This is term used by insurance companies describing vehicles that will not be repaired at their cost. It means that the damage incurred has exceeded 75% of the re-sale value of the car. The term "total" does not mean that the car is beyond repair, but it does mean that you'll never be able to repair it on what you make at your job. The ability of a car to be safely mobile even after being brought back from the brink is of course one concern for this ceiling, but money rides a close second. If the customer doesn't feel safe, or the shop doesn't believe that a car can't be saved, then it's a loss on all three ends.

The insurance adjuster will then cut a check to the owner for what the car was worth prior to accident, deducting for mileage, prior damage and maintenance, and anything else they can find, so that you will get the least amount possible with which to put towards another vehicle. We won't get to work on it and you won't get to drive it. The insurance company has, with your consent, bought it out from under you and likely will sell at auction for whatever its leftover parts are worth, the profits of which they pocket. Waste not, want not.

The customer always has the option of retaining the salvage value, which means they can keep their car and get an even smaller check, and fix it on their own. With cars like my Festiva that don't retain value for shit, this can be mildly profitable, since cars like mine are totaled while still fully driveable In fact, that's how I got it. This chick was slammed by a driver who happened to own an insurance company and cut her a majorly inflated check on the spot to keep her mouth shut, since it was his fault. There was really no damage to it, but she was convinced to release it to me for the salvage value. So she walked away with two bundles of money and I drove off that day in a car I bought for $300. Not bad, really, if you don't mind admitting you're a vulture, picking the scraps of a dead carcass to get a ride to work. And I don't.

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