Actual Cash Value of My Car

If you’ve totaled your car, you may want to find the actual cash value of it. What is actual cash value (or ACV)? It’s a number determined by insurance companies in the event of an accident. Insurance companies may consider the vehicle’s age, past usage, and accidents when calculating the actual cash value of your car.

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Jeffrey Johnson is a legal writer with a focus on personal injury. He has worked on personal injury and sovereign immunity litigation in addition to experience in family, estate, and criminal law. He earned a J.D. from the University of Baltimore and has worked in legal offices and non-profits in Maryland, Texas, and North Carolina. He has also earned an MFA in screenwriting from Chapman Univer...

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UPDATED: Mar 8, 2021

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  • Actual cash value (ACV) is the replacement cost minus the depreciation of your damaged or stolen car.
  • Insurance companies may consider the vehicle’s age, past usage, and accidents when determining this amount.
  • ACV is good to know when you require full coverage after an accident.

If you’ve gotten into an accident and are preparing arrangements for repairs, you may want to consider researching the value of your car. But you may be thinking, “How do I find the actual cash value of my car?”

You should expect that your auto insurance provider will have a special set of factors to determine how much your car is worth in addition to the standard factors (damage, car age, miles, etc). You will also have to consider depreciation, especially if you’ve just totaled a brand new car.

Follow through this quick guide to navigating actual cash value; we’ll go over what actual cash value is, what to expect from your insurance adjuster, and how to dispute ACV amounts — or actual cash value amounts.

There are many options for drivers after losing their vehicle due to an accident or theft. If your actual cash value adjustment is not enough coverage, there are add-ons available through your auto insurance provider.

Enter your ZIP code into our FREE quote tool to compare affordable auto insurance quotes with auto insurance companies near you.

What is the actual cash value of my car?

Actual cash value (ACV) is equal to the replacement cost minus the depreciation of your damaged or stolen car. Under a comprehensive collision policy — or full coverage insurance — the payout equals the value of your car minus your deductible, which called the actual cash value of your vehicle.

Check out these car totaled auto insurance complaints from our readers to get a feel for what you may be dealing with.

But companies decide value vehicles differently, so start here with a general idea of what to expect.

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When would I need to use actual cash value?

Actual cash value is a term rarely associated with anything other than replacing a vehicle after an accident.

What is comprehensive and collision coverage?

Comprehensive insurance is a policy option that replaces or repairs your vehicle if it ever gets stolen or damaged in an incident other than a collision with another vehicle.

Collision insurance is the protection when you need to repair or replace your car if it’s in an accident. This is the coverage plan that drivers will most likely file claims under when they are dealing with actual cash valuations of their vehicles.

How do insurance companies determine the actual cash value of my car?

After you’ve filed a claim with your insurance provider, your insurance adjuster will start their work assessing the sales price of your vehicle in your area. This person will try to compare your exact make, model year, comparable condition, and similar accessories and upgrades.

Insurance companies may also consider

  • Age
  • Usage
  • Past accidents
  • General wear and tear

This research starts the baseline cost assessment of your vehicle, as these factors relate directly to the condition.

Insurance companies may calculate the actual cash value of your car with other factors or under a different method entirely.

Can I ask the auto insurance company for actual cash value?

Yes. You can ask your insurance company to go over its assessment of your car.

You may get an insurance adjustment lower than expected and
actual cash value is a subjective calculation that may vary from company to company and agent to agent.

However, go in with an idea of what to expect. Research your make and model year.

How much is my car worth?

A brand new vehicle, right off the lot, will sell at the manufacturer’s suggested retail price (MSRP) otherwise called the “sticker price.” Whatever you’re able to negotiate your car dealership down to, the second you drive off the lot, your car’s actual cash value falls 30 percent.

Your car is immediately considered used, and the depreciation begins. Eventually, your car will depreciate in value so much that the ACV dollar amount could be in the low thousands.

How can I calculate the ACV of my car?

You’re going to consider the factors we listed above, but keep reading for a deeper dive into what you’ll be looking for when you determine the condition and value of your car.

How is actual cash value determined?

Let’s go over the factors and what you should be looking for.

Accidents – Are you a safe driver? The condition of your vehicle’s frame and its stability will be factors in determining value. This is why you should always drive safely and repair damages as soon as possible.

Mileage – If you have low mileage, you’re in luck. This is a great boost to your actual cash value. Depending on the age of the vehicle, anywhere from 100,000 to 200,000 miles is considered normal.

Vehicle model – If the particular model year you purchased was flawed, this will lower your actual cash value. Alternately, though, more expensive models or special editions may be able to increase your ACV.

While there is not much you can do to save your car from age — or the unfortunate case of being a bad model — you can slow your car’s depreciation rate.

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The older the vehicle, the fewer points toward actual cash value. This is generally true for the inevitable wear and tear the vehicle undergoes over the years. What you can do is always take care of your vehicle.

If your car is a classic favorite, like a ’60s mustang or vintage Porsche, you may find your actual cash value increase. This is especially true if the vehicle is in great working condition.

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How do you negotiate actual cash value?

Actual cash value is an insurance term used to determine the replacement value minus depreciating factors. If your estimate comes back at an amount you deem unfair, there are ways to negotiate.

First, though, before anything happens to your vehicle, make sure you keep documentation for your car. You may need it to prove your point. Documentation can include accident history, quotes from Kelley Blue Book or similar sites, or local ads for similar vehicles.

After you’ve assessed what you think your car is worth, compare how you calculated that amount with how the assessor did. Sit down with them and ask their methods.

Get the Right Coverage for You

Now that you know how to determine your vehicle’s value, you may have found you want to dump your insurance provider.

Ready to buy auto insurance? To get affordable auto insurance rates near you, enter your ZIP code to find the right auto insurance company in your area.

Frequently Asked Questions: What is the actual cash value of my car?

Below are some common questions about a car’s ACV.

1 – Does ACV cover theft?

Yes. Actual cash value is applied to damaged and stolen vehicles.

2 – What is the difference between replacement cost and actual cash value?

According to Edmunds, within one minute of driving off the car lot with a new vehicle, your car depreciates 9 percent. In five years, that car will be worth 40 percent of its true market value.

Worth and replacement costs are more related terms than ACV and replacement costs. ACV will be less than the cost to replace your vehicle.

Insurance providers offer policies that include replacement coverage.

3 – Which is better: Actual cash value or replacement cost?

You will get more value from the replacement cost than the actual cash value.

4 – Is ACV the same as trade-in value?

Though similar, as the dealership or other seller would still need to evaluate your car, trade-in value is a term generally used when you switch, upgrade, or otherwise trade in your car.

Generally, the company you’re selling your vehicle to in exchange for another car would subtract what your car is worth from the cost of the new car. It’s unlikely you will receive money back in this situation.

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