"The Insurance Company is Going to Total My Car, What Does That Mean?"
We will explain what it means and what to do when it happens.
Whether the accident was your fault, or the other parties, if the damages are extensive you will need to get the vehicle towed. Always check in with the shop of your choosing (as it is Oregon Law you can choose where your car is towed to and repaired) before getting your vehicle towed in. If you are the claimant, you are entitled to a rental car, paid for by the insurance company. If you are at fault, you will have to use your own rental insurance or find alternate transportation.
Be sure to take photos of your car, the other car(s) involved and the accident scene. Always pick up the damaged parts from the accident, put it in your car and the body shop will handle them.
If the damages end up being over $1,500, then you will need to file an Accident Report within 72 hours.
When the vehicle gets towed in, and the insurance company is aware the vehicle is here, we will begin tearing-down the vehicle. Meaning we take off all of the obvious damaged parts to see what lies underneath. And that is usually where we find out cars are a total loss.
The insurance company comes out and writes an estimate once we have the vehicle torn down. If it is starting to look like a total, then they usually finish out the estimate, and then run a value. Running a value means the insurance company will take the condition of the vehicle (interior, exterior, mechanical..etc), and the mileage and compare it to what other comparable vehicles in the area are worth, and if the repairs are 75% of that value, your car is a TL. For numbers sake, let's just say your car is worth $10,000, if the repairs are $7,500, then your vehicle is totaled.
If your vehicle is totaled, then we are reimbursed for the work that we have put into the vehicle (tear-down, frame time, tow bills..etc) and a tow truck will tow it to an auction where the insurance company will try to get some of their money back. You will be paid the "Real Market Value" for your car if you own it outright. If you don't own it free and clear, you will be paid the difference between what you owe and what your vehicle is worth. If you owe more than the vehicle is worth, and you don't have "gap coverage", you will end up owing that difference, same case for a leased vehicle. So we recommend going to your finance company and getting covered.
Be sure you have a good idea what your car is worth before you talk to the insurance company. Do some research of what other vehicles like yours are worth, keep all your receipts from services, and any upgrades done to the vehicle (stereo, trailer hitch..etc). They will always try to low ball you, so never accept their first offer.
You also have the option to buy the vehicle back if you own it outright. If you choose to do so, the insurance company will pay you for the "Real Market Value", minus the salvage value. Which is what they were looking to get out of the vehicle at the auction. The vehicle will now have a "salvaged" or "rebuilt" title after you buy it back, so for resale value, it might not be worth it to buy it back to flip it and sell it.
Most total losses we handle, people just gather their belongings from the car and say their goodbyes, and go car shopping.