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Can a backordered part get my car totaled out?

Question: My vehicle was hit by a tree three weeks ago.  Nissan is waiting on a part for the truck, and they say it may take another month because the part is backordered.  They can’t start rebuilding the truck without this crucial part.  Can I force my insurance company to total out the vehicle because of this? 

Answer: It’s doubtful that your car insurance company will total out your vehicle due to a backordered part. Unfortunately, waiting for parts is just one of those things that can happen when you’re getting your vehicle repaired.

While I agree seven weeks is an excessive amount of time to be without your car, your auto insurance company cannot control the supply and demand of manufacturer parts or be held responsible if parts delay the repair of your vehicle.

Auto insurers can’t normally be forced to pay out the entire value of your car if the costs involved in fixing it are nowhere near the threshold for totaling out your vehicle.

If, however, the repair costs for your vehicle were already near the insurance companies’ guidelines, or state’s required threshold, for a car to be totaled out and the cost of fixing the vehicle (and other accident related expenses) has risen due to the part being backordered, then you may be able to have your auto insurance company re-evaluate the claim to see if your Nissan should now be declared a total loss.

Insurance companies’ guidelines vary, but auto insurers typically total out a car when it's no longer economical to fix.  This can be when repairs costs reach anywhere from 51 percent to 100 percent of a vehicle’s actual cash value, or the car is unable to be repaired and safely put back on the roadways.

So, if the repair costs are only at 25 percent of the value of your vehicle, then your insurance company wouldn’t total it out -- even with the delay of parts.

But, if costs were pushed up to 75 percent, or more, of the vehicle’s value (due to the length of the repair, additional damage found, or higher costs of parts and labor than estimated), then there is a possibility that your insurer would now total out your truck.  (See "5 things to do with a totaled car."

If your car insurance provider tells you that it won't total your vehicle and that you’re going to have to wait to have the vehicle repaired, then ask if there are any other options to get your vehicle repaired quicker, such as using an aftermarket part. If this is a possibility, make sure a non-OEM part won’t void out any warranties you may have on your vehicle. 

You might even ask if there is a way for them to extend your rental car reimbursement coverage (if you have it) or provide you with a rental car due to the extenuating circumstances.  If your insurer cannot help you, then speak to the repair shop to see if they can do anything for you, such as providing you with a rental or loaner car until your vehicle is finished being repaired.

The good news in all of this is that a tree falling on your car is a comprehensive car insurance claim, and this type of claim doesn’t typically affect your car insurance rates.  And if it does with your current insurer, you should be able to shop around and find easily find cheaper rates with another car insurance company.

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