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Do I Have My Car Totaled?

I have been driving for 14 years and never had an accident, so once I turned 30, it all caught up with me.

On March 31, a car ran into my 2001 Honda Civic LX manual transmission on the highway. It ran up the left side of the car, but all of the damage was body work. Ended up getting a new door, drivers’ side mirror and bumper.

Not even 24 hours after getting the car back from repairs, on May 16, I was headed to work and a driver ran a red light and hit me! This time on the passenger side and in the rear panel. The estimate includes another new bumper, but also a new wheel, tail light, and hub and bearing, upper control arm and knuckle.

My car has 87,296 miles on it.

The insurance company wants to fix it, but I’ve heard I should have it totaled instead. Suggestions?

Thank you so much!

Whether it is totaled or not isn’t really your call, it’s the insurance company’s. All you can do is insist that the unibody be checked to ensure there isn’t any additional damage that wasn’t included in the estimate. The fact that the hit was hard enough to damage a hub, a control arm, and a steering knuckle leads me to believe the car may be “sprung”.

You can take the settlement check and buy another car with it instead of getting your Civic fixed, I suppose, but look carefully at the math.

You have no choice. It’s up to the insurance company. Almost the same thing happened to my 84yo mother-in-law (only her accidents were HER fault). She ran over a curb and did about $3000 in damage to her vehicle. One week later her friend drives her to pick her car up. She pulls out of the bodyshop and right through a red-light and is hit by a car causing another $5k. The police revoked her license later that day before she killed someone.

You’re stuck, unless you play some games. First, insist on OEM Honda parts. They will be more expensive than aftermarket parts. You should also be very picky when the car is returned. Make sure that every detail is fixed. No wierd noises, everything works right, and the body and suspension are aligned properly. You should always make sure the car is repaired correctly, but the OEM stuff could fall under the gamesmanship catagory. Others here will disagree and say that OEM parts are mandatory. So maybe they really aren’t games after all.

First, insist on OEM Honda parts

Check your contract with your insurance company. I don’t know ANY insurance company that doesn’t have a clause that states they will authorize the use of aftermarket or used parts ONLY. The use of new OEM parts will only be used if aftermarket parts or used parts are NOT available. This has been the trend in the Insurance industry for some time now. One insurance company I consulted to who added this type of clause to their policies…also had MILLIONS invested in 2-3 of the companies that made aftermarket parts.

If the car can be competently fixed, you really don’t have a legitimate reason to want it totaled. When you get it back after it is repaired, check it thoroughly and if there is anything that doesn’t work as well as it did before, take it back to the shop. Either the shop or the insurance company should give you a rental car to drive while they correct anything they missed.

It’s going to be the other driver’s insurance company footing the bill.

Doesn’t matter…You still can’t INSIST on OEM parts. They do NOT have honor that.

Yes, you can insist on OEM parts.

I am and have been in the insurance business for 20 years. The company I work for has never required someone to use aftermarket parts unless they choose to do so or OEM isn’t available. The last ruckus we had over OEM v’s aftermarket was a bumper on a 70 something model pickup. For those not old enough to remember, at that time, pickup trucks came without rear bumpers, they were an option. Dealers at the time would contract with a local parts store and would have a display of bumpers in the showroom, you picked one and they mounted it. Some of these bumpers would be stamped with the dealership’s name such as Bubba’s Chevrolet. The guy in this case had one of those aftermarket bumpers and one like it was no longer available. We offered to let him choose whatever bumper he wanted out of the JC Whitney catalogue but he insisted on what he said was an OEM GM bumper.

If you are unfortunate enough to be insured by a company that wants to pull garbage like put used or inferior parts on your vehicle and you are using your company to fix the car, you are going to be stuck with what they tell you. Best advice, cheaper isn’t always better.

However, if he is the Claimant he has much more in the way of rights than the companies own insured.

First off, the claimant is not bound to accept the company’s preferred body shop and or estimate. They can choose their own body shop and obtain their own estimate and opinion of the vehicle’s repairability. Yes, the company may buck on it and probably won’t like it, but that’s your right. If both your and their chosen shop says the car is fixable, then it’s fixable, and that’s what the company is going to pay for. They may argue over paying for OEM v’s aftermarket and salvage parts, but they owe to fix it.

In some states, he may also be eligible for diminished value of the vehicle. I would argue the diminished value goes up if they start putting salvage parts on my vehicle.


You do have a say if your car is totaled or not IF it is a borderline total.

Depending on the insurance comp. you have no say if the car gets OEM, LKQ, or aftermarket. If your policy states they use aftermarket and you insist upon OEM the insurance company will explain that you would in fact pay the difference in the parts. Even if you are the claimant (as in this case) if the ins. comp. uses non OEM that is what will go on. This can be changed sometimes depending on the yr/make/model but your car is 7 yrs old. The only way to get all OEM is if there is no LKQ or aftermarket to be found.

Just because you have suspension damage does not mean the body is “sprung”.

I will have to disagree with your, at least in part. When someone ran a stop sign and hit my car, their insurance company wanted to total the car. I asked them not to and just have it repaired. They agreed and I was never sorry, I but another 80,000 miles on it. They may have been more agreeable because my daughter had been injured in the accident and did not want any more liability from that, I don’t know, but if someone wants to have their car repaired not totaled, they should ask the insurance company that is making the decision.

I’d like for you to show me where a claimant is bound to accept inferior or used parts because that’s what the insurance company wants to do?

State Farm has pulled that time and time again on my customers and we’ve ended up paying for the repair and subrogating it and won every time. The claimant is not bound by any contract language in an insurer’s policy because the claimant is just that, a claimant and not a party to the contract. An adjuster would be in la la land to think that he/she can force a claimant to use the company’s shop or inferior parts. Yes, they can do it on their own insureds, because their insured signed the contract and is a party to it, the claimant is not.


As a software engineer I spent 10+ years of my career consulting to the insurance industry. I was the architect and lead designer for 2 of the top 10 insurance companies designing their claims systems…“You want to talk about a completely screwed up way of doing business”.

Yes, the company may buck on it and probably won’t like it, but that’s your right.

It’s your right to complain…but to take it to the NEXT step may require getting a lawyer or taking them to the states insurance bureau. When you’re in a accident you have several choices…You can take the car to your OWN bodyman who can give you an estimate to fix. If you choose you’re own bodyman you’ll need more then 1 (most of the time 3) estimates. The insurance company then will weigh this with what the car is worth and they may total it. You may ask the estimators to estimate using OEM parts…and the insurance may reject it…They may come back with their own estimate based on used or aftermarket parts.

This is where the hassle begins. How do you fight this. Here in NH where the state insurance board is made up of members of the insurance industry…it’s ALMOST IMPOSSIBLE to fight it. So now you get a lawyer. That will cost you a LOT more then the difference in getting it fixed and getting it totaled.

The other option is to take the money the insurance company gives you to get it fixed…and then sell it to a junk yard and buy yourself another vehicle. You do NOT have to get the vehicle fixed. It’s up to you.

Just because you have suspension damage does not mean the body is “sprung”.

True, but I would want the car checked carefully to be sure before going along with the insurance company’s findings.

BTW, it’s good to see insurance professionals weigh in on this topic.

sometimes an individual’s perception of whether a car should be totaled is based too much on personal attachment to the car versus an analysis of the true cost to repair vs the cash value of the car.

you can’t demand to have your car totaled.

you CAN work up a case to increase the repair costs to the point that it becomes close to the “total” price. but this is only after you have to argue, and debate with the insurance co. get two other estimates. it may take three or four estimates to get two higher ones (just dont give the lower ones to the ins co.) BUT, the ins won’t total it, until and unless the repair costs reaches a percentage of the value of the car. if you can get higher estimates which meet this magical cost threshold, then you can argue with them.

IF your car gets totaled: your only leverage is using the phrase replacement value, versus cash value. you would not get replacement value for your car, but you will get cash value. they are two different prices. BUT, since you got hit by another motorist, you can accept the cash offer, and let the other insurance co know you will take them to court for the difference. they will pay up, but you must be firm, and keep focused in your argument. although they may not pay you the difference directly, they can negotiate some options. some options to ponder: taking the cash, AND keeping the car with the original title. (then you can sell the car for parts, or to be rebuilt) or have the insurance repair the car, and then selling it. or repair it and keep it.

You are correct, if the car is fixable, it’s fixable and not a total. I have over the years seen people want to fix a vehicle that was a total. I have infact done that myself. In 2003 A State Farm insured ran a redlight and hit my 1995 F250. At 8 years old and quite a bit of “Work” the truck wasn’t worth a whole lot. However, the frame wasn’t bent, and the front end was ok. The driver’s fender driver’s bed side were trash as was the hood. The cab was shoved over about 2" on the frame. The total cost to repair was roughly equal to the value of the truck. I could have sold State Farm the Truck or forced them to fix it either one. I chose to have it fixed since there wasn’t any serious damage other than body to the truck, and I didn’t want to shell out for a new one at the time. No insurance company is going to pay to “Replace” your vehicle. They are going to pay what it books for. The person that hit you is responsible to restore your damage not provide improvements. Restore means pay for the repair or pay the value of the destroyed item. A used vehicle is just that, used. It’s not worth new.

It was kind of interesting dealing with the situation. They knew that I knew what they could and couldn’t try to pull, and I knew what they would like to do. The company I work for is as large to slightly larger than State Farm in Kentucky, however, it’s a Kentucky only company. We do not, never have, and so far as I know have no intention of using a preferred shop. Although we do have appraisers who can write an estimate, we still use the get 2 estimates from the shops of your choice, and we pay on the cheaper one. We deal with and are major customers of most of the body shops in the area. We’ve been around the block enough to know which body shops are trying to pull stuff and which aren’t. I did tell the adjuster to please feel free to select the shop for me that way I could say, “I didn’t pick it, State Farm did” when one of my buddies asked, “How come you didn’t use my shop.” That aside, if I wasn’t in the position I’m in, I’d definitely pick the shop I wanted to fix mine not necessarily the one they wanted. In the negotiations of what they are fixing, what they are replacing, and such I’d want an estimate and a shop on my side to make sure I wasn’t getting shorted. I would compare their estimate and mine. For example, are they wanting to repair a fender where my guy wants to replace it? Is their fender OEM, Salvage, or Aftermarket. What are they planning on painting? What’s my guy planning on painting? Are they guaranteeing the repair? Who is? The company or the body shop? For how long?

In my case, when I got the truck back from the body shop, the hanger for the clutch pedal was screwed up and the truck wouldn’t start because the clutch pedal wouldn’t go in far enough to release. The body shop noted it and tried to tell me the clutch was out. There was actually a bulge in the floorboard that was causing some of the problem, but the hanger itself was out of wack as well. The body shop had been starting the truck with a screwdriver to the solenoid. I called the adjuster and told her the situation and that I was going to take it to my regular mechanic and get it fixed. I had to buy a hanger bracket from Ford, new bushing and we took a BFH to the floorboard. They didn’t like it much, but they didn’t argue either. It seems like it added about $400 to the bill for the parts and labor. They did look at it after it was fixed. They would have preferred I made their “Preferred Body Shop” fix the problem. I wasn’t satisfied with the body shop’s intelligence level not figuring the problem out and starting my truck with a screwdriver for a week. I felt more comfortable with my regular mechanic handling a mechanical issue.