Why It's So Easy to Total a Car Now

My daughter's car was hit in the side a couple of years ago. She was fine, the car was drivable, but was a bit dented. When I was her age, I would live with the dents even when someone else's insurance company paid for the damage. That was the case here, and within days the company declared her car totaled. She got enough payout to buy a slightly newer car with money left over. Since then, we can be sure that someone else got a 2013 Scion with a salvage title at a bargain price.

Why are cars written off as a total loss with such small damage? An anonymous mechanic-turned-insurance adjuster explains the process.

The formula is simple: Get the value for the car, write a damage estimate, add 30% for potential supplementary repairs, get a bid on the salvage selling price and then do the math. If the value is higher than those three combined, it gets repaired.

The crucial factor is that "those three combined" can be very high, largely due to the hi-tech components of a 21st century vehicle. Replacement parts are expensive. And because replacement parts are expensive, salvage yards are paying higher amounts for damaged cars because the remaining parts can be sold at a premium. At the same time, the value of the car is determined by mysterious algorithms used by insurance companies, and are often strangely low.

For many people, the experience of having their car totaled out isn't as easy as my daughter's. Read what really goes on at the insurance company after you've had a car wreck at The Autopian. Then if you dare, read more than a hundred personal accounts in the comments. -via Metafilterā€‹

(Image credit: Schekinov Alexey Victorovich

More Neat Posts