Section 10 – How to Determine if Your Vehicle is Totaled

Usually, an appraiser representing the at-fault insurance company will be assigned to estimate the damages to your vehicle. The insurance appraiser will inspect and most likely photograph your vehicle’s damage. An estimate or repairs is created. The appraiser will try to determine how much it will cost to repair your vehicle to its condition before the accident. The insurance company is only obligated to return your vehicle to its prior condition. They are not obligated to purchase a new vehicle for you, or fix any damage that occurred before to the accident.

Sometimes the estimate of the damages is higher than your car is worth. Therefore, the actual value of your car is established by using the following methods:

One method used to determine the value of your vehicle is to examine current editions of the NADA official used car guide book. The guide is published every month and provides estimators and automobile retailers a standard way to appraise vehicle values. The estimator will most likely figure the value of your car using the retail value that is published in the NADA book. If your vehicle has added options it will likely increase the value. Some things that may decrease the value of a vehicle are the lack of options, high mileage, excessive wear and tear, preexisting damage, and various other reasons. It is important to remember after-market add–ons are not usually given extra value.

Another method insurance companies can use to determine the value of your car is to complete a market survey. Specifically, this means that the insurance company may call several automobile retailers to compare your vehicle with a similar vehicle on their lot and average the retail value of the car. Insurance companies typically call at least three independent retailers to get an average retail value.

Please remember that a car is deemed to be a total loss only if the insurance company has determined the repair cost will exceed the retail value of the car. You will need to inform your lawyer whether or not you hold the title to your vehicle. If you are making payments on your vehicle it is safe to assume there is a lien holder on the vehicle and you do not have the title. If your vehicle is determined to be a total loss and the insurance company is offering a fair value for your car, you will need to have the original title of your car.

Although we do not recommend this for safety reasons, sometimes the client will be offered the opportSectiony to maintain possession of the vehicle even though he has settled with the insurance company for a total loss. Under those circumstances you will receive a little less than the full value of the car, since you will be able to keep the salvaged vehicle. A totaled vehicle may be drivable but, more importantly, may not be safe for the clients and their family.

About 85% of automobile accident cases include property damage of vehicles that are repairable. You will find that we most likely will not recommend that you obtain vehicle estimates. After you have been given the estimate for damages to your vehicle by the appraiser, we recommend that you find a reputable body shop for repairs. Most reputable body shops will not charge more than the estimate prepared by the insurance adjuster. Rarely, a supplemental estimate is needed for one or more items overlooked by the original estimator. Usually, the body shop and the insurance company will resolve this problem without extra cost to you.