A Total Loss
When Your Car Is Beyond Hope!

Total Loss

A "Total Loss" is determined when your car is more expensive to repair than to replace.

Sometimes it is just not worth it to pour money into repairs, no matter how much you loved that vehicle.

If your car has been declared a total loss, or what we used to call a "write off," you will be reimbursed by your own insurance company if you had comprehensive and/or collision coverage, depending on the incident that caused the loss.


If you were hit by someone else and they were found at fault, their insurance company should compensate you.

Unfortunately, some companies aren't very honest in their dealings and will try to get out paying you by claiming you were partially to blame, etc.  It's a real shame, but don't give up.

If they fail to pay up and you have full coverage (collision insurance) your own car insurance company will still cover you and then they will try to chase down their money from the other insurance company or the at-fault driver.

Believe me, they try not to lose out on a penny. :-)

Types Of Compensation For A Write-Off

There are two different types of compensation you can be offered as a result of a total loss of your vehicle:

  1. Actual Cash Value - This is when you are offered cash in the amount of the cost to replace your vehicle with one like it. Of course this figure should also include the cost of any taxes and fees you will have to pay when purchasing a replacement.

  2. Like Car - This is when you are offered a replacement vehicle that is just like your car. It would be the same make, model, and year (or newer), as well as be similar in mileage and body style to your smashed vehicle. The replacement car should be in as good as or better condition than what you had prior to the accident.

Here's a tip:
Don't insure your car for more than it is worth. Unless you have a very special type of policy that includes an agreed value amount ahead of time, you will only get the actual value of the vehicle at the time of the accident, no matter how much coverage you have.

This value is typically determined by a combination of the Kelley's Blue Book listed value, the condition of your car before the accident, the mileage, and maybe even the region in which you live.

Just be aware of this, so you don't waste money paying higher premiums for an amount of coverage you will never receive.

Keeping Your Wreck Of A Write-Off

total loss write off

Believe it or not, some people want to keep their vehicle even after it is declared a total loss. I was one of them.

A couple of weeks after I was married, I was involved in a traffic accident. Fortunately, it wasn't my fault, and no one was hurt. Still, imagine my embarrassment at having to explain to my brand new husband that I'd wrecked the car already! :-)

We were both still "poor college students," and I was driving a tired little Datsun B-210 (I think that's what it was.). The car was still drivable after the accident, but was considered a total loss by the insurance company because the vehicle wasn't worth the cost of repairs. And, oh, what an eyesore it was.

My husband told them just to give us the cash value, and we would keep the car. Because we elected to keep the vehicle, they gave us an amount just under the actual value (I think it was about $700 at the time).

We almost considered the accident a blessing because the money came in handy. Don pounded out the worst of the smashed body parts the best he could, and we drove that little beater around for a couple more years.

All that to say, you can still keep your vehicle if you like. You will, however, have to negotiate some type of agreement with the insurer who is compensating you, whether it is your own company or that of the "at-fault" driver. Maybe, like me, it won't be a total loss for you after all.

Return from Total Loss to Car Insurance Claims

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