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7 Questions for Your Insurance Agent if Your Car is Totaled 

By Mike Richards Updated: 05/22/2019 Posted: 10/23/2015

The chances of your vehicle being totaled after an accident are about one in five. What does it mean when your car is totaled? There are seven questions that you should ask your insurance agent, and here are the answers that you can reasonably expect.

#1. How Do You Determine if My Car is Totaled?

To determine if your car is totaled, insurers look at the mileage of the car, its condition, any extras that it may have, and the area in which you live. That’s what determines your cash, or pre-crash, value.

Just as an example, if your car has a cash value of ten thousand dollars, and it only needs three thousand in repairs, it’s not a write-off. But as little as five thousand dollars in damage could tip it over into a write-off. If the repair costs are approaching 50% of the value of the car, that’s the point where most insurance companies consider it a write-off, although some insurance companies may go as high as 80%.

#2. What Will I Get if My Car is Written Off?

If the car is considered a total loss, you’ll get the actual cash value of the car, less your deductible.

#3. What If I’m Still Making Car Payments?

If the car isn’t paid off, then technically, you don’t own the vehicle. That means that your lender will be paid first, and you’ll get the balance that’s left over. If you owe more than the car is worth, you will still be responsible for what’s owing on the loan.

If, however, you have GAP (guaranteed auto protection) insurance, the insurance company will pay the difference between what the wrecked car is valued at, and what you still owe on your loan. This only applies to a totaled vehicle, though.

#4. How Soon Will I Be Paid?

If the insurance company doesn’t have to do much investigation, you can usually expect a check in a few days. If it’s uncertain who’s liable for the accident, it might take longer.

#5. Can I Get a Rental Car?

Most insurance companies will allow a week’s rental after an accident.

#6. Can I Keep My Car?

If your car has been totaled in an accident, you can keep it, but it might not be a good idea. You’re going to have trouble fixing it up to drivable condition. Even if you can, you’ll have to get a salvage title, and then rebuild it to the point where you can get a clear title.

That can be problematic because it will involve inspections not just to ensure that you haven’t used stolen parts in the rebuild,  but also to satisfy your insurance company that your vehicle is worthy of collision and comprehensive insurance as opposed to just public liability and property damage.

#7. What Are the Chances That the Insurance Company Will Consider My Car Totaled?

Usually, about 20% of damaged cars are considered totaled. And generally speaking, no matter how much you want your car back on the road, you’re not always well advised to try to restore a totaled car. But talk to your insurance agent and keep your options open.

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