Collect the insurance money, less the few hundred they keep for you keeping the car, do minor fixes yourself and keep driving it. You don't HAVE to get rid of it in a totalled case...
I assumed, perhaps incorrectly, a higher salvage value than a few hundred. Additionally, it'd be almost cost-prohibitive for me to insure it against future damage, which I'd prefer to do.
A 16 year old Camry in good condition on the private market goes for what? $2000-3000? Salvage value is probably about 1/8 of the value for a good, unwrecked one. Keep in mind that your valuation of the vehicle is not going to the same as a salvage yard who wants to sell some good parts from it, then send it to the crusher.
When insurance pays out for a totaled vehicle, they give you approximately what you could sell it for on the private market, just prior to the wreck. So if your car was worth $4000 to sell based on bluebook, that is roughly what they'll pay you for it.
then they try to get some of that money back by selling the car to a local salvage yard for salvage value, which is what a salvage yard is willing to pay them for the vehicle based on it's year, make and model. If a salvage yard is only paying $500 for 1998 Camrys, thats the "salvage value".
If you take $2500 instead of $3000 (assuming $500 salvage value) then that's the difference between you keeping the car or not. Keep in mind I am just simplifying this, your salvage value could be much higher... but that's roughly how it works.
That's how it worked both times and how it was printed on the insurance payout paperwork. Surrender the car for $X payout, or keep it for $X payout.
I had liability and uninsured/under-insured on both my vehicles when they were "totaled". Both times were accidents that were not my fault. Both times, the ladies' insurance companies paid out about $ Technically they didn't buy the car from me. The title never left my hands nor did it get a salvage title even. That's how Arkansas works it, anyway. Both cars still had clear titles in my name. I just signed a form saying I accepted $X for the damage and opted to let them withhold $X salvage value (which is about $300 for both vehicles, it could be more like $500 for yours?) and that was it.
My insurance rates stayed the same on both vehicles. Yes, I did report the accidents to my insurance agent and let him make copies of the documentation.
Your state may be different though.. so you may want to ask your insurance agent.