Nearest Office:

What Happens When Your Car Is Totaled?

What Happens When Your Car Is Totaled in an Accident?

Why Does an Insurance Company Total a Car?

A Car can only take so much damage. Of course, there are circumstances where vehicles take too much damage in an auto accident. Be it an intense car accident, a falling tree, or a powerful storm- a car can easily be damaged beyond the point of repair.

It’s at this point that your adjuster from the car insurance company declares your vehicle totaled. The car can’t be repaired because the damage from the auto accident is too severe or the total repair costs exceed the value of the car.

Thus, the car is a total loss since fixing it would be next to pointless. It simply isn’t worth it. It is worth it to have the proper car insurance and know-how to handle and replace a totaled car.

Factors That Affect a Totaled Car’s Actual Cash Value (ACV)

Once your car insurance adjuster declares your car a total loss, you’ll be given your vehicle’s actual cash value (ACV). The ACV of your car is the value of your vehicle at the time prior to the car accident, which left it totaled. It takes into account year, miles, make, and time of ownership of the car into consideration. The price is determined by the car insurance adjuster’s estimate, taking all those factors about your car into account.

You can also easily research the ACV of your car on your own. The actual cash value goes towards your reimbursement price. So, it helps that you make sure your insurer isn’t selling your car’s value short and giving you a bad price. You are allowed to disagree with them and try to get them to pay more money.

What Kind of Car Insurance Covers Totaled Cars?

The type of auto insurance which covers totaled vehicles depends on how exactly the car was damaged in the first place. Here are a few examples of different types of car insurance that can be used when you file your insurance claim.

Please note that totaled vehicles are never good for the policyholder or the auto insurance company. Rates will rise exponentially regardless of how severe the damage from a car accident is for a total loss.

  • Comprehensive insurance - This type of car insurance is for vehicles totaled by acts of nature and car accidents that weren’t your fault. You’ll be reimbursed for the ACV of your car minus your deductible from your insurer.
  • Collision insurance - For vehicles totaled by car crashes that you caused, collision insurance is available. Like filing a totaled car claim with comprehensive coverage, you’ll be reimbursed the ACV minus the deductible from your insurer.
  • GAP insurance - Drivers often lease or finance their vehicle. When those leased cars get totaled, GAP insurance (guaranteed asset protection) saves policyholders trouble. The insurance company owes the ACV to the leasing company in that case too. That leaves you with the remaining payments on your lease schedule for a car you no longer drive. GAP insurance from your insurer will cover those payments.
  • Property damage claim - liability insurance - For a car totaled in a car accident that was the fault of another, you file a property damage claim with their auto insurance company. Their insurers property damage liability insurance coverage will cover your total loss car’s ACV if they are not underinsured.

What Happens When Your Car Gets Totaled?

If you become involved in a severe car accident or wake up one morning to find a tree lying across your car, there are the steps you take with your car insurance company to get you back on the road. Here are the steps to recover from a total loss:

1. File an insurance claim for your totaled car

Contact your car insurance agent and file one of the previously mentioned insurance claims depending on the circumstance of the car accident. Total loss claims take a lengthy amount of time to file-2 weeks minimum. So, it’s best to file your total loss claim with your insurer as soon as possible.

2. Transport your totaled vehicle to an auto shop

It may not be safe, wise, or even possible to drive a totaled vehicle. The best method of transport for your totaled vehicle would be a tow truck or flatbed. At the same time, your insurer will recommend an approved auto body shop.

3. Documentation and Insurance Card

Your totaled car’s documentation including your insurance card is required to provide your car insurance company with everything they need and fair amount of reimbursement money. This includes the title and sales receipt from when you purchased your car. The lending company will provide the leased cars’ titles and receipts to your insurer.

4. New car replacement

At this point, you’ve been reimbursed for your total loss or know exactly how much money your car insurance company will give you minus your deductible. In some states like Florida and California, the ACV reimbursement includes taxes and fees. Some car insurance companies offer new car replacement or better car replacement coverage in the event of a total loss.

Can You Keep Your Car if it’s Totaled?

Few states have restrictions on whether you may keep your totaled vehicle and do the repairs yourself. Your insurer will deduct the salvage value of the car from your reimbursement.

A car’s salvage value is paid to the car insurance company when the totaled vehicle is taken to a junkyard. Realistically, there’s no such thing as minor damage for a totaled vehicle. Know that even if you pay the hefty repair fee comparable to buying a new car, you still risk yourself and your passengers’ safety.

Simultaneously, there’s a lot of bureaucracy involved in getting a totaled vehicle back on the road. Your vehicle will need to be issued a new title. Either a branded title, rebuilt title, salvage title, or a salvage certificate.

These titles certify that your car has essentially been rebuilt. There are several fees associated with a car inspection and titling. Most of which the price is pretty substantial. The total loss of the vehicle is now a permanent part of your car’s report. Cars with a salvage title are extremely difficult to sell at a good price. It’s even harder to find auto insurance for a reasonable amount of money that will cover the vehicle with a salvage title.

My Car’s Airbags Deployed - Is It A Total Loss?

Regarding your airbags, it’s a misconception that when they deploy in a car accident, your car becomes totaled. In some instances of a car accident, airbags may deploy, but that doesn’t necessarily mean your vehicle is totaled. Again, the declaration falls on your car insurance adjuster to make their assessment of the damage and whether it is a total loss.

If the cost of replacing the airbags exceeds the car’s ACV, then it’s totaled. If not, then the airbags may be replaced. Know that airbag replacement typically costs $1000 for each individual airbag. There are all sorts of small moving parts and modules in a car that also must be replaced in the process which can cost extra money.

What if you’re missing your totaled cars documentation or insurance card?

If you’re unable to provide your totaled vehicle’s title and sales receipt, then copies of the title can be requested from the DMV. The DMV can also give you the rules and regulations for getting a totaled vehicle back in working condition from the auto accident. Finding the sales receipt may prove to be more difficult. But, the dealership where you purchased or leased your car may have a record of how much money you paid for your car.

With no comprehensive or collision insurance, you will not be reimbursed for your totaled vehicle’s ACV from your insurer. The wisest move would be to sell the totaled vehicle. If there’s a party at fault with car insurance, then their property damage liability would cover your damages from the car accident.

How to Fight an Insurance Company Over a Totaled Vehicles Value

Again, you want to find the value of your car before it was totaled. There’s a multitude of online car guides like NADA and Kelley Blue Book. By comparing and contrasting car values, you may be able to find an average price for your car. With that amount of money in mind, it would be easy to see if your car insurance company is reimbursing you with a low ACV for your total loss car.

Upon receiving the settlement offer from your insurer, send them all your research in appraisals and a counteroffer of the amount of money you’d like to receive. Your research plays the role of evidence here.

You can also contact your state’s auto insurance regulator for assistance. Lawsuits and attorneys should only be used as a last resort. Besides, a large percentage of lawsuits are never worth it in the end because of the attorneys costs. Independent appraisals are usually significant in swaying your car insurance company to pay you a fair price for your car without a lawyer.

How a total loss affects your car insurance premium

A car being totaled in a collision can drastically affect the amount of money you pay for your premium, along with your driving record. Some car insurance companies make notes of this and can raise your rates. Some insurance companies offer accident forgiveness insurance in the instance of a collision, but it is limited in some states and insurers.

As stated before, totaled vehicles are never good for auto insurance. It’s a lengthy and, at times, expensive process. That’s why it’s essential to have at least one kind of car insurance covering you in the total loss of a car after a collision. The other half of the battle is knowing what to do, which we have fully covered.

Don’t Let a Totaled Car keep you from being Insured

Don’t let one car accident drain you financially; get cheap car insurance coverage today. Insurance Navy offers free quotes online via our website and mobile app. You can also give us a call at 888-949-6289. More assistance may be offered in person at one of our many conveniently-located storefronts.

Updated: November 2023

Free Insurance Quote

Receive a car insurance quote in 2 minutes or less!

Auto Insurance

Motorcycle Insurance

Homeowners Insurance

Renters Insurance