First Steps After Your Car’s Been Declared “Totaled”

Insurance company

There are times when you know your car is going to be declared a total loss. And there are times when it comes as a complete shock. If the insurance company doesn’t value your car highly, what seems like a minor fender bender could turn into a total loss. It’s all about what your car is worth and what it will cost to fix.

So, if your car is a few years old with any sort of body damage, you may want to brace yourself in the event it becomes a total loss.

Here’s what you should do:

Report the claim immediately

Don’t waste time in reporting the claim to the insurance company. If it ends up being a total loss, the approval process can drag out for some time. These claims can take a month or more to finalize and close. So the sooner you get the process going, the sooner you may get your payout and start looking for quality used cars to replace your old one.

Use your insurance company’s preferred shop

If you think there’s a chance they will declare your car as totaled, using one of their preferred shops will help expedite the process. For one, they’re more likely to trust the information coming from the shop, and they’ll also communicate directly with them, which helps things go faster.

Locate your title

You’re going to need your car’s title for this process, so start tracking it down. If you can’t find it, you’ll need to order a replacement from the DMV, so it’s good to get that process started.

If the insurance company declares the car a loss, you’ll sign over the car to the insurance company and they will pay you its fair market value. If you have a loan on the car, you’ll simply need your loan account number and pertinent information. If you owe more than your car is worth, you’ll have to pay that amount when your car is totaled, unless you have GAP insurance.

Research the fair market value for your vehicle

Your insurance company will determine the fair market value for your vehicle, but you have some room to negotiate. That’s why it’s a good practice to research the market value on your own.

If they seem to be giving you a lowball figure, it may be based on incorrect assumptions. If you can prove that your car is actually worth more, they’ll likely adjust their assessment. But keep in mind that this can sometimes be an uphill battle. Make sure you have sound data from reputable sources like NADA and Kelly Blue Book. These are the sources your insurance company will use, so you’ll just be discussing your car’s actual enhancements, features and condition.

At a glance, it may seem like fun to get a check from the insurance company so you can shop for a new car. But it’s actually quite a hassle, especially if the total loss was unexpected. Do your part to expedite the process and it will be over before you know it.


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