Tips for Insurance Claims for Totaled Vehicles

Sometimes, you can keep your totaled car.

Sometimes, you can keep your totaled car.

If your car gets seriously crunched, an insurance agent may figure that the repair costs may be more than the car's value. In other words, it's totaled. After a car is tagged as totaled, an adjuster determines the actual cash value of your car and makes you an offer. You and your significant other may not be happy with the offer. In that case, you can do some legwork and possibly get a better deal.

Review the Offer

When the insurance company gives you their offer, they will also include documentation that tells how they arrived at the vehicle's actual cash value. According to the insurance company Nationwide, adjusters use accepted vehicle industry value guides, the car's mileage and the local automotive market to determine value. Go over the report carefully and have your partner take a second look. Look for any errors, such as an incorrect make or model, wrong odometer reading or omitted equipment.

Do Your Own Research

Look at vehicle industry value guides such as Kelley Blue Book and NADA to find the value of your vehicle, complete with any extra equipment. Base the value of the car on its condition before the accident. If you figure in any dealer-installed or aftermarket accessories -- such as a custom audio system -- make sure you have the receipts. You can also look for ads for used vehicles that are the same make and model, with comparable options and mileage offered by dealers in your area. This is an important step because what your pre-accident car was worth in one auto market may not be the same in another. Call the dealership for the cash price, because that's what the insurance company uses to figure out your car's value. Make a note of the salesperson or manager you spoke with and the time and date. Clip the ad and attach it to your notes for documentation. Present your documentation to the insurance company for re-evaluation.

Tax, Title and License

Don't forget to make a visit to your state's department of motor vehicles website and figure out the cost of tax, title and license for a replacement vehicle equal that's the same make and model as your totaled car. According to Bankrate, the insurance company should pay for the cost of these fees because they are costs that you must pay when you buy a vehicle -- something you wouldn't be doing if your vehicle wasn't totaled.

Other Options

If the insurance company's re-evaluation doesn't bring their offer close enough to what you want, check with your company to find out about their appraisal provisions. Or visit your state's department of insurance website to find out about your options. You state may have advocates available to help you with your claim, or you can choose to file a complaint. You also can request an appraisal of your vehicle by an unbiased third party to prove its value. Be aware that you will have to pay for the costs of the appraisal, but if it turns out in your favor, it should be worth the cost.

Keeping the Totaled Car

If you decide you want to hang on to your totaled vehicle, tell the insurance company as soon as possible. They may or may not agree. If they do, they will deduct the car's salvage value from the reimbursement check you'll get. For instance, if the adjuster decides the actual cash value of your car is $15,000 and the salvage value of the car is $3,000, you will receive a $12,000 check if you keep the car. This is because you can sell the car for parts, to a salvage yard or possibly in an auction and make money that the insurance company could have made. You may have to buy a salvage title in some states if you take possession of the car after it's totaled.

About the Author

Based in Texas, Cynthia Measom has been writing various parenting, business and finance and education articles since 2011. Her articles have appeared on websites such as The Bump and Motley Fool. Measom received a Bachelor of Arts in English from the University of Texas at Austin.

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