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What To Do If Your Car Gets Totaled After A Crash And You Need To Take It To The Junkyard

  • 8 min read
What To Do If Your Car Gets Totaled After A Crash And You Need To Take It To The Junkyard

A car crash can be a scary and stressful event. If your car is totaled and you need to take it to the junkyard for scrap, it’s important to know the steps to properly handle the situation. This guide will walk you through the process so you can get the most value for your totaled car and move on from the accident smoothly.

Getting your car declared a “total loss” means your insurer has decided the cost to repair your damaged vehicle exceeds its actual cash value. This usually happens when the repairs would cost more than around 75% of the car’s pre-accident value. Once totaled, your insurer will pay you the car’s actual cash value so you can use that money toward a new car.

But before the insurance payout comes, you need to go through the proper channels to get your totaled car taken care of correctly. Here’s what to know about taking your car to the junkyard, selling it for scrap, canceling your registration, and more.

What should you do at the scene of a car crash that totals your vehicle?

If you’re in an accident that badly damages your car, there are important steps to take right away:

  • Move your car to a safe place if it’s driveable and pull over out of traffic. Turn on your hazard lights. If not driveable, get to a safe spot away from the vehicles.
  • Call 911 to report the accident, especially if anyone is injured. Provide your exact location and details about the crash.
  • If police do not come to the scene, be sure to file an official report at the police station soon after. This report is crucial for insurance claims.
  • Exchange driver’s license and insurance information with the other driver(s). Get their name, number, policy details.
  • Document the scene with photos of the vehicles’ positions and damage. Take wide shots and close-ups.
  • Get contact information for any witnesses who saw the accident occur. Their accounts could help determine fault later.
  • Call roadside assistance if your vehicle needs to be towed from the scene. Many auto insurance policies include towing services.

How do you know if your car is totaled after an accident?

Your insurer will inspect the vehicle damage and run valuations to determine if it’s a total loss. Generally, here are the criteria they consider:

  • Repair costs exceed the car’s pre-crash value – If your car is worth $5,000 but needs $7,000 in repairs, the insurer will likely deem it a total loss.
  • Major frame or structural damage – Bent or broken frames often mean a total loss since these repairs are so extensive. Same for damage to load-bearing walls.
  • Older cars with high mileage – The older the car and more miles it has, the easier it is to total. Repairs on an aging car may not be worth the value.
  • Airbag deployment – If airbags went off, that indicates significant impact forces and damage. Total loss is much more likely.
  • Water damage from floods – Cars immersed in water often have irreparable damage to complex components. Totaling is common.

If you believe your car is totaled but the insurer disagrees, you can provide documentation from a mechanic detailing the necessary repairs to justify it should be totaled.

What is the process for getting money for your totaled car from insurance?

Here are the typical steps once your insurer confirms your car is a total loss after the accident:

  • Insurer will assess the actual cash value – This is based on factors like your car’s year, make, model, mileage, and pre-crash condition.
  • Deductible will be subtracted – Most policies require you pay your chosen deductible amount before payout.
  • Settlement payment is issued – Insurer will pay the ACV minus deductible so you can put that money toward replacing your car.
  • You give title to the insurance company – Signing over the title transfers ownership to your insurer in exchange for the payout.
  • Car is towed to a salvage yard or auction – Insurer will take the totaled car to sell for parts/scrap and recover some of their costs.

It’s important to understand your coverages and policy limits too. If you didn’t have comprehensive/collision coverage on an older car, you may get little or no payout.

Can you sell your totaled car for scrap instead of transferring to insurance?

Yes, you have the option to retain ownership and sell your totaled car to a junkyard yourself if you prefer. But you’ll need to negotiate a price for the scrap value and handle the selling process.

The benefit is you possibly earn more than the insurer’s settlement. But you have to put in more time/effort arranging towing, finding a buyer, transferring the title, etc. And you won’t get any payout from your own insurer.

Weigh whether retaining the car is worth the extra steps. For many drivers, it’s easier to let the insurer handle it.

How much money can you get for a totaled car from a junkyard?

Junkyards and scrap yards will pay based on the weight and value of recyclable metal in your car. Prices fluctuate with scrap metal market rates, but some general guidelines on junkyard payouts:

  • $100 to $1,000 for newer cars – Late model cars have fewer recyclable metals but higher scrap value overall.
  • $50 to $500 for older cars – The older the car, the less it will be worth as scrap. But some have sought-after parts.
  • Up to $500 for very heavy vehicles – Weight matters. Heavier vehicles like trucks or SUVs can fetch higher scrap prices.
  • $5 to $15 per 100 lbs – Some junkyards pay metal rates by the pound rather than car as a whole.

Remove any personal items and aftermarket parts you want to keep before the car gets towed away. Once at the junkyard, your car will be drained of fluids and fully dismantled.

What paperwork do you need to scrap a totaled car at the junkyard?

To sell your totaled car for scrap or parts, here are the crucial documents:

  • Title – Proves you own the vehicle and can legally sell it. Make sure it’s the original clean title signed over to you.
  • Driver’s license – Provides proof of your identity when signing over the title to the junkyard.
  • Any lien paperwork – If you had a loan on the car, the lender may need to release interest before you can scrap it.

Some states require you officially notify the Department of Motor Vehicles when dismantling a car. Contact your local DMV to check procedures in your state.

And contact your insurance company to cancel any active policy on the car once it’s been junked.

Can you sell a totaled car? What steps are needed?

It is possible to sell your totaled car to try and get more money than the scrap value at a junkyard. But you’ll need to put in some work:

  • Get a salvage title for the car by notifying your state DMV it’s now a “rebuildable” salvage vehicle.
  • Make necessary repairs for the car to pass inspection in your state so the new owner can register it.
  • Advertise the rebuilt salvage car for sale on sites listing damaged or totaled vehicles. Provide details of damage and repairs made.
  • Disclose to any prospective buyer that it had previously been totaled.
  • The new owner will need to apply for a rebuilt/restored title before they can legally drive the repaired car.

This process takes time and money, so determine if it’s worthwhile for you before deciding to sell your totaled car on the open market.

Can you keep a totaled car and repair it yourself?

In some cases, you may be allowed to retain possession of your totaled vehicle and take on DIY repairs. But a few criteria must be met:

  • You own the car outright – If you still have an outstanding loan, the lender won’t allow you to keep a totaled vehicle.
  • DMV issues a salvage title – You’ll need this title before repairing and eventually getting a rebuilt title.
  • Insurance payout is surrendered – You usually must forfeit your total loss payout to keep the car.
  • Damage is repairable – Vehicles with bent frames or structural issues often cannot be repaired.
  • State laws permit retaining totaled cars – Some states prohibit driving a vehicle that an insurer declared totaled.

While it may seem appealing to avoid the junkyard and repair it yourself, be prepared to invest lots of time and money into extensive repairs before it can be roadworthy again.

Key Takeaways

  • Act quickly to document the accident scene if your car is totaled. Get witness info, take photos, file a police report.
  • Insurers determine total loss based on repair costs versus vehicle worth. Major damage also leads to totaling easily.
  • You’ll need to sign over the title to your insurer in exchange for the total loss settlement payout.
  • Research junkyards to get quotes for your car’s scrap value if you choose to sell it yourself.
  • Remove personal items before the junkyard takes the car. Provide title, license and your ID when scrapping.
  • Selling a repaired totaled car involves getting a salvage title first and disclosing the accident history.

Dealing with a totaled car and insurance claims can be a hassle, but knowing this helpful information makes the process much smoother. With the right steps, you can get your car scrapped or sold properly after it’s declared a total loss.

About the author

Marcus Brown is editor-in-chief of The FatMech and is a mechanic with ten years' experience based in London, UK. Having worked for major dealerships for many years, Marcus now works for a local independent garage and has experience working on nearly every make and model of car. Marcus also has a passion for writing and teaching, which is where the idea for The FatMech came from. In his spare time, Marcus enjoys playing golf, doing home renovations and gardening. He lives just outside London with his wife and son.

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