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After car is a total loss: allowed to salvage parts?

I’ve never ‘totaled’ a car, but want to get some first-hand knowledge ahead of time: After the totaled car is towed away from the accident, are car owners allowed access it later to salvage useful parts (stereo, speakers, alarm, battery, tools stored in trunk, tires & spare, rims, 10 gallons of fuel in the tank, seat covers, steering wheel cover, etc.)?

Once the insurance company pays you the claim…THEY, not you, now own what’s left of the car.
It’s no longer yours to get any parts from.
Anything you have in the car that did not come with it new is yours. The spare and its tools stay with the car.

If your insurance or the other party’s insurance is NOT paying out for the total…say you only have liability coverage…the car is still yours and you choose to sell it for scrap, attempt to fix it out of pocket, or part it out.

So, then, should a car owner start stripping as much as possible from his/her car at the scene of the accident?

Some people do . Then they have to answer to the insurance companies.
You should get all YOUR stuff out asap…as it sits in the wrecking yard, all of that is prone to theft. ie; CDs, tools, blankets, baby seat, and all that sort of property.
If you installed a non-o.e. stereo like a Kenwood system, that is yours and should be gotten out before the stippers beat you to it.

Owners Of Totaled Cars Covered By Collision Insurance Should Be Able To Deduct The “Salvage” (Wrecked Car) Value From Their Settlement With The Insurer And Keep The Vehicle To Do As They Please.

I’ve done this 3 different times and in all cases repaired the vehicles myself, put the car back on the road and started the collision insurance again, which is removed after the settlement.

As the settlement/salvage value is negotiable, one needs to do his/her homework when dealing with the insurance adjuster.


“started the collision insurance again,”

None of my insurance companies will/would have issued collision on a car they totaled. Told me that flat out.

In MA, once they inspect the car and slap the sticker on it, they own it. You can remove your loose personal belongings but not something hard mounted like the in dash stereo. They have already factored its salvage value based on what’s installed. The adjuster locked mine up and took the keys when we were done. I got the check when I sent them the title.

You could strip things off before you call them assuming it’s in your possession. I’d find it hard to believe a storage or tow yard would allow you to start removing hard mounted gear. Too many people would strip everything worthwhile and stick them with the nearly worthless hulk and an unpaid fat tow/storage bill.

The cops will not allow you to remove anything from your vehicle that requires a tool or opening the hood. At the wrecking yard, again only loose personal items.

After that, it is between you and your insurance company. If you have full coverage, you can buy the car for the same price as the salvage yards would pay for it and strip it, but then you have to dispose of the carcass yourself and the tow company may require that you have the vehicle towed to your yard for stripping. If you don’t remove it immediately, you start paying storage fees and they do not have to let you strip it in their yard.

If you have replaced the factory audio system with a high priced aftermarket system and you have all the pieces of the original factory system and you do not have additional coverage for the aftermarket system, then the insurance company might allow you to swap the factory system for the aftermarket system, but you have to get permission first. Same for other things like a CAI, but to has to be a whole car when you get through and not downgraded from the original car. I.e., you can’t replace a high dollar stereo system with an el-cheapo because you don’t have the factory deluxe system anymore.

You just get to take your personal property out of the car like tools and CDs. The rest belongs to the insurance company for them to sell. You can buy the car back from them and then do what you want, but if its their car you don’t get to take the fenders, tires, and other parts off the car.

None of my insurance companies will/would have issued collision on a car they totaled. Told me that flat out.

Find another insurance company MA certainly does allow you to re-insure a car that’s been salvaged. It just has to pass a safety inspection. Salvage just means that the vehicle was in an accident where the damage exceeded it’s value. It does NOT mean the vehicle is undrivable. I know one vehicle that was totaled…and the ONLY thing wrong was one of the air-bags went off. The vehicle was worth about $1500 before the accident.

The trouble with people wanting to or being allowed to strip an auto they wrecked ,would be setting a precedent for all the White Trash entrepreneurs and the ilk out there,to make a profit off the insurance companies,around here the copper wire is jerked out of a double wide while its still smoldering,give people a loophole and invaribly someone will take advantage of it-Kevin
P.S-the Fannie Mae repossesions arent as a rule resold to Family members,because of the clever people who could end up owning the property for percentages on the dollar

In NY a totaled car must pass a safety inspection. Not just the annual inspection but a complete inspection of the structural integrity of the car. If deemed roadworthy a registration and new title can be issued that is stamped “Salvaged”. This hurts the resale value but is of no consequence if you want to just keep driving it. If you were able to get full coverage it would only for the value of a salvaged car and the insurance company would want to take photos of the car.

I have bought and put back on the road one of my cars in the past but did not attempt to get anything but liability on it.

Yeah, it probably does make sense to think about this issue beforehand. You might could do some things with proper planning which would make it easier to remove stuff you would like to keep, stash the needed tools in the trunk, etc.

The insurance company owns the car once they pay you a “totaled” settlement. But just b/c they own it doesn’t mean they won’t sell it back to you. No harm asking. The price should be at a substantial discount compared to what they paid you in the settlement. The settlement is what it would cost before the wreck. So they might pay you $10,000, but be perfectly happy to sell it back to you as a wreck for $1,500.

When negotiating such a transaction, remember that the insurance company will continue to want your future insurance business probably, so you can use that as leverage to “convince” them to sell it back to you. Instead of to the recycling yard, which is where they’d sell it instead. You may have to engage in some social engineering, like saying “I’m sure hoping to keep insuring my cars with this company” … wink … wink … hint … hint …

And as mentioned above, it may be more difficult (or maybe even impossible) to insure the car again. So if your plan is to get it back on the road again, ask some questions about what is required to do that first. To the insurance company, and to the DMV.

Over The Years, The 3 Cars That Were Totalled Out From Under Us (Wife & I Hit In Rear On 2 Of Them, While Stopped And Rear Door-1/4 On One, While Stopped), All Had Full Coverage. On Each I Took Cash And Kept The Salvage Wrecked Car.

Since I maintain my old cars fairly well and none had mechanical damage, only body, I fixed all of them. It made more sense than a pig-in-the poke used car replacement. Each time I came out ahead, moneywise, with the blessing of the major insurance company. However, inconvenience, time repairing, etcetera, must be considered.

Each time I was able to reinstate the collision just by rolling by the agent so she could snap photos for the file (So, if it wrecked again, they could see that it was intact beforehand.) The title never changed hands and was never altered - nothing about a salvage title or otherwise. Perhaps this varies by state. We don’t have any kind of inspections for safety, pollution, or anything.

The only reason these cars were “Totals” is because repair expenses were deemed to exceed the value of the car, not because there was something weird about the damage or repairs.

Also, as I’ve said before, the settlement is (and was) negotiable. Owner must do some homework, clipping sale ads for comparable cars and digging up recent receipts vouching for maintainance, new or recent tires, battery, etcetera, to show condition of car as above average.



  1. you are allowed to remove your tools, steering wheel cover and items like that.

  2. if you have an aftermarket stereo (inform the insurance company of your intentions) you can remove it BUT YOU MUST replace it with something similar. Keeping the OE radio is the best thing to do just in case.

  3. the same goes for tires and rims, see #2

  4. if you added a part to your policy like a grille guard for your pickup you cannot take it off and keep it. If you did not add it to your policy it’s yours but again, inform the ins comp.

5.depending on where the vehicle was towed to you might not be able to do this. Depending on state laws and tow company rules. You are allowed to remove RX medicines, RX glasses and items like that. You might not be able to remove music cd’s and items like that.

You cannot remove batteries, tires, speakers, etc.
If you buy the salvage and move it to your property then do what you want with it.


None of my insurance companies will/would have issued collision on a car they totaled. Told me that flat out

Find another insurance company MA certainly does allow you to re-insure a car that’s been salvaged

First off, I never said the state wouldn’t allow you to register and insure a previously totaled car. We’re talking about insurance covering the car for COLLISION after being totaled and repaired. Yes, the potential solution for someone in this position is to look for an alternative insurance company. As I said, none of mine would have. YMMV.

First off, I never said the state wouldn't allow you to register and insure a previously totaled car.

Yes I agree it’s the insurance company that’s stopping you. And that’s why I said find another insurance company. I was pointing out the state isn’t putting any restrictions on the insurance company.

We're talking about insurance covering the car for COLLISION after being totaled and repaired.

And again find another insurance company. Because other insurance companies will sell you collision after being totaled. It just has to be thoroughly inspected. Again the state has no laws preventing this. It’s the insurance company. And NOT ALL insurance companies do this…EVEN IN MA. Geico or Progressive might.

OK, I understand the point you were making better with that explanation.

In the original response i was only warning that insurance might not allow it. Not intended to be all encompassing statement.

Whether or not it makes sense to change just because they wont insure it is probably different for everyone. When I was faced with this situation recently, it wasn’t even a consideration. I have 5 cars, a motorcycle, 2 boats, 2 homes and an umbrella policy through the same company. Aside from the major hassle of changing everything over for one wrecked car, they offered 110% of replacement cost as well as compensation for taxes. Sold!

When I hit a deer with my Riv, it was old enough so that it was totaled. State Farm paid me off, I bought it back for like $80, fixed it and put it back on the road. I always keep collision on my cars so all I had to do was bring it by the agent so they could verify that the car was whole again and no problem. Everything was finished except the pin stripe wasn’t painted yet.

I bought it back for like $80, fixed it and put it back on the road.

I did that twice when I was younger. First car was a Ford F-150 pickup. Rear ended. Totaled by insurance company. I got something like $3000. Bought it back for $200. Found a used bed that was in GREAT condition (except it was red and the rest of the truck was blue). Had a friend who owned a body and frame shop straighten out frame. Put the bed on. Had to also replace one brake line. Doing most of the work myself…cost me less then $2000…gave me a profit of $800 which I put in the bank.