There is a good reason why car insurance companies are cautious about fixing badly damaged cars, says Ward. "Cars are complicated. All damages are not visible. Once you start dismantling, often you find additional damage."

Peter Moraga, spokesman for the Insurance Information Network of California, suggests that you think twice about repairing a car that has been seriously damaged. If the professionals who work for your automobile insurance company think the car is beyond repair for a reasonable cost, it probably is.

"A lot of damage goes unseen," he says. "There can be cracks in the frame or damage to airbags."

Finding coverage for a totaled vehicle

Ward says you may run into trouble when you seek auto insurance for a car that has been declared totaled. Your ability to buy collision and comprehensive coverage may be affected.

"That is really up to each individual company," he says. Before you decide to fix your car, check to see if that is an issue." Some insurers will not accept a car with "a branded title," he adds. "It basically puts a stamp on it that says it is a salvaged vehicle."

Ward notes that the federal government has established a database called the National Motor Vehicles Title Information System to provide information to car shoppers. "All total losses are recorded by the insurance companies. What this does is provide consumers with a database to see if a car has been previously salvaged." That means don't count on being able to unload your vehicle on a buyer.

Is repairing a totaled car worth the effort?

Only you can decide whether repairing your totaled car is worthwhile.

"The best thing is to be well informed," says Ward. "Talk to your mechanic. Do your research. Make sure you know what you are getting yourself into."

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Young has seen more and more drivers deciding to repair and keep their "totaled" vehicles.

"People don't want to go down the road of having a $500-per-month car payment anymore" because of the tight economy, says Young. "Cosmetically, it may not look as good as it did before, but they are not going into debt for a new car purchase."

This article was reported by Emmet Pierce for Insure.com.