How to Cancel the Registration on a Totaled Car in California


If you total your car in California, you must report it to the Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV). Once the insurance company offers a settlement after your car accident, within 10 days you must obtain a California Salvage Certificate or Non-repairable Vehicle Certificate. You’ll receive it in exchange for the vehicle’s California Certificate of Title that you must surrender. Continue reading to learn more about how to cancel the registration on a totaled car.

Canceling Your Totaled Car’s Registration

Canceling your car’s registration requires filling out a form. It can be done online or in person. The time to complete cancellation depends on how quickly the DMV processes your request. You should receive a confirmation if all the information you provided was correct.

Bear in mind that state law considers a car totaled if the cost to repair it is more than 75% of its value. This is determined by the driver’s insurance company, which may require having the car inspected at an approved shop to confirm it’s a total loss. If not considered totaled, the car may be labeled “non-repairable”. In this case, it has no resale value, and you may receive a settlement based on the car’s pre-accident value (after you submit a Salvage Certificate).

Do I Get a Refund?

You could be refunded paid fees if the vehicle was wrecked or salvaged before the first day of a new registration period. Under California law, you may also receive a prorated refund of the Vehicle License Fee (VLF). The VLF is part of the registration fee. Your refund may be issued if the car is declared a “Constructive Total Loss”, meaning it’s uneconomical to repair due to being wrecked, destroyed, or damaged. A “Non-repairable” vehicle is one with no value except for its use for parts or scrap metal.

A VLF refund is issued to the owner of a salvage vehicle. This is the insurance company if it issued a settlement for the loss and retained possession of the car. However, you can receive the VLF refund if you retain the salvaged vehicle and meet certain conditions.

If you receive this refund, its amount is based on one-twelfth of the annual fee for each month left before you would have renewed the registration. The DMV deducts a service fee. You won’t receive a refund if this fee exceeds the amount owed to you. Requesting a VLF refund requires submitting a separate form than canceling your registration.

What If I Keep a Salvage Vehicle?

You can submit paperwork to the DMV to re-register the vehicle. An Application for Title or Registration, along with proof of ownership, vehicle verification, and inspection certificate, is required. Proof the brakes and lights are in working order is also required. If a vehicle you previously reported as a total loss is restored to operational condition, it is now a “Revived Salvage Vehicle”. 

For information on other forms, requirements, and fees, visit the DMV’s page on how to reregister a salvage (total loss) vehicle.

Totaled Your Car and Injured? Call Jacob Today

If you want to know more about how to cancel the registration on a totaled car, we can provide more information. The Law Offices of Jacob Emrani also fights for the rights of accident victims in California. Our personal injury attorneys have won millions of dollars in damages and are skilled at negotiating with insurance companies. Call (888) 952-2952 to schedule your free consultation.

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