What is the criteria an auto insurance company will use to determine when a car is totaled?

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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: May 10, 2010

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Insurance Question from West Palm Beach, FL

Asked on 05/10/2010

What is the criteria an auto insurance company will use to determine when a car is totaled? NULL

Answer given on May 24, 2010

Whether a car is a total loss is almost entirely a financial decision.  They look at the estimated cost to repair, and compare it to the value of the vehicle.  If the repair cost is within 75-80% of the value, they will usually total it out. 


It is also possible for the repair cost to be under the total loss monetary threshold, but the particular damage done is such that it can’t be repaired safely.  In a situation like that, the car might be totalled due to safety reasons, but it is pretty rare for that to occur.  Most of the time when a vehicle is totalled, it is merely because the repair cost exceeds or is expected to exceed the value.


To make sure you are getting a fair offer for your vehicle, review the value report provided by the insurance company carefully and in detail.  Make sure that all your options are accounted for and the condition of the vehicle is described accurately.  Forget about the “blue book” value though, that is NOT an accurate assessment of vehicle value accepted in any court of law.

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