Salvage value of totaled car

I was driving my son’s 2000 volvo and we were rear ended in CA. The insurance company totaled the car even though it still runs fine; the rear lights and trunk were smashed. We have been fighting with the insurance co about value of car,and now salvage value. Any advice about salvage value?

Also where do I find info about the cost effectiveness of maintaining an older car versus getting a new/er one? My son changes the oil regularly and maintains it, but he lives in Hollywood and is getting advice from friends to get a newer car. I say he should keep this one as it is dependable.

The only time it makes $$ sense to trade an older car for a newer one is when major repairs start costing a lot every month or so (as in hundreds of $$). Regular maintenance will never reach that point. Of course, if the car is so unreliable that it causes problems with his job, security, etc, that’s another thing. But his friends just want him to ‘look good’, I imagine.

As for your 2000 Volvo’s value, you can look up the value at various web sites (google used car value), see how it compares. I don’t know about the salvage value, though.

Salvage price is the price the junkyard will buy it for. They will strip it down for salvageable parts, then send the rest to the crusher. Just drive it to a couple of junkyards, and have them give you a written offer.

I can’t answer the value question any better than others. I can say that I bought “my” totaled Toyota back from my insurance company in the late 80s. I knew it was reliable and I did not have the money for a newer vehicle.

I’ve done this twice.

But where I live the Salvage value was equal to the highest bid from the salvage companies. If no one bid on the vehicle it was $0.

Folks in Hollywood change everything frequently, including spouses!

As per the previous posts, if the ongoing repairs, for 3 years say, are suchg that they exceed the average annual 5 year (=50% of purchase price) depreciation of a new car, you should trade. So, on a $20,000 car, the average 5 year depreciation might be 50%x20,000/5=$2000. As pointed out,that can be a long time, considering the price of new cars. On a $40,000 car, that would be about $4000 per year in repairs and maintenance.

We have may posts of drivers who have owned the same car for 20 years, driven 500,000 miles or more and still have an economical, reliable vehicle.

Having said that, there are other overriding considerations:

  1. The car becomes unsafe, such as through underbody rust

  2. The car can no longer meet emission tests.

  3. The car was not too reliable to start with and the frequent repairs(although not excessively expensive) make it unsuitable as a daily driver.

  4. The car becomes unsightly, and affects the way your employer judges you.

  5. You work in sales and image is important.

If you worry about the opinion of your friends, time to get other friends. I drove an immaculate Chevrolet Caprice for 19 years and was constantly asked questions about how to make your car last.

One thing you have not taken into account is the safety of your son if he should get hit from behind again.

When the car was hit, it caused enough damage to the rear of the car to cause the insurance company to balk at wanting it back on the road again.

Is your son’s life worth only the $1k difference between keeping this car, and getting another one that hasn’t been in an accident?


Thanks for all your input! After the car was hit, we tied the trunk down and drove the car for another 400 miles to get home. It drove fine and we couldn’t tell the difference. The rear bumper was not damaged, just the trunk and rear lights, as it was a tall Ford 150 pick up that hit us. The frame wasn’t damaged at all according to the body shop.
The only safety issue is the rear lights and the trunk which will be repaired.

What are the other things he has to do after the car is totaled?

Does he actually have to get a new “salvage” title for the car in order to put it back on the road? My insurance agent in Denver said he doesn’t have to, since the car is still registered correctly in his name.

What documentation will he have to show a buyer of the car eventually when he sells it that it was in an accident? I was thinking that he could get a statement from the body shop about the work they did and show the buyer pictures of before and after the accident.
Also, if he wants to get comprehensive insurance again or collision, he will have to take the car to a “certified mechanic” who will document that it is “road worthy”. If he doesn’t want to get this insurance, he can forget having to go the DMV, etc. At what point is it wise to stop getting collision and comprehensive insurance? I was thinking that if he saves $25 a month, he could put this toward future repairs/car.

This has been a good car and he hasn’t had to put practically any money into it for the three years he has had it-just regular maintenance.

Thank you for all your help; this is sure an overwhelming process and we have been operating in the dark. You all are great, new, reassuring sources of light and information.

Edmunds says that you could buy one from a dealer for $5000 with only the optional power driver’s seat. Other options will increase the value somewhat. I believe that the insurer should pay replacement value at a dealer and nothing less. After all, you are replacing it and should get replacement value. Trade-in value is utterly unacceptable, and private sale value is not much better. You didn’t tell us what the mileage is, but if it’s under 120,000 the value should still be about $5000. If you give us a list of options and the mileage, we can assess the value better.

Just pull it out,make it safe and drive it.My brother has done this with a Sentra for several years,it has cost practically nothing to own and runs great-Kevin


I am not sure what you are referring to whenyou say “you could buy one from a dealer” what is this referring to and what about the “optional drivers seat” what does that mean?

The mileage is 124,000 miles.


Hi, what do you mean by “pull it out”? What are you referring to? What is “it”?



Pull out the dent. You’ll need a slide hammer, sledge hammer, BFH, and maybe a body hammer. Beat, pull, hammer, and tap the sheet metal reasonably back to the general shape it was before the wreck. Bolt on some junkyard tail light assemblies, and happy motoring.

My car, while parked, got hit by a truck. I avoided the totalling thing (even though my car is old w/ lots of miles) by taking the trucking company/their insurance to court. They settled for around $2500. I have almost 500K on it now. I won against another insurance company on my previous car too. I have carried only state minimums on my car for years.

Wow, you are inspiring! I like your attitude. Unfortunately, we need to replace the trunk and the tail light assemblies, but I will run this by my son and the body shop guy who sounds very practical and down to earth.


How did you take this to court? Which court? HOw much did it cost in terms of time and money for court costs, etc and did you need a lawyer?
Since arguing with the insurance companies over the last week and presenting documentation about oil changes,etc., my son has gotten them to raise the value of the car from $4500 to $5600. The blue book value range was $4000 to $6000, so we feel pretty good about this. Now we are waiting for the fight over salvage value and my son is trying to digest all of this. This is his first accident and he has a very full time job so he couldn’t take the time off to go to court.
I really like your attitude!

Thanks. so you are saying that the repairs shouldn’t cost more than $2000 a year for a $20,000 car for 3 years. But we always buy used cars and I think he paid $7000 for it about two years ago. He hasn’t had to put much into it thank goodness.

I hope that he reads your post!

Wow, you just get a couple of bids and then give them to the insurance company? Should you ask the insurance company first if they will accept such bids? It is hard for my son to take time off from work to do this.

Should you take the car to the salvage companies before getting the work done at the body shop or afterwards?

Why would a salvage company give a $0 value? Isn’t there always some salvage value? especially if you were able to drive it to the salvage yard?

Am I right about not having to deal with the DMV about the salvage title? He can just forget about it and just drive his car out of the body shop?

What does a salvage title really mean, except that he can’t get collision insurance?

Does it affect the sale price of the car if he is trying to get $3000 or so for it in another year or two? I am hoping that he keeps this car for many years, but he isn’t as much of a hippy as I am and he wants a newer car when he can afford it.

Yes deb, you can typically spend up to $2000 per year on an ongoing basis on maintenance and repairs before it becomes financially more advantageous to trade to a NEW, all other things being equal, of course.

My sister is a retired accountant and she has always bought new cars and basically worn them out. The new car would be delegated to second car status at age 7 or 8. The second car would be used up in 14-16 years and sold for scrap or as a beater. Then the cycle would start all over.

Our family basically does the same thing; I bought my first car in 1958, and we have been a 2 car family since 1972. Since that original purchase we have only had 16 vehicles and 4 company cars.

Since cars have become fashion statements, people usually trade too often; this helps the economy and is great for those who buy used cars. But it is expensive for the original owner. However, the California lifestyle is based on change and fashion, rather than sound economics.

P.S. With a used car you can apply the same rule. A $7000 used car has a “half life” worth $3500, and 1/5 of that is $700. Most mechanics and Consumer Reports, however, would recommend that if any repair appraches 25% of the car’s current value, you get rid of it.

If your son’s car is now worth $5000 running and undamaged, that would be $1250 maximum to spend on any one repair. As well, any repair that exceeds the market value of the car is a no-no, although people often exceed this becuase they really love their cars.