Total loss car insurance claims and value

Reader question:

My car insurance company is telling me that my car is a total loss. What can I do?


Great question.

When your car insurance company informs you that your car is a total loss, that basically means that the cost to repair it would be more than the cost to buy you a whole new car, so why bother with repairing? Instead of paying to get it repaired then, they’ll hand you a check to buy yourself a new car. When you hear those words, ‘total loss’, though, start paying attention, because car insurance like to think they’re the experts but they underestimate the value of cars all the time. You don’t want them to underestimate the value of your own car.

The settlement they’ll offer you is based around the depreciated current value of your vehicle, which can be a lot less than what you spent for it in the first place. However, this should mean that you can get an equally depreciated version of the same car in the same kind of condition at a used car dealership with that check they give you. Given the likelihood of underestimation, though, this is very likely to be impossible. So how do you find out if your car is worth more than that check they’re trying to do with you, and what do you do with that information?

  • Look in the classifieds section of your newspaper and cut out any listings of cars like yours. Check online as well for cars like yours in your area and get the prices.
  • Look into resources that provide information on depreciated values of cars and see if the numbers they have measure up. Look into the Kelley Blue Book or Edmunds to find out this information.
  • Get an appraiser. These are people who can look into the value of your vehicle personal and provide you with an impartial estimate. Sometimes they’ll even negotiate with your car insurance company for you to get you the correct price.


Fashun Guadarrama.

Posted in: Auto Insurance

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  • Denver

    How does car insurance companies determine if the car is a “total loss”?