Free Estimate

Should I keep my totaled vehicle?

by Diminished Value Car Appraiser on July 26, 2016

We get this question a lot, the quick answer is NO with a few exceptions.

First off, the only way you can keep your car is if you own it outright. If there’s a lien on your vehicle then you cannot retain it.


The Steps:

  1. Your vehicle is wrecked
  2. The insurance company gives you a repair estimate
  3. Your vehicle is declared a total loss by the insurance company. This usually happens if the repair cost exceeds 75% of the vehicle’s actual cash value (ACV).
  4. The insurance company gives you an offer, this amount is to allow you to replace your vehicle with another, the insurance company will provide you with a vehicle valuation report.
  5. You review the report, if the value offered is unfair, you can contact us for an appraisal. Visit our Total Loss page (link below)
  6. Once the ACV  is settled upon, you can request the retention value of your vehicle. and this is how this works:

Let’s say ACV is $10,000, you request the retention value, the insurance company will contact a salvage auction most likely, Insurance Auto Auction, Manheim or Copart and get the average salvage value of your vehicle.

The salvage value is usually the average of the auction sale price of ALL the vehicles with the same make and model as yours, not accounting for miles or trim level. So if you have a high trim vehicle with low miles or a low trim with high miles the amount is generally the same. The Salvage value is non-negotiable most times.

The salvage value is then deducted from ACV and you receive the retention value of your vehicle.


ACV  = $10,000
Salavage Value = $2,000
Retention Value = $10,000 – $2,000= $8,000
So, you can either take 10 grand in cash or 8 grand and keep your car.

Reasons why you should retain your car:

  • The vehicle is Drivable and fully operational. #1 reason.
  • You can sell it for more than the salvage value. #2 reason.
  • You can get your vehicle repaired for a fraction of the repair estimate. #3 reason.
  • The salvage value is very low
  • Your vehicle is a collectible
  • Your vehicle is unique
  • You just spend a bunch of money on major repairs
  • The vehicle has sentimental value

Reasons you should let your car go:

  • It has a salvage title
  • It may be hard to insure (full coverage)
  • Will NEVER drive the same
  • Will NEVER feel the same
  • Structural Integrity
  • It’s a hassle
  • Disclosure Laws
  • Cannot legally drive it until the repairs are done
  • The salvage to rebuilt process is long and full of red tape
  • You want all the money NOW
  • You have no time

You cannot

Keep in mind, if you keep your vehicle, you will be issued a SALVAGE title from the state and you have to surrender your tags.

How can I Drive my car again?

It depends on your state, but usually this involves the conversion of your Salvage Title to a Salvage/Rebuilt title, different states handle these situations differently, Georgia for example required a complete repair and an inspection, but NC on the other hand only required a VIN check. So, it all depends on your state, Georgia is NOT rebuilt friendly!

When you order an ACV valuation from us, we will be able to tell you what salvage value should be, if the insurance company tells you it’s less, keep your car, if they say it’s more, let them have it!

If you want to sell it and not fix it, we recommend an online auction like eBay.

Total Loss page
Diminished Value

Comments on this entry are closed.

Previous post:

Next post: