Revived Salvage / Retained Salvage / Salvage Retention

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The insurance company has declared your vehicle a total loss. That means the estimate to repair it is more than the actual cash value (ACV) minus some percentage which varies by insurance company.

You may be wondering in hindsight if you should have gone to a cheaper body shop to prevent the total loss (but possibly have gotten an unsatisfactory repair job). It's too late now.

Once a total loss is declared, you have only two options: give the vehicle to the insurance company to auction it off for parts, or keep it. In either case, the insurance company will provide you with a list of comparable sales in your area and give you a check for the comparable value of your car at the time of the accident.

If you choose to keep the car, they will subtract the amount that they could have gotten from auction ($3,500 in my case). Irvine BMW offered me $2,500 for my car as a trade in. They said they could only get $2,500 at auction. That means the insurance company made a profit of $1,000 right there.

The law requires you to re-register your vehicle if you decide to keep it within 10 days of the insurance company giving notice to the California Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV). It takes an undetermined amount of time before insurance notifies the DMV.

Make sure the DMV has indicated your vehicle is salvaged on your registration before you spend three hours in line like I did. After three hours, I was given a phone number (800-777-0133) to call to find out if the vehicle has been marked as salvaged. The hold time on the phone is over 30 minutes.

Go to AAA if you are a member. I did this once a week. It only took me 10 to 20 minutes to get to the counter each time. They can look up your vehicle's registration, but they cannot process anything regarding salvage retention. The AAA Directory of Approved Auto Repair Facilities book lists brake and lamp stations by city.

The Laguna Hills DMV employee suggested getting the brake and lamp certificates after the salvage notice is registered. This is probably so it is obvious that the certificates are issued after the accident. Brake and lamp certificates are not electronic as smog certificates are, so do not lose the paper certificates.

Verify the license status of the brake and lamp station at The list the DMV provided was dated 10/02/2005. For my area, two were no longer licensed, one never called back, and two answered the phone and were still valid.

I chose Laguna Niguel Chevron for $106.90 including certificates as they were the cheapest. They were also listed in the AAA Directory of Approved Auto Repair Facilities book. It took two hours and required an appointment.

The DMV was notified March 21. I only had four days left. The DMV's online appointment system showed the first available appointment from March 27 is April 28. I was going to have to stand in line without an appointment.

Maybe your insurance company can tell you in advance exactly when they will notify DMV. When pigs fly.

Two hours at Laguna Hills DMV again, paid $89.00, the car was re-registered as salvaged, and the license plates were replaced. The salvaged title should be in the mail in a few days.

A salvaged vehicle is not worth much to anyone else. Don't expect to sell it for a profit when you want to get rid of it. It's considered scrap/junk/parts. The salvaged title makes sure the buyer knows it's a total loss vehicle.

My car was rear ended damaging the bumper and trunk. This low mileage car still drives well, the engine still has many more miles left in it. The tires were replaced a year ago. It just had an oil and filter change.



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