How to develop an independent value for your vehicle after an accident

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How to develop an independent value for your vehicle after an accident
Image Credit: Giant Motors Auto
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When you’re in an accident or your car is stolen, the insurance company will have one of its adjusters develop a value for your vehicle so you can be made whole again. Too often, people feel cheated with the value the adjuster says.

That’s why it’s important to know how to develop your own value for your vehicle. It’s up to you to independently verify that the money they’re offering for your car is a fair amount.

Read more: Is gap insurance worth it when buying a car?

Three steps to develop an independent value

There are so many layers to the questions that arise after a car accident. Chief among them are concerns about whether the car should be totaled; how much you should be compensated for a totaled car; and whether or not the vehicle should be repaired.

Auto insurance adjusters use an industry database that’s stacked against the consumer and tends to value cars at 70 cents on the dollar — which is usually a whopping 30% less than what your car is really worth!

If you feel an insurer is trying to cheat you on the value of a vehicle that is totaled or stolen, here’s what to do…

First, develop an average value for your vehicle, adjusting for mileage and condition, on KBB.com, Edmunds.com and NADA.com. You’ll want to look for the retail value numbers, not trade-in value because the former numbers are more realistic.

Second, once you’re developed your own independent values, put it writing. Write a letter or email to your insurer stating these are the values you found.

Third, if they give you pushback on those values, ask to meet with your adjuster’s supervisor. If the supervisor isn’t having it, tell them you want to invoke the appraisal clause of your contract. The appraisal clause allows you to have an independent appraiser develop the value for your vehicle. By getting a disinterested third party involved, you’re more likely to arrive at a fair and true value for your vehicle.

Remember, never be rude when you’re speaking to the adjuster and explaining your method of calculation. Some adjusters have a real attitude, but for the most part they’re just overwhelmed. The caseloads are heavy and the rate of burnout is high in this industry. Just clearly state why you claim your car is worth more than what the adjuster is saying.

Finally, when it’s time to settle on a repair shop, insist on picking the repair shop, preferably one that specializes in your brand.

How to develop an independent value for your vehicle after an accident

Read more: Reality check: 9 myths about your auto insurance policy

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Theo Thimou About the author:
Theo has co-written several books with Clark Howard, including the New York Times #1 bestseller Living Large in Lean Times. As a single widowed parent of two young children, he strives to bring savings tips to that unique subset of individuals. He can be reached at theo@clark.com.
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