Should You Keep a Car That’s Been Totaled?


If you’ve been in an accident and your car’s been totaled, one of the issues you may have to face is deciding whether to keep the vehicle.

Insurance companies will typically “total” a vehicle if the cost to repair it is more than the car’s value. And in some cases, your insurer may allow you to keep the totaled car.

But money expert Clark Howard says, when it comes to a totaled vehicle, your main focus should be on making sure you get paid what your car’s actually worth.

Should You Keep a Totaled Car?

The vehicle market this year has seen prices increase for both used and new cars. In some cases, used models have sold for several thousands of dollars more than owners originally paid for them.

Let’s say you have a used car that’s currently selling for thousands more than you paid for it. If the car gets totaled, how will the insurance company decide how much to pay you?

How Much Will Insurance Pay for Your Totaled Car?

How much your insurance company will pay for your totaled vehicle depends on several factors.

According to Investopedia, the actual cash value of a vehicle “represents the amount equal to the replacement cost minus depreciation of a damaged or stolen property at the time of the loss.”

But Clark says insurance companies will typically lowball customers when it comes to assessing the true value of their vehicles.

“There’s a real problem with insurers relying on obsolete databases,” he says. “If you do total your car, they’re not going to want to give you fair value.”

But there is something you can do about it.


How To Combat a Lowball Insurance Offer on Your Totaled Vehicle

“You have to be prepared to fight them on the value of your vehicle if it’s totaled,” Clark says. “Do not take at face value the offer made by your insurance company.”

How do you fight for the value of your car? “Present evidence that the value presented is way below market value,” he says.

Itemize Your Car’s Features and Upgrades

Make sure you have documentation that shows your vehicle’s upgrades, like an infotainment system, leather seats and other amenities.

Itemize any value-building accessories you’ve added to your vehicle. Here are some questions you can ask yourself before you begin the process.

  • Have you customized the stereo or security systems?
  • Does your vehicle have new and/or special tires?
  • Did you add any high-performance modifications?

Use Car Valuation Tools To State Your Case

You should use car valuation tools like Edmunds’ True Market Value feature or Kelley Blue Book’s Depreciation Tool to double-check the insurance company’s valuation. 

And as Kelley Blue Book puts it, “It’s essential to provide as many details as possible about your specific car to ensure you get the most accurate estimate.”

Final Thoughts

Because used car prices continued to be inflated, it’s a good idea for you to sell any older vehicle you are no longer using or not using often.

As for being worried about wrecking your car, Clark says, “The good news is the odds that you’ll be in an accident that totals your vehicle are pretty low. And even then, you can fight for it.”

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