Yes, you can buy a car back from the insurance company and perform repairs
to get the vehicle back onto the road. Such a vehicle will have a Salvage
Title, this indicates to future buyers that the insurance company did not
feel that repairs were financially rewarding/justifiable. The insurance
company gives your car a value, let's say $3,000 <or whatever>, then they
calculate the cost of repairs including parts and labor. For the sake of
illustration, the repairs run to $2,750. In this instance the insurance
company will declare the vehicle a total loss, and will pay you the value
they assign. You can then turn around and buy the vehicle for the Salvage
Value, typically about 10% of the value they assign. In practice, the
insurance company takes possession of Total Loss vehicles, then they give
you the First Right of Refusal -- you get the first chance to take
possession back, or let the insurer keep it. If the insurer keeps the
vehicle, they will turn around and sell it as salvage. The salvage buyer
will then haul the vehicle off to a junk yard where it is then sold off one
piece at a time, or is resurected and sold on the open market or shipped
offshore to a third world country where it might live for another decade or
so. If resold on the open market, it must have the title branded to tell
subsequent buyers that it is a salvage vehicle. There might be different
rules in various states, but generally speaking all salvage vehicles must be
I own a '93 Mazda that was recently declared a total loss. I bought parts
for less than $100 and it's now as good as new. Since the vehicle is so old,
and is a model that is in very low demand, the value is also very low. The
body shop determined that a welded part could not be repaired without
complete replacement of a frame rail -- which was not otherwise damaged in
any way -- then the cost of repairs exceeded the value of the vehicle. I was
able to scavange the part that was welded, and affect reasonable repairs
that allowed the attachment of a readily available bracket and bumper parts.
Now, I own a salvage vehicle that has a branded title. If I wanted to sell
the vehicle, the title would likely mean that I'd have to discount the sales
price because of the questionable history behind the title. Get it?
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