How Do I Determine the Value of My Car for Insurance Purposes?

How Do I Determine the Value of My Car for Insurance Purposes?
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Determining the value of your vehicle can be a difficult task. The key is to be objective and to set aside your emotional attachment to your car in order to develop a realistic estimate. By knowing the methods that insurance adjusters use and by comparing your car to other similar vehicles currently for sale, you will be able to develop a very reliable estimate of your car's value.

Record all the information you can about your car. Writing down the year, make, and model is an easy place to start, but if you want to come up with an accurate estimate of its value you will need to factor in your vehicle's mileage, color, engine type, options, upgrades, and anything about the vehicle that would set it apart from another cars of the same general description. This might include dents or scratches, modifications, or newly replaced components.

Research your car's "book value." The "book value" is one piece of information you will need, but is not the ultimate source for true car values. This is because "book value" sites do not usually offer an accurate estimate of what insurance companies will actually offer you if you have a claim. This is because insurance carriers use a different methodology of calculating a car's value. They access a database of actual car sales and base the offer they make to you upon what other similar cars have actually sold for in your region, not solely on "book value."

Visit online car sales websites to begin your comparison of prices. Narrow your search geographically. Your insurance company will use car sales data from your area. If you search your zip code and cannot find any comparable cars for sale, expand the radius until you find several similar vehicles.

Average the prices for all the comparable vehicles you find and then reduce the average figure by 5 to 10 percent to account for the fact that most of those posted prices will be bargained down before a sale is final. This number will provide a good estimate of the insurance value of your car, though it may need to be adjusted up or down based upon the condition of your particular vehicle.

Ask for the cost of tax and title if your vehicle is going to be declared a total loss. You will incur these costs when you replace the vehicle and most insurance companies will pay them.


  • If you own a very common vehicle you may be able to get a good gauge of its value simply by driving around local car lots and checking to see what the asking price is for similar cars. Remember that the dealer will wind up selling those vehicles for less than the listed price.

    Only compare your vehicle to other vehicles with similar mileage, and similar features.


  • When negotiating a total loss with a claims adjuster, do not expect him to increase the offer he has made for your car because you recently replaced tires, filters, wiper blades, brakes, or other similar components. These are all considered maintenance items and any estimate the insurance company develops will inherently assume that the car has had normal maintenance and replacement of worn out parts.