Can I keep my car if the insurance company totals it?

Free Car Insurance Comparison

 Secured with SHA-256 Encryption

Call for FREE quotes: (888) 442-5133

Tonya Sisler has a Bachelor’s Degree from the University of South Carolina in Journalism and has worked for 15+ years in management. She has also completed a proofreading certification and is currently...

Full Bio →

Written by

Brad Larson has been in the insurance industry for more than a dozen years. He started out as a claims adjuster for a national carrier. He has since switched to the agency side of the business...

Full Bio →

Reviewed byBrad Larsen
Licensed Auto Insurance Agent

UPDATED: Mar 13, 2020

Advertiser Disclosure

It’s all about you. We want to help you make the right coverage choices.

Advertiser Disclosure: We strive to help you make confident insurance decisions. Comparison shopping should be easy. We partner with top insurance providers. This doesn't influence our content. Our opinions are our own.

Editorial Guidelines: We are a free online resource for anyone interested in learning more about auto insurance. Our goal is to be an objective, third-party resource for everything auto insurance related. We update our site regularly, and all content is reviewed by auto insurance experts.

Things to know...
  • Cars that have been declared total losses either can’t be repaired or the repair cost is higher than your car’s value
  • In some instances, you may be able to buy back your totaled car
  • Not all car insurance companies will allow you to buy back a totaled car
  • If you buy back your totaled car, you may need salvage title insurance
  • A comparison tool can help you find a car insurance company that offers salvage title insurance

When your vehicle gets totaled in a car accident, you may be tempted to keep it rather than letting the insurance company tow the car away after it is declared a total loss.

Thankfully, there are certain situations where you may be able to buy your car back after it has been totaled.

If you need a car insurance company that will allow you to buy back your car after a total loss, you can use our auto insurance comparison tool to quickly find policies from multiple insurance carriers.

Understanding the Term “Total Loss”


The term “total loss” refers to a car that either is not repairable or can’t be repaired for less than the value of the car just prior to the accident.

Can’t Be Repaired

If the damage to your vehicle was extensive and compromised the frame or structural integrity of the car, your car may not be repairable. If this is the case, you would not be able to buy your car back from your insurance company.

Costs More to Repair Than Your Car Is Worth

When you get into a car accident, your auto insurance company will use your car’s pre-accident value to determine if it can be repaired. If your car can be repaired for less than it was worth just prior to the accident, your car will not be declared a total loss.

However, if the repair estimates are more than the car’s pre-accident value, the insurance company will declare the car a total loss.

Drivers can save $859/yr* by comparing car insurance

*based on a survey of 1,000 car insurance customers

 Secured with SHA-256 Encryption

Understanding the Process after Your Car Has Been Declared a Total Loss

When your car is declared a total loss, your insurance company must pay you the fair market value of your car prior to the accident.

For example, if your car was worth $10,000 just prior to the accident, your car insurance company will send you a check for that amount minus any fees. Once you receive the money, you are free to do with it as you wish.

Your car insurance company will then take possession and ownership of your damaged vehicle.

Once the auto insurance carrier has control of your vehicle, they can send it to a junkyard or sell it on the secondary market in order to recoup some of the payout money, thus offsetting their losses.

Buying Back Your Totaled Car


If you plan to keep your totaled car, tell your insurance company immediately. Not every insurance company will allow you to buy back your totaled car.

Most of them were rather sell it on the secondary market in order to recoup as much of their payout losses as possible. However, if you are willing to pay the salvage price for the vehicle, you may be able to buy it back.

The salvage fee for your car will be deducted out of your payout. For example, if the payout for your totaled car is $$10,000, and the salvage price is $2,000, your car insurance company will write you a check for $8,000.

Once you have that money, you can repair your totaled car with it.

Totaled Car Challenges


When you decide to keep your total car and repair and drive it, you may be faced with some unique challenges.

The first issue is that some states may not allow you to keep your car, and if they do, you may have to perform certain tasks before you can legally drive the car, including:

  • getting your car retitled
  • buying a new car insurance policy

Getting Your Car Retitled

The state of Washington mandates that all totaled cars must be reported to the Washington State Department of Licensing.

The Washingon State Department of Licenses then states that owners of salvaged vehicles have the right to keep the vehicle, sell it, repair it or use it as a parts vehicle.

If you plan to keep the vehicle, you will have to apply for a new title.

The exact application process will depend on your state. In the state of Washington, you must bring the registration and the Notice of Cancellation letter to the DMV, apply for a new title and pay any applicable fees.

If your vehicle meets all the applicable criteria, you may be issued a rebuilt title for your vehicle.

Finding Car Insurance After Keeping a Total Loss Vehicle

It may be difficult to find car insurance for a vehicle that was previously declared a total loss, even if you completely repair the car. In almost all instances, you won’t be able to insure your car with the same company that declared it a total loss.

The reason it is so difficult to insurance salvaged car is that many insurance companies cannot accurately assess its value.

To solve the problem of getting your salvaged car insured, you may need to locate an insurance company that offers salvage title insurance, which is a type of insurance policy specifically for vehicles that have been previously declared total losses.

If you need salvage title insurance, you can use our auto insurance comparison tool to help you find a policy that meets your needs so that you can get back on the road. Enter your zip code below to begin.

Start Saving on Car Insurance!

Enter your zip code below to compare rates from the top companies in your area

 Secured with SHA-256 Encryption