Here’s the latest reader question, along with my reply!
Bin asks: I recently had a minor accident in a neighboring state. A truck hauling scrap in a utility trailer lost a piece of steel which I hit, puncturing my oil pan. My car is old and of little value, so the insurance company totaled it. At first they would not allow me to retain the car, but I pestered them enough and I bought it back. Towed it back home, slapped on a new pan and oil pump and it’s good to go. That was 2 months ago, it has been sitting. My state refuses to issue a salvage title because accident occurred in another state. Other state refuses to issue me a salvage title because I am not a resident of that state. So if your car is totaled in another state, do you forfeit your right to keep your car? This doesn’t seem right.
Is there anything I can do here besides part my car out?
My reply: First, this sucks. Through no fault of your own, you were damaged – and then damaged again, by the insurance mafia. Just another reason to loathe the insurance mafia.
In the first place, they should have paid for the repair. Replacing an oil pan/oil pump is not generally a four figure job. I am betting your car was worth at least $1,000 and even if not, the damage caused was their fault – not yours. To “total” the car is to deprive you of the value of your formerly working car; note the SOBs did not give you replacement value.
I wish I’d known about this sooner. I would have counseled you to not settle for anything less than making you whole. Their policyholder could reasonably be accused of recklessness as “scraps of metal” falling off a truck into the path of other cars could have killed someone. Noting this fact – and hinted at litigation – in a letter to the mafia might have made an impression.
Worst case, you could have got them to issue you a check for the cost of parts, done the labor yourself – and not had to deal with a “totaled” (or “salvage”) title.
Laws vary from state to state, but it is usually possible to get the vehicle title/registered after it has been “totaled.” The re-issued title may say “salvage” or something along those lines – and that will greatly hurt resale value – but if you just want to be able to be able to register/plate and drive the car, it is of no consequence.
I have never heard of the situation you describe – the state DMV refusing to give you a “salvage” title because the accident occurred out-of-state. Why this would have any bearing escapes me – other than the usual arbitrary bureaucratic idiocies.
In some states, you may be required to pass a “safety” inspection – but in this case, the damage which led to the “totaling” is irrelevant as regards any of the vehicle’s “safety” equipment. It was a mechanical issue.
I’d find out exactly what the law is in your state; maybe talk with another DMV official. I’d also ask a local vehicle auctioneer their advice. They deal with “salvage” titles all the time and I’m betting they would have some solid advice for you.
It might be possible to game the system, too. Sell the car to a friend for $10. Have that friend get title (“salvage” or otherwise) and then, after a couple of weeks, sell the car back to you. This entails spending a couple hundred bucks in title fees and taxes, probably – but might be worth doing if it’s the only way to avoid junking the car.
My sympathies, Bin… keep us posted.
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