer at Searcy Denney for Free

Do you have questions about what to do after a car accident in Florida? If so, we can help, and we invite you to get in touch. To request a free consultation with a Florida car accident lawyer at Searcy Denney, please call 800-780-8607 or contact us online today.

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