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How do I determine the value of my vehicle if it’s totalled?

You may not have anticipated buying a new car. Now you are faced with a “total loss”, meaning your car is not repairable or worth repairing and you have to be sure the insurance company is offering you a fair value for your vehicle.

How can you determine what the fair market value of your vehicle was before the wreck? There are couple of sites on the internet that will allow you to do some research:

  • www.nadaguides.com
  • www.edmunds.com 

Another method is getting on craigslist or autotrader to see what other cars that are similar to your are selling for, or a copy of any free auto trader magazine you can pick up at the grocery store. Look for comparable vehicles to yours. You can use this as evidence to support your claims with the adjuster that the car is worth more than what they are offering. 

What about any additional upgrades that you added to the car? 
It is extremely important that you provide proof of any add-on items that may increase the value of the vehicle. This could include receipts, purchase orders, or work orders. The fact that you just had the oil changed does not increase the fair market value of the car as you would expect the car to be in proper working order before the wreck. But if you put in a new, upgraded stereo system and speakers, the insurance company will consider this if you are able to provide proof of purchase and reasonable proof of value.

What happens if you want to keep the car and have the insurance company pay you for the total loss? 

You may have a sentimental attachment to your car, it may have been handed down from a relative, it may be your first car and you don’t want to part with it, even if it’s a total loss. You will need to find out how much a salvage yard would give you for your car, and then negotiate with the insurance company on a fair amount for the totaled vehicle. But after you have settled and kept the salvaged car, you will be responsible for towing your car to another location, paying any storage costs, and repairing or disposing of the car.

 However, if you plan on repairing your car, you will have to get the title changed to reflect that the car was a total loss. This is required so anyone that may purchase the vehicle at a later date will be on notice of the prior wreck and repairs. Also, it may be very difficult to insure a salvage title car.  

Most often, unless you have extensive experience in this area, the best option unfortunately is to accept the check for the total loss of your car and let the insurance company deal with the vehicle and salvage.

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