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If you’ve been involved in a serious car accident, it’s possible that your vehicle was terribly damaged. While you can ask insurance to total your car, your request could potentially still be denied. That’s because most auto insurance companies will only total your car if repairs are more expensive than replacement or if your vehicle is considered a total loss.
We’ve researched all major auto insurers to identify the best car insurance choices that are known to cover claims responsibly and efficiently. The easiest way to find your top option, though, is by comparing free quotes from multiple providers at once.
How Do I Know if My Car is Totaled?
When a vehicle gets totaled, it means that a car insurance company decided that it wasn’t worth repairing under collision coverage. This is a financial decision made by insurance adjusters that largely depends on the cost of necessary repairs versus the actual cash value (ACV) of the car.
Importantly, repair costs don’t always need to be more than the ACV of your vehicle for a car insurance company to decide to total it. Every insurer will have a set percentage at which they consider the car to be totaled, and it ranges by provider. If critical repairs cost more than that percentage of the auto’s ACV, it is considered totaled.
State Requirements for a Total Loss
Some state laws enforce a total loss threshold, which is a percent at which vehicles are legally required to be counted as a total loss. The total loss formula (TLF) is another popular way to determine the amount of damage, and it’s the value of your car minus its salvage value. If costs at the repair shop are higher than the result of the TLF, your vehicle is considered a total loss.
What Happens to a Totaled Car?
After a claims adjuster declares your car totaled, an insurance company will pay you the ACV of the vehicle minus any deductible in the total loss settlement. The auto insurer then owns your former car and will most likely sell it to a salvage yard. Note that you’ll need to carry collision insurance to receive the ACV of your vehicle after it gets totaled.
Depending on your insurer and the state you live in, you could potentially keep your totaled car. If you do, expect to receive the vehicle’s ACV minus your deductible and however much the insurer could have made by selling it to a salvage yard.
Though you can ask insurance to total your car in order to keep it, there are many downsides. The car will carry a salvage title, preventing you from driving it until it has a rebuilt title. Be wary of this option, as you’ll need to put in plenty of work to rebuild your car. Even if your car gets repaired out of pocket, it’s tough to get auto insurance for salvage vehicles with a rebuilt title.
What If You Owe Money on a Totaled Car?
If your car is totaled but there’s still a car loan or lease on it, the insurance company will pay the lender first and you’ll end up paying the balance of the auto loan.
If you purchased gap insurance for your vehicle, use it to pay the difference. Most auto lenders require gap insurance to make sure that they receive full payment even if the car ends up getting totaled.
Can I Ask My Insurance to Total My Car?
You can ask insurance to total your car, but the decision is based on price valuations rather than on your preference. Keep in mind that you are in no way guaranteed approval for your request. Every auto insurance company has its own formula and procedure for deciding whether a car has been totaled, and your request won’t change the process used for your car insurance policy.
How Do I Convince Insurance to Total My Car?
The best way to convince insurance to total your car is through careful research. For instance, you might discover that your auto insurer underestimated the damages, leading the cost of repairs to actually be higher than the insurer’s total loss threshold.
You can prove that this is true by getting reputable repair estimates. Note that you’ll need more than one legitimate estimate to convince the insurer that your point is valid. While you can ask insurance to total your car, coming armed with reputable information makes convincing the provider far more likely.
Negotiate Your Car’s Actual Cash Value
You can also negotiate the amount that your insurer claims is the car’s ACV. In some instances, it may even make sense to hire a lawyer to calculate a total insurance loss.
When Should I Negotiate on the Car’s Value?
Negotiating on the ACV of your car is an especially good idea if you felt that the offer from your insurance company was highly inaccurate. The insurance company totals vehicles based on its own calculations, so you could be able to change their minds if you come with compelling evidence.
Remember that negotiating the ACV of your vehicle will require research and plenty of time. You’ll need to look up the fair market value of identical or very similar vehicles in your area, and it’s critical that you figure out exactly which features came with your car. You’ll need to do more than look up the Kelley Blue Book value of your vehicle if you want to convince your auto insurer.
Our Recommendations for Auto Insurance
GEICO, USAA and Progressive are three reputable car insurance providers that offer affordable premiums, accessible insurance agents and a generally transparent insurance claims process. Remember that it’s smart to get multiple auto insurance quotes before picking a provider for your new vehicle.
High-risk drivers may want to select more than minimum liability coverage, which generally includes bodily injury and property damage liability insurance. Consider picking up collision insurance and comprehensive coverage as well if you’ve got a history of getting into accidents.
FIND OUT HOW MUCH YOU CAN
SAVE ON YOUR CAR INSURANCE
GEICO: Best Discounts
GEICO typically offers reasonable rates and it’s easy for drivers to qualify for additional discounts. You’ll also have plenty of add-ons to choose from such as roadside assistance, classic car coverage, rental car reimbursement and gap insurance.
USAA: Best Military Provider
We rank USAA as the Best Military Provider for active-duty members, veterans and their families. The provider is known for its exceptional customer service standards and its rates are often some of the lowest in the auto insurance industry.
Progressive: Best for High-Risk Drivers
Progressive scores extremely well for high-risk drivers with speeding tickets, at-fault accidents and DUIs on their driving records. Progressive offers a range of add-on insurance coverages such as a deductible savings account, accident forgiveness, roadside assistance and loan or lease payoff. Read more about how most at-fault drivers can still find affordable rates in our Progressive insurance review.
Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)
What happens if a car is totaled?
When your car gets totaled, expect an auto insurance company to reimburse you by giving you the actual cash value of the car from before the collision. The insurer will reimburse your lender instead if there’s a current loan or lease on the totaled vehicle.
How can I get a new car after a total loss?
The process of buying a new car after totaling one is the same as buying a new car in any other situation. The payout you receive from the insurance company should make it easier for you to buy a replacement vehicle.
Can an insurance company force you to total your car?
While car insurance companies may want to total your car, you can usually keep it if that’s your preference. Remember, though, that you cannot legally drive a totaled car until it’s been fully repaired to meet the standards for a rebuilt title. Additionally, your insurance company will subtract the salvage price of your car from the ACV that it pays you.
Is insurance more expensive for a salvage car?
Yes, insurance is more expensive for a salvage car. That’s because these vehicles are harder to value and have suspect reliability compared to models that weren’t previously deemed as total losses.
The Detroit Bureau collects data from every major car insurance provider to formulate rankings of the best insurers. Our in-depth rating system takes into account market share, coverage, auto insurance rate estimates generated by Quadrant Information Services, customer satisfaction and ratings from industry experts. Each insurer is given a weighted score in four categories, as well as an overall score out of 10.0.
We recommend auto insurance companies based on these rankings, but we also encourage you to perform your own research and compare quotes to find the best coverage.