You're right.....Insurers can total any car for any amount of damage.
The issue is that when they do total them, the vehicle title is supposed to be changed (branded) to state that it was indeed totalled. It's all about consumer awareness. You at least knew before hand that your vehicle had been wrecked and rebuilt.
Several years ago, State Farm was caught NOT BRANDING the titles in Louisiana. Further checking discovered that this was a nationwide policy of theirs. They were getting big bucks at the salvage auctions by not having the titles branded. But before the attorneys got to it, SF did an end around by getting in touch with a favored attorney general from some state I think in the midwest. That Attorney General convinced all of the other state Attornies General (except 2)to allow State Farm to give each state in excess of $ 1 million each to check all of the state registrations to notify the owners of those previous totalled vehicles to get some cash back or SF would outright buy the vehicle back from the current owners.
Talk all you want about insurance fraud but the insurance companies themselves are the worst at committing fraud on the consuming public.
Sorry to take this off topic. If you wish to move it do so. But this is a hot topic for me. I put up with this consumer fraud every stinking day.
And don't rely on CARFAX to help, they can only report what information is given to them.
Rberg, the insurance companies can not total a vehicle at will, check with your state department of insurance on the rules, they are outlined in most cases on the state web site. There are cases where they will total them when there is a safety issue, and in general, when the damages for a car reach 60% they will often total the car, depending on the type of damage, and at 75% they will certainly total it in almost every case. The insured almost always has the option of buying the salvage back however. Also, what you say about State Farm and titling is not true. Nor was it true of any company I know of. I was an auto adjuster from 92-99 and know the titling procedures very well and this was not a national issue at all. There may have been some regional issues I am not aware of, but definitely not national that I am aware of and I read the blue sheets weekly issued by the courts, not any insurance company. We also had other insurance legal case reviews we would review regularly.
There is no question the insurance industry is guilty of a lot of things, but you have to be accurate about what they are guilty of. If you look at Katrina and realize most of the suits were overturned in the end on appeal, in large part because the class action suits brought by Scruggs were a scam for example. (Is Trent Lott also a scammer because he is his brother in law and Scruggs got nailed for accepting bribes and other offenses? I could go on and on about Lott and his role in the Katrina lawsuit) Once you are an adjuster, you will understand what fraud is all about. I dealt mainly with bodily injury claims and my unscientific estimate is that as many as 40% of the claims were outright fraud. I could go on forever describing cases that netted millions and millions of dollars that eventually were broken up during our investigations, but no one cares becasue it isn't a sexy story when an insurance company is being ripped off and you and I are paying for it.