An insurance company determines the value of a totaled car by considering factors such as the vehicle’s make and model, year, and mileage. A vehicle is considered totaled when the cost of repairs approaches or exceeds the car’s actual cash value (ACV), which is what the insurer says the car was worth prior to being damaged. If the insurer declares the vehicle a total loss, they will pay out any insurance claims based on the ACV.
Factors That Affect a Car’s Actual Cash Value (ACV)
- Make and model
- Accident history
- Mechanical problems
- Wear and tear
- Cosmetic problems
- Local demand for similar vehicles
- Sale prices of comparable vehicles in the area
It’s important to keep in mind that the ACV is not the same as the cost of purchasing a replacement vehicle of the same year, make and model. Vehicles begin to depreciate quickly after they’re driven off the lot, so even if your car is relatively new, the ACV will probably be significantly lower than what you paid for the vehicle in the first place.
If you think your insurer’s ACV calculation is too low, then you should send a counteroffer that includes your justification for why the car was worth more prior to being totaled. This may include an independent appraisal, receipts for any features you added, and prices of comparable vehicles. There are several resources online that you can use to research your car’s value, including NADA Guides and Kelley Blue Book.
To learn more, check out WalletHub’s guide to totaled cars.
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