Can you ask an insurance company to total your car?

You can't simply ask your auto insurance company to total your vehicle. If the amount of repairs is not more than the actual cost of the car, they will pay for repairs.

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Leslie Kasperowicz holds a BA in Social Sciences from the University of Winnipeg. She spent several years as a Farmers Insurance CSR, gaining a solid understanding of insurance products including home, life, auto, and commercial and working directly with insurance customers to understand their needs. She has since used that knowledge in her more than ten years as a writer, largely in the insuranc...

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Dan Walker graduated with a BS in Administrative Management in 2005 and has been working in his family’s insurance agency, FCI Agency, for 15 years (BBB A+). He is licensed as an agent to write property and casualty insurance, including home, auto, umbrella, and dwelling fire insurance. He’s also been featured on sites like and Safeco. He reviews content, ensuring that ex...

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Reviewed by Daniel Walker
Licensed Auto Insurance Agent

UPDATED: Oct 25, 2021

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Things to remember...

  • If your auto insurance company totals your vehicle, you may receive benefits that can be applied toward the purchase of a new car
  • The decision about totaling a vehicle is made independently
  • If you file a claim, your premium may increase

Many drivers love their vehicle for the first year or two of ownership, but there usually comes a time when drivers want to trade in their vehicle for a newer and more stylish model.

If you have recently been in a car accident, you may be wondering if your insurer will total out your car. Of course, this depends on the individual situation and the condition of your vehicle. In general, if you have a non-repairable vehicle or the cost for vehicle repair exceeds the value of your car, you can expect your insurer to total it.

When a vehicle is totaled, the insurance benefits may be paid first to a lender to pay off any outstanding car loans in place. Any additional benefits can be used by the driver as a down payment for a replacement vehicle.

This sounds like it would be a convenient way to move forward with your car-buying plans. However, as a consumer, you cannot simply ask your insurer to total out your vehicle. With a closer look at the claims process, you can learn more about what to expect when you file a claim.

Find the best rate for the insurance coverage you need. Enter your zip code above to compare quotes today.

What Happens When You File an Auto Insurance Claim?

Immediately after you are in an accident, you should notify your insurance company and begin the claims process. If you have collision coverage, your auto insurer will help you get your car into a body shop so they can estimate the repair cost.

With most providers, you can either submit a claim over the phone or online. With both options, you may need to submit supporting evidence or documentation for your claim, such as an accident report from the police and photos you took at the scene. Without this evidence, you may not be able to get your payment even if you were not the one at fault in a collision.

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Why Is Paying Your Deductible The First Step?

As part of the claims process, you will need to pay your deductible. A common deductible amount is $500, but this may vary slightly. Your insurer is likely to let you choose the amount you’d like to pay for your deductible when you first purchase your policy. Higher deductibles generally lead to a lower monthly payment.

The deductible is owed with your claim regardless of whether your vehicle is totaled or not.

As you can see, the claims process and the potential to have your vehicle totaled by insurance is not a free process for you to benefit from. If you receive proceeds after your vehicle is totaled, the deductible amount will be subtracted from the proceeds.

How Does An Insurance Adjuster Determine the Cost of Damage to Your Vehicle?

A skilled adjuster from your insurance company will then examine the vehicle. They will ensure that all damage on the vehicle is related to the specific accident that you filed the loss claim for.

The adjuster will also estimate the cost of the repairs based on the vehicle damage, and this may be corroborated by one or several quotes from auto service centers. They will almost always shop around.

Keep in mind that this is an independent process, and you cannot simply request that your vehicle is totaled. The cost of repairs must be documented and is not typically open to negotiations or requests.

How Does An Appraiser Estimate the Car’s Current Replacement Cost of the Wrecked Vehicle?

A car insurance policy pays benefits up to the policy limits of the coverage that you purchased, but this amount is also limited by the replacement price of the car.

For example, if your car is worth $10,000 in today’s market, has $12,000 in damages, and has $20,000 in collision coverage, the limiting factor would be the current fair market value of the vehicle.

Keep in mind that most auto insurance providers will total the vehicle if the cost of repairs approaches the market value. The cost of repairs does not typically need to exceed the vehicle’s market price so it is most likely going to be sent to the repair shop.


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How Can You Dispute the Auto Insurance Company’s Decision?

There are sometimes instances when the driver does not agree with how a claim was settled. For example, you may think that the estimated repair costs provided by the claims adjuster are too high or too low.

This simple factor can play a major role in determining whether a car is totaled out by insurance or not.

If you want to file a dispute about any aspect of the claims process, your best option is to begin by writing a letter to your insurance company and providing supporting documentation to back up your beliefs.

Some claims disputes may easily be resolved through this step, but other matters may escalate. You may agree to dispute the matter in an arbitration hearing.

A third-party arbitrator may be used to help you and the insurance company come to an acceptable resolution that both parties can agree on.

Filing a complaint about the claim with your state’s insurance board is another option to consider, but this process may take a lengthy amount of time to resolve.

A final option available to you if you want to dispute your claim settlement is to pursue legal action. You can hire a lawyer who specializes in this area of insurance industry law.

The lawyer can try to negotiate or settle the matter out of court, but some legal issues do result in a full trial in front of a jury and judge.

How Does A Claim Affect Your Auto Insurance Premium?

An insurance claim can cause your insurance premium to increase. In fact, any accident or even traffic citation that you receive can result in a premium increase, and this is because these events can blotch your driving record.

Your driving history is carefully reviewed by your insurance provider each time you renew your car insurance coverage, and a blemished record usually results in higher insurance costs.

Why Should You Be Shopping for Better Rates?

Each provider analyzes your driving history differently, and some may be more lenient about accidents and traffic citations than others.

With this in mind, you can see that comparing rate quotes from several providers for a type of coverage can help you to save a small fortune on your car insurance premium. Shopping around is the best way to get cheap car insurance.

If you have decided to shop for better car insurance rates, begin the process by selecting at least three different car insurance companies to request quotes from to see if they offer coverage at a reasonable cost.

Ideally, these will be companies that have a solid financial strength and a great reputation with consumers.

Insurance quotes can usually be requested online or by calling the providers during normal business hours, but you can also request quotes through an auto insurance agent.

When you request quotes for new auto insurance, remember that the following can affect your rates:

  • coverage limits
  • coverage types
  • your deductible amount

Select these with care, and request similar quotes from each provider to make the comparison process easier.

Some drivers want their car to be totaled by insurance, and others may prefer to have their current vehicle repaired after an accident. Regardless of your wishes, this will be an independent decision made by your insurance company after a careful review of the facts.

You can, however, dispute the decision and change your insurance carrier if you are not happy with how your claim was handled or the appraisal you received.

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