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Q

My car was hit and declared "totaled" by the insurance company. Do I have to surrender the car and if not, can I sell it legally in Illinois? It is only totalled because it is an old car (1992). There is no damage other than spider web crack in the bumper, no other damage was found under the hood or anywhere else from the accident.


A

According to the Illinois Department of Insurance one cannot normally keep a vehicle after it has been declared a total loss. The Illinois Vehicle Code does not permit you the right to retain the salvage once the insurance company has deemed your automobile a total loss. The state does so in an effort to minimize automobile "chop shop" crime.

There are two instances though in which IL law does allow a vehicle owner to retain their vehicle after it being totaled:

  1. if the vehicle has incurred only hail damage that does not affect the operational safety of the vehicle, or
  2. if the vehicle is nine (9) model years of age or older.

Since your vehicle is more than 9 years old it would appear that you may be able to retain it however you would need to speak with your insurance company to see if they will allow you to keep it. Normally if the insurance company is settling with you for the actual cash value (ACV) of the vehicle you must turn the vehicle over to them. If the insurance company involved will allow you to keep the vehicle then you will need to pay them salvage value.

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If you then keep the car it will have a salvage title and thus worth less and may be difficult to insure. You would need to check with the IL SOS (Secretary of State) to find out how you go about selling a vehicle with a salvage title if you wanted to buy back the car from the insurance company, fix it and then sell it on your own.

You may find our new article helpful, Car's Salvage Value: What does an insurance company pay you for a car?

Illinois law requires that all sellers, whether a vehicle dealer or private individual, are obligated to provide the buyer with a Disclosure of Rebuilt Vehicle form whenever a Salvage Title has been issued on any vehicle. So it would appear you could sell your car with the salvage / rebuilt title however you will need to let the buyer know they are dealing with a rebuilt vehicle.


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