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Last updated: November 16, 2023

How Much Is a Wrecked Car Worth?

Believe it or not, a wrecked car could actually make you money.

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You may think a wrecked car is a hunk of junk. However, in some cases, you may be able to sell it for salvage parts from the comfort of your home.

A salvage vehicle is also known as a totaled car, but each state has its own threshold for what qualifies as a total loss. If your car meets the threshold, what should you do with your salvage vehicle? Is it worth selling, or should you send it to the junkyard? Let’s investigate.

How Much Is a Wrecked Car Worth?

How much a wrecked car is worth is the same as its salvage value.

What Is Salvage Value?

Salvage value is how much a salvage or totaled car is worth. Typically, it is worth 20 to 40 percent less than its Kelley Blue Book (KBB) value. However, to determine its true market value, you’ll need to have the car privately appraised.1

Salvage Value Formula

To calculate the salvage value, you can use the salvage value formula. To start, you’ll need to find out the car’s retail and wholesale value either from KBB or NADA, the National Auto Dealers Association. Add the retail value (what you paid at the dealership) to the wholesale value (what the dealer paid for it from the manufacturer). Divide the sum by two to get the fair market value.

Next, find out what percentage of your car’s value would need to be lost for the car to be declared a total loss. For example, if the total loss threshold is 75 percent, find out what 75 percent of the fair market value would be. Subtract that difference from the fair market value to find the salvage value.

Salvage Value vs. Actual Cash Value

Actual cash value (ACV) is how much your car is worth today, which is different from the price you bought it for. Vehicles depreciate in value as soon as you drive them off the dealership lot and more over time. If your car is declared a total loss, your insurance company would pay you for the vehicle’s ACV minus your collision or comprehensive deductible. Its salvage value, however, is its ACV after it’s been declared a total loss.

Wholesale Value vs. Market Value

Wholesale value has two meanings when it comes to cars. It could mean either what a car is worth at auction or what a dealership paid a manufacturer for the car.2 Market value, on the other hand, is what you could get for a car if you sold it on your own.3

What Is a Salvage Vehicle?

A salvage vehicle is a vehicle that has been totaled, meaning its estimated repair costs are higher than its ACV.

When Is a Car Totaled?

A car is totaled when any of the following situations occur:

  • The vehicle cannot be repaired safely.
  • The repairs cost more than the vehicle’s ACV.
  • The damage meets your state’s total loss threshold, which you can find below.4

States Car total loss threshold
Alaska, Arizona, California, Connecticut, Delaware, Georgia, Hawaii, Idaho, Illinois, Maine, Massachusetts, Mississippi, Montana, New Jersey, New Mexico, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, South Dakota, Utah, Vermont, Washington Total loss formula (salvage value is less than cost of repair)
Colorado, Texas 100%
Florida, Missouri, Oregon 80%
Alabama, District of Columbia, Kansas, Kentucky, Louisiana, Maryland, Michigan, Nebraska, New Hampshire, New York, North Carolina, North Dakota, South Carolina, Tennessee, Virginia, West Virginia, Wyoming 75%
Arkansas, Indiana, Iowa, Minnesota, Wisconsin 70%
Oklahoma 60%

How a Car Becomes a Salvage Title Vehicle

A car becomes a salvage vehicle when an adjuster inspects it and determines that it meets a state’s total loss guidelines. In that case, the insurance company determines that the state should issue a salvage title, meaning it’s not repairable.

But what would cause such damage to a car? Most commonly:

  • Head-on collisions
  • Rollover accidents
  • Severe weather events, like tornados, hurricanes, and flooding
  • Side collisions
  • T-bone crashes5
  • Hitting an object

Common Issues With Salvage Cars

Declaring a car to be a total loss means the vehicle has some pretty severe damage, such as:

  • Blown engine
  • Body damage
  • Broken or bad brakes
  • Broken transmission
  • Dead battery
  • Faulty electrical systems
  • Fuel system issues
  • Issues with safety features such as airbags6
  • Significant frame damage, like doors and windows not shutting properly

Insuring Salvage Vehicles

Can you insure a salvage vehicle? The answer is no. To insure a damaged car, it must be sufficiently repaired by a licensed repair specialist and pass inspection.7

How Car Insurance Companies Pay Property Damage Claims

Typically, insurance companies pay property damage claims by reimbursing you for the costs of the required repairs, either through a check or a direct deposit.


Make sure your repair shop is in-network to get the largest reimbursement.

How Much to Expect From an Insurance Settlement

If your insurance company declares your car to be a total loss and you have collision insurance or comprehensive coverage, you can expect to receive your car’s ACV in your settlement. However, if you have new-car-replacement coverage, you’ll get back the total cost of what you paid for the vehicle originally; i.e., the car’s price before depreciation.

How to Fight a Total Loss Settlement

If you don’t agree with your total loss settlement and believe your car is worth more than the insurance company declared, follow these steps to fight it.

  1. Hire your own appraiser. To prove that your car has a higher value, you’ll need an appraiser to oversee a vehicle inspection and prepare a report. The appraiser will have a mechanic inspect the car, take photographs, and provide evidence of its worth and/or repair costs using maintenance records and other documentation of upgrades.
  2. Hire a lawyer and negotiate. Use the appraiser’s evidence to negotiate with your insurer or, better yet, hire a lawyer to do it for you.
  3. Contact your state’s department of insurance. If the negotiations aren’t successful, file a complaint with your state’s insurance commissioner using the contact information below.8

Insurance department contact information by state URL Phone number Mailing address
Alabama 334-269-3550 201 Monroe Street, Suite 502

Montgomery, Alabama 36104

Alaska 907-269-7900 550 West 7th Avenue, Suite 1560

Anchorage, Alaska 99501-3567

Arizona 602-364-3100 100 N. 15th Avenue, Suite 261

Phoenix, Arizona 85007-2630

Arkansas 501-371-2600 1 Commerce Way

Little Rock, Arkansas 72202

California 800-927-4357 300 South Spring Street, South Tower

Los Angeles, California 90013

Colorado 303-894-7499 1560 Broadway, Suite 850

Denver, Colorado 80202

Connecticut 860-297-3900 153 Market Street, 7th Floor

Hartford, Connecticut 06103

Delaware 302-674-7300 1351 West North Street, Suite 101

Dover, Delaware 19904

District of Columbia 202-727-8000 1050 First Street NE, 801

Washington, D.C


Florida 850-413-3140 The Larsen Building, 200 East Gaines Street

Room 101A

Tallahassee, Florida 32399-0301

Georgia 404-656-2070 2 Martin Luther King Jr. Dr. West Tower, Suite 702

Atlanta, Georgia 30334

Hawaii 808-586-2790 P.O. Box 3614

Honolulu, Hawaii 96811

Idaho 208-334-4250 700 West State Street, 3rd Floor

Boise, Idaho 83720-0043

Illinois 217-782-4515 320 West Washington Street

Springfield, Illinois 62767-0001

Indiana 317-232-2385 311 West Washington Street, Suite 300

Indianapolis, Indiana 46204-2787

Iowa 515-654-6600 1963 Bell Avenue, Suite 100

Des Moines, Iowa 50315

Kansas 785-296-3071 1300 SW Arrowhead Road

Topeka, Kansas 66604-4073

Kentucky 502-564-3630 500 Mero Street 2 SE 11

Frankfort, Kentucky 40601

Louisiana 225-342-5423 1702 North Third Street

Baton Rouge, Louisiana 70802 207-624-8475 34 State House Station

Augusta, Maine 04333-0034

Maryland 410-468-2090 200 St. Paul Place, Suite 2700

Baltimore, Maryland 21202

Massachusetts 617-521-7794 1000 Washington Street, Suite 810

Boston, Massachusetts 02118

Michigan 517-284-8800 530 West Allegan Street

Lansing, Michigan 48933

Minnesota 651-296-4026 85 7th Place East, Suite 500

St. Paul, Minnesota 55101

Mississippi 601-359-3569 1001 Woolfolk State Office Building, 501 North West Street

Jackson, Mississippi 39201

Missouri 573-751-4126 301 West High Street, P.O. Box 690

Jefferson City, Missouri 65102-0690

Montana 406-444-2040 840 Helena Avenue, Suite 270

Helena, Montana 59601

Nebraska 402-471-2201 Terminal Building, 941 O Street, Suite 400

Lincoln, Nebraska 68508-3639

Nevada 775-687-0700 1818 East College Parkway,

Suite 103

Carson City, Nevada 89706

New Hampshire 603-271-2261 21 South Fruit Street, Suite 14

Concord, New Hampshire 03301-7317

New Jersey 609-292-5360 20 West State Street

P.O. Box 325

Trenton, New Jersey 08625

New Mexico 855-427-5674 1120 Paseo de Peralta, Suite 428

Santa Fe, New Mexico 87501

New York 212-480-6400 25 Beaver Street

New York, New York 10004

North Carolina 855-408-1212 1201 Mail Service Center

Raleigh, North Carolina 27699-1201

North Dakota 701-328-2440 State Capitol, 600 East Boulevard, Dept. 401, 5th Floor

Bismarck, North Dakota 58505-0320

Ohio 614-644-2658 50 West Town Street, Third Floor, Suite 300

Columbus, Ohio 43215-1067

Oklahoma 405-521-2828 400 NE 50th Street

Oklahoma City, Oklahoma 73105

Oregon 503-947-7980 P.O. Box 14480

Salem, Oregon 97309-0405

Pennsylvania 717-787-2317 1326 Strawberry Square

Harrisburg, Pennsylvania 17120

Rhode Island 401-462-9500 1511 Pontiac Avenue

Cranston, Rhode Island 02920

South Carolina 803-737-6160 1201 Main Street, Suite 1000

Columbia, South Carolina 29201

South Dakota 605.773.3563 South Dakota Division of Insurance

124 South Euclid Avenue, 2nd Floor

Pierre, South Dakota 57501

Tennessee 615-741-2241 500 James Robertson Parkway, Suite 660

Nashville, Tennessee 37243-0565

Texas 512-676-6000 333 Guadalupe Street

Austin Texas 78701

Utah 801-957-9200 4315 S. 2700 W., Suite 2300

Taylorsville, Utah 84114-6901

Vermont 802-828-3301 89 Main Street, Drawer 20

Montpelier, Vermont 05620-3101

Virginia 804-371-9741 1300 E. Main Street, Tyler Building

Richmond, Virginia 23219

Washington 360-725-7100 Insurance Building, P.O. Box 40255

Olympia, Washington 98504-0255

West Virginia 304-558-3386 West Virginia Lottery Building, 900 Pennsylvania Avenue

Charleston, West Virginia 25302

Wisconsin 608-266-3585 125 South Webster Street

Madison, Wisconsin 53703-3474

Wyoming 307-777-7402 Herschler Building, 106 East 6th Avenue

Cheyenne, Wyoming 82002

What to Do If Your Car Is Totaled

All hope is not lost if your car is totaled. In some cases, you may be able to make money from it.

Should You Repair or Sell Your Salvage Vehicle?

If you believe your car’s salvage value is greater than the settlement offer you received, you may be able to make money by repairing and selling the vehicle. However, if the settlement offer was fair, it’s best to accept it and move on.

Selling Your Salvage Car for Cash

Another option is to sell your salvage vehicle as is through third parties like Cash for Cars, Car Brain, Copart Direct, and Salvage Reseller. You can also sell it yourself as a private seller using Craigslist or Facebook Marketplace, although this will take more time and effort on your part. A third route is to sell it to a scrapyard directly. For compensation, you’ll receive the resale value, or what you sold your salvage vehicle for.


Feeling charitable? Some charities, like Goodwill and Habitat for Humanity, let you donate your salvage vehicle for a tax deduction and will even tow it for free.

If your goal is to make the most money from your salvage vehicle, get quotes from multiple car-buying companies and look for those without hidden fees and that will tow your car for free.

Where Do Totaled Cars End Up?

If they don’t end up in salvage yards, totaled cars can be driven outside of the U.S., where owning and insuring salvage vehicles is easier. However, in states that let people repair and insure salvage vehicles, they may be driven in the U.S. as well.


Car ownership is one of the biggest costs most people encounter after housing. If you have the right auto insurance for your totaled vehicle, a total loss doesn’t mean you’re out the money you spent on your car. Rather, you can be “made whole” again if you have collision or comprehensive coverage or new-car-replacement coverage. Who knows, maybe you’ll even buy an upgraded new car with the amount of money you receive for your salvage title car!

Frequently Asked Questions

Is it OK to buy a wrecked car?

Whether it’s OK to buy a wrecked car depends on what you want to do with it. You cannot drive or insure a wrecked car legally. However, if you plan to sell it for parts or repair it, that is OK.

Does a car lose value after an accident?

Yes, a car loses value after an accident if it has sustained damages, although the extent of the loss depends on the extent of the damages.

How quickly do cars lose value?

According to finance expert Dave Ramsey, cars lose 9 to 11 percent of their value as soon as they’re driven off the lot, 20 percent of their original value after a year, and 15 to 25 percent during the second through the fifth year. After the fifth year, many cars will have lost 60 percent of their value.

What car does not lose its value?

Classic and antique cars do not lose their value as long as they are kept in their original condition. Instead of depreciating in value, they appreciate.


  1. Frequently Asked Questions: My Car’s Value. Kelley Blue Book. (2023).

  2. What Is Wholesale Value? CARFAX. (2023).

  3. Why Trade-In Value Is Lower Than Market Value. J.D. Power. (2019, Apr 19).

  4. Total Loss Threshold By State. Appraisal Engine. (2023).

  5. What Is the Salvage Value of My Car? by Copart. (2023).

  6. Salvage title cars: Should you buy one? Credit Karma. (2022, Feb 17).

  7. Can you get insurance on a salvage title car? Progressive. (2023).

  8. The Insurance Company Says My Car Is a Total Loss. What Now? NOLO. (2023).