Totaling a car.

Stay with me on this post.  It seems a little weird, but stay with me.  [Also, don’t be a dumbass, I’m not a lawyer, or an expert, but this is a loose guide to what needs to happen to you when you wreck your car.]

So a little over two month ago, I totaled my car.  And seeing how it was the first time I totaled my car, I sort of went blindly into the entire process.  So let me help you out cause accidents happen.  Which I hate, but they do.

Totaled Car Guide.
Totaled Car Guide.

No one plans to total his or her car. However, if you plan to fail, blah blah blah.

So prior to totaling your car, maybe even back when you purchase the car, there are a few things that you MUST do in order to protect yourself in the event that you wreck your car a year, two years down the road. 

  1. Do you have a loan?  If there is any way on God’s green earth you can avoid a loan, AVOID IT.  Here’s why.  If you still owe money on a car when you total it, you are still responsible for the money that is left on the loan.  That’s where this comes in…
  2. Gap insurance.  When you purchase your car, and if you have to go the loan route you must purchase gap insurance.  It’s something that should be offered to you when you’re in the pit of hell that is the finance office at a dealership, but if it is not, ask about it.  This will protect you.  Let me explain.  You buy a car, and you finance it.  When you total the car (which I hope you don’t but hey, accidents happen), the insurance company will give you money for how much the car is CURRENTLY worth, often based on prices of similar models sold recently in your area.  It will NOT automatically cover what is left on the loan (hello interest) which can really screw you.  So get the gap insurance, which is pretty marginal, and will be added into your car payment.
  3. Save every piece of documentation related to you car at the time of purchase, and get maintenance records on the car.  If you have a loan, the bank who technically “owns” the car has the title.  If you own the car outright, place the title, along with paperwork related to the car in a folder inside a fireproof safe in your house (which you need for all sorts of important things).  DO NOT LOSE THAT TITLE UNDER ANY CIRCUMSTANCES.

So a few years down the road, say you get into an accident.  Here’s what you need to do, and what will happen.  

  1. You wreck your car.  For those of you who are nosy (kidding!) I was completely at fault.  I was preoccupied with what I viewed as a troubling reading on my blood pressure, and ran directly into the back of a Rubicon, which was unscathed.
  2. Call the police.  Whether you are at fault or not, call the police, and be completely honest with them about what has happened.  Remain calm, because they will note if you’re acting like a weirdo on the report, and ask the police officer to provide you with this handy information exchange card with both yours and the other driver’s name on the card.  Take pictures at this point, and get the officer’s name, just in case your accident results in any sort of lawsuit.
  3. Once you get home or to somewhere safe where you are calm, call your insurance company armed with your policy number and information about the accident.  Explain to them that you would like to open a claim.  The person on the phone will likely not know what the heck they’re doing, and will take some precursory information.  They will open a claim for you, and provide you with a claim number.  Copy this down, and be prepared for your individual claims person to contact you in the day or so following.
  4. Your claims adjuster has called you.  He or she will ask you a few more in-depth questions about the accident.  Now, in the case of my accident it was pretty cut and dry, and the accident was my fault.  He asked for some details about the weather, then provided me with addresses and names to 3 or 4 preferred shops where they will look at your car and perform an estimate.
  5. Get an estimate.  You’ll drop your car off, and in a few days, they’ll give you and the insurance company an estimate.  They might tell you that it will cost 2k to fix.  They might tell you it’s totaled.  In my case, it was totaled, so..
  6. Go to get your personals out of the car.  You have no idea when they’re going to haul your car off – I learned this the hard way and had to drive down to Fayetteville to a sketchy yard to get my things.  Make sure to grab your tag.
  7. The insurance company will send a letter to the bank, asking them to release the title to them.  The bank will release the title.  The gap insurance will kick in, paying off the remainder of your loan.  And you’re done.

It’s a lot of steps, and it was a LOT to learn, but glad to know, and so thrilled to be able to share that info with other folks.

Now…have you ever gotten into an accident?  Was it silly?

 

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