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They auction them off to highest bidder...usually a salvage yard or recycler that resells them as "repairables" with a salvage title.
 

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Sometimes the owners buy them back from the insurance company. MO will salvage a vehicle if the cost of repair is equal to or greater than 75% of the fair market value of the vehicle.

Some older high mileage vehicles will cost more to fix than what they are worth but actually the car is still drive-able. The salvage business is big in MO and we process a lot of them at work.
 

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Here in CA, we sell them through Copart. In order to bid, the buyers must be registered with Copart and have a dismantlers license.

Most insurance carriers use the 70% rule which means if the cost of collision/mechanical repairs is 70%, or more, of the vehicle's ACV (actual cash value), then it's totalled. While some of the cars are rebuildable and subsequently sold under a Salvage title, most of the cars become parts donors. There have been some awesome deals that come from total loss salvage buys because of the hourly rate and cost of OEM parts that drive the cost of collision repairs upwards. For a DIYer, it can be pretty good.

Copart is located all over the US and google them for more information.

Cheers,
Mary Pozzi
 
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