If you have been involved in an automobile accident and the cost to repair your vehicle is close to its value, the vehicle will likely be classified as a total loss. Before you can begin looking for a replacement vehicle, you first have to negotiate a total loss settlement with the insurance company. With a little research and persistence, you can maximize your total loss settlement with the insurance company and get back on the road.
Confirm that the insurance company has recorded the correct mileage, options and condition of your vehicle. Most insurance companies subscribe to a computerized service that will compare your vehicle with recent sales of similar vehicles in your area. The program makes adjustments to account for differences in mileage and vehicle features and then approximates the pre-loss value of your vehicle. Incorrectly inputting higher mileage or failing to input all the vehicle options can lead to you being offered much less than you are entitled to.
Provide the insurance company with receipts for any major repairs to the vehicle. When determining the value of a total loss vehicle, the computerized program will assume your vehicle has the original mechanical components. A vehicle with newer mechanical components is considered more valuable.
Conduct your own research. Look in your local classified ads or on a website such as the autotrader website to compare what the insurance company is offering to the current sales price of comparable vehicles. If you find advertisements for vehicles that are selling for more than what was offered, send the information to the insurance company and ask for a revised offer.
File a complaint with your state’s Department of Insurance if you are unable to reach a reasonable agreement with your insurance company. Each state has a Department of Insurance that is responsible for regulating the claims-handling practices of insurance companies that conduct business in that state. If you believe the insurance company is not making a fair total loss settlement, you can contact the agency and request that it review the insurance company’s handling of your claim.
Invoke the appraisal clause of your policy. If you are dealing with your own insurance company, your policy likely contains an appraisal clause that allows you and the insurance company to each hire an independent appraiser to determine the value of your vehicle. If the two appraisers don’t agree on a value, a third party--called an umpire--is selected to make a final decision. You can receive reimbursement of the costs you paid for the appraiser if the final appraisal amount is greater than the insurance company's last offer.
If the adjuster assigned to your claim is not being reasonable, ask to speak to a supervisor or manager.
You will have to pay the cost of your independent appraiser and half the cost of the umpire if you invoke the appraisal clause of your insurance policy.
- Oregon Consumer and Business Services Division: Vehicle Total Loss
- Insurance Information Institute. "Buying a New Car or Truck? Consider Auto Insurance Costs and Protect Your Loan When Trading Up." Accessed June 2, 2020.
- Insurance Information Institute. "What Is Gap Insurance?" Accessed June 2, 2020.
- Nationwide. "Gap Insurance." Accessed June 2, 2020.
- Texas Department of Insurance. "Do I Need Gap Insurance for My New Car?" Accessed June 2, 2020.
- Travelers Insurance. "Loan/Lease Gap Insurance." Accessed June 2, 2020.
- Progressive. "What Is Gap Insurance?" Accessed June 2, 2020.
- American Family Insurance. "Can I Cancel Gap Insurance From a Dealership?" Accessed June 2, 2020.
Tom Johnson graduated from the University of South Carolina in 1995 with a Bachelor of Science in finance. He has worked in the insurance industry for over 15 years and is currently employed by a government agency that regulates insurance companies and brokers. Johnson began freelance writing in 2009, focusing his efforts on insurance and finance-related articles.