Zaneta Wood, Ed.S. has over 15 years of experience in research and technical writing bringing a keen understanding of data analysis and information synthesis to reach a wide variety of audiences. She studied adult education and instructional technology at Appalachian State University as well as technical and professional communication at East Carolina University. Zaneta has prepared technical p...

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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 insurance...

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Reviewed by Leslie Kasperowicz
Farmers Insurance CSR 4 Years

UPDATED: Feb 5, 2019

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Important facts to know...

  • A car is totaled when the car costs more to repair after an accident than the insurance company values it
  • One of the first steps you need to take after you’re in a safe place is to call your insurer to file your claim
  • When the information provided is reviewed, fault is allocated. When you’re at fault, your company pays
  • Your adjuster will estimate the damage to your vehicle and then determine how much it will cost to repair
  • If you don’t agree with the estimate or you don’t agree with the value of your car, you can negotiate with the adjuster

Everything from a car crash to a huge superstorm can total your car. If you live in an area that’s prone to hurricanes or floods, knowing just how to handle a claim for damage to your car is a must.

It doesn’t always take thousands of dollars of damage to turn your once fully reliable car into a total loss wreck.

Unfortunately, some cars can be totaled after sustaining even minor cosmetic damage.

Anyone who has an attachment to their vehicle doesn’t want to have to deal with a total loss claim. It can also be a hassle to deal with when you have a high balance on your auto loan. If your car is paid off and totaling out your car would actually benefit you, it’s important to know your rights.

Using our FREE comparison tool, compare car insurance quotes today!

When is a car a total loss?

Cars aren’t just declared total losses in the blink of an eye. A lot must be done before the adjuster can come to this decision. A total loss is a vehicle that’s been damaged in a loss and that will cost more to repair than it’s worth.

Sometimes, cars can be totaled when the damage exceeds just a percentage of the car’s value when there’s a Total Loss Threshold.

Since it doesn’t make financial sense for an insurer to pay more than a car is worth to repair it, the company will only pay up to the car’s actual cash value at the time of the loss when settling any total loss claim.

You can then use the money that you receive to either buy a new car or to repair the car on your own.

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When will your auto insurance company pay after a total loss?

Your auto insurance carrier doesn’t have to pay to repair your car after every loss that you have. If you get into a crash and you’re the person who caused it, you’re going to have to have the right coverage to pay for the loss.

When you’re in an at-fault wreck, someone without insurance hits you, or your car is damaged while it’s parked, you need the following:

  • Comprehensive – pays for your vehicle repairs after you’re in an at-fault collision or after you’re in a hit-and-run accident
  • Collision – pays for your vehicle repairs after the car is stolen, scratched, vandalized, or damaged in a natural disaster like a fire or flood

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Your Adjuster Will Estimate the Cost to Repair Your Vehicle

If you have the right coverage and you file a claim, your claims representative will start to review your statements. They will also send someone to see your car, inspect it, and estimate the damage.

After the estimator’s report is sent back to the adjuster, the numbers will be crunched, and the adjuster will decide how much the company will have to pay to restore the car.

While the car is being inspected, the adjuster will be hard at work reviewing other reports to determine what your car is worth. This process isn’t as easy as it might seem because the adjuster has to factor in the car’s depreciation charge based on its condition before the loss.

If the estimated cost of repairs is higher than the value, the car is totaled.

If your car isn’t totaled, can you ask the adjuster to total it?

If the adjuster believes that the repair costs are lower than you initially thought, you might get a settlement to pay for repairs. As the owner of the car, you might know more about the cost to repair your car than some person who has just come to inspect it.

If you believe that the estimate should be higher, you can ask for a second opinion.

When the insurer sends a new estimator to come and inspect your car, they will do their own report. If you still don’t agree, you can take the car to an unbiased third-party to do the estimate.

After that estimate is calculated, it’s standard practice for the company to average out the totals. If this bumps up the repair costs, it could lead to a total loss.

You can’t just ask the insurer to total your car, but you can always negotiate values and ask for new repair estimates.

Always exercise your rights when you don’t agree with the outcome of a claim.

When that’s taken care of, start shopping online for a new policy. Find a good policy with a fair rate and switch carriers.

To find the policy you need, enter your ZIP code now!