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What To Do With A Totaled Car

Brad Tucker

What To Do With A Totaled Car? Can You Fix A Totaled Car And Still Drive It?

The average age of a car in the USA today is a little over 11 years. This means that many people own a car that could be determined to be a total loss by an insurance company if it is involved in an accident, even if the damage is relatively minor. We all know how hard it is to find a good, affordable used car. A common complaint we hear about losing an older car is “I can’t replace it for what I’m getting paid for it”. Because of this, the vehicle owner may consider accepting a partial settlement and repairing the car. While this may seem like a good idea, there are several things to consider before taking on this project. Here is a look at the thought process of what to do with a totaled car, whether it's worth rebuilding a total loss vehicle and what items to consider before jumping in:

Steps to Rebuilding a Vehicle That Has Been Declared a Total Loss

  • These steps reflect Georgia laws and regulations. Each state has their own specific process for handling the rebuild process.
  • The vehicle owner and the insurance company agree on a partial settlement amount.
  • The insurance company receives the vehicle title from the vehicle owner and forwards it to the State of Georgia Department of Revenue.
  • Georgia returns a package of paperwork to guide the rebuild process.
  • The vehicle owner takes the vehicle to a repair facility for rebuilding. A number of pictures must be taken prior to and during the repair, and documentation of all parts used in the rebuild are required.
  • Prior to repainting the vehicle, the vehicle owner must have the vehicle inspected by a State authorized inspector. All safety equipment must be installed and operational, even if unrelated to the accident that caused the total loss.
  • The vehicle may be painted and completed.
  • The vehicle owner applies to the State of Georgia for a rebuilt vehicle title. The new title will be marked or “branded” as rebuilt.

As you can see, this process is pretty involved and requires a lot of due diligence and oversight on the part of the vehicle owner. So, is it worth the effort to go through this process, knowing that you will have the car you know and love back? That depends on several factors that are important to consider before spending your money:

Factors That Influence Whether to Invest in Rebuilding Your Vehicle

  • Type of damage - damage to the structure of your vehicle (frame or unibody) is much more difficult to repair than cosmetic damage to replaceable parts like doors, hoods, and front fenders. Improperly repaired structural damage can cause issues like abnormal tire wear, stress cracks in windshields, and premature failure of engine mounts. In the case of a subsequent accident, the structure may not provide the protection it was designed for, causing injury to the occupants. Additionally, the State of Georgia is becoming more particular about structural repairs, so it is very important to use the correct repair procedures and equipment in order to avoid failing the rebuild inspection.
  • Unexpected repair costs - in many cases, the initial damage estimate only includes visible damage. Once the vehicle is disassembled, additional damage may be discovered, making the rebuild more expensive. This could eliminate any cost benefit to keeping the vehicle rather than taking the total loss check.
  • Consequential damage costs - your vehicle has sustained an impact. Every part of the car absorbed that impact, including the engine, transmission, electrical connections, etc. They may fail prematurely, adding significant costs to continued ownership of the vehicle.
  • Diminished value - the rebuilt vehicle will only be worth part of its pre-accident value. Because the title will be branded as rebuilt, this depreciation will be significantly greater than in the case of a normal repair. You are spending money to repair a car that will not retain value like a typical automobile.
  • It’s still an older car - your rebuilt car will still have the same age related expenses that existed before the accident. You may pay to rebuild your car only to have the transmission fail 6 months later due to normal wear and tear.

All of this is not to say that you should never keep and rebuild a car that has been determined to be a total loss. We are only suggesting that the decision to rebuild an older car is one that should be made carefully and after an appropriate amount of research. While it may be difficult to find a good, affordable used car, it is not impossible, so don’t just rush in to the rebuild process.

If you are involved in an accident, the team at Georgia Square Collision is happy to sit down with you, discuss all of your repair options and help you make informed decisions about what to do with a totaled car. Drop by or contact us today!