What happens after insurance totals my car?

If the cost of repairs exceeds the value of the car, your auto insurance company may total it. Compare quotes and coverage to see how different insurers handle total losses.

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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 Reviews.com and Safeco. He reviews content, ensuring that ex...

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Reviewed by Daniel Walker
Licensed Auto Insurance Agent

UPDATED: Jul 16, 2021

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Things to Remember...

  • You should report your accident to your insurance company as soon as possible after the accident
  • Your insurance representative will let you know what steps you need to take next
  • Generally, if the value of your car is at least 75 percent of what it will cost to have it repaired, the insurance company will deem the car a total loss
  • Your insurance company will determine the cash value of your car and send you a check, minus your deductible
  • You will need to pay off any outstanding loan balance that you have. If the amount given to you by your insurance company does not fully cover the loan, you can utilize any gap coverage you may have

Being in a car accident can be extremely upsetting. Once you have established that you are physically okay or on your way to being okay, you may start wondering what will happen on the financial and insurance side of things.

You may be wondering about whether or not you will get to keep your vehicle.

The first step to making sure you are well-covered in the event of an automobile accident is selecting and insurance company and policy that is the right fit for you and your budget.

Start comparing auto insurance rates now by using our FREE tool above!

Filing Your Claim

Most insurance companies require their policyholders to report their claim as soon as possible after the accident.

Follow these steps to report your claim and get the ball rolling to being reimbursed for medical bills and getting your car repaired or replaced.

  • Call your insurance company. This needs to be done no matter who is responsible for the accident. Even if the accident seemed minor, it still needs to be reported
  • Be prepared to answer several questions about the accident, such as who the involved parties are, where it happened, and how it happened
  • Ask your insurance representative what you will need to do to in order to proceed with your claim. Many will have proof of claim forms you will need to complete. Most will require a copy of the police report if one exists. Check to see if you can do this online
  • Protect yourself and make this process easier by keeping good records. Keep copies of any related bills you receive and record the names and phone numbers of anyone you talk to
  • Be patient and cooperate with your insurance company. In some cases, claims can take several months or even a year to be completed. Each state will have its own laws regarding the claims process and each insurance company will have its own policies and procedures

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Questions to Ask Your Claims Representative

Here are some vital questions to ask your insurance claims representative when you are reporting your accident:

  • Is there a time limit to report claims?
  • Is there a time limit to submitting bills for a claim?
  • Is there a time limit for settling disputes of claims?
  • If I have any additional information to submit, am I barred by a time limit?
  • When should I expect to hear from the insurance company next?
  • Do I need to get an estimate for repairs on my car on my own?
  • Do I have rental car coverage I can use while my car is being? If so, how much will it cover?

What happens next with my vehicle?

Policies and routines will vary from one insurance company to the next and can also depend on your location. In general, your car will need to be towed or taken to an approved auto repair shop in your area.

Your claims representative can direct you as to what locations are approved and how to go about doing so.

Other companies may have an insurance adjustor come to you or to your car wherever it has been towed to in order to make an estimate regarding repairs.

This part of the process can take several days, depending on how busy the insurance adjustor is or how busy the repair shop is.

What will happen to my car?

If it turns out that it will cost more than what your vehicle is worth to repair it, your insurance company will likely decide it is a total loss.

In these situations, it makes more financial sense for your insurance company to pay you, assuming you have more than just liability coverage, the market value for your car than to be for the repairs.

In fact, many insurance companies will consider the vehicle a total loss if repairs will cost 75 percent of the cash value of the car. However, each state has their own regulations as to how this is handled and calculated.

If you are notified by your insurance adjustor or another agent that your vehicle has been deemed a total loss, you do have the right to ask them how they came to this determination.

They will also let you know how much they will be giving you for your loss though you can also argue their figures.

If you have taken excellent care of your vehicle, recently got new tires or some other upgrade or service, and have documentation to prove it, let your car insurance company know that. They may decide to increase the number they will give you.

Usually, your deductible amount will be subtracted from their final number that they owe you.

You also still have the right to keep your vehicle. If you decided to do so, your car insurance would likely subtract the salvage value from the number they had quoted you. The car would then be yours to repair or do whatever you wanted with.

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What if I am still paying the loan off on my totaled vehicle?

Many people find themselves still making payments on their car’s loan at the time of their auto accident. When your car is totaled, the money you are given by the insurance company will go towards paying off the outstanding loan balance.

However, your insurance company is not necessarily required to give you an amount equal to the outstanding balance of the loan.

If you have gap insurance, this policy should be used to make sure the entire balance of the loan is paid off.

Although being in a car accident can be stressful, knowing what to expect and following the instructions of your insurance company can help decrease your anxieties.

You can protect yourself and your financial interests by shopping for an auto policy with an online comparison tool. Start comparing rates by using our FREE tool below!

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Enter your ZIP code below to view companies that have cheap auto insurance rates.

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