What Determines If a Car Is Totaled in an Accident


After an accident the last thing you want to go through is any more trauma. If the accident itself wasn’t stressful enough, you still have to wait for the outcome from your car insurance agency. Auto insurance damage estimators have to calculate without error how much your car is worth, what kind of damage is done to your car, and how much it’s going to cost to fix it.

It’s a simple formula, really. On side A you have your car’s present depreciated value. On side B you have the damage cost from the accident. If A is greater than B, you get your car fixed. If it’s the other way around, they total it out and give you a check for the depreciated value of your car. The mathematical conditional statement looks a little like this:

  • If Car Value (CV) minus the Damage Cost (DC) is greater than zero dollars ($0) then your car still has positive value and they fix it. So, if CV – DC $0 then repair
  • If Car Value (CV) minus the Damage Cost (DC) is less than zero dollars ($0) then your car is deemed too expensive to fix and they total the vehicle. So, if CV – DC

Now, a couple of things to know about vehicle cost of repair. One side note: If you require a replacement rental car while your car is being fixed, it better say in your policy that replacement rentals are covered. Beyond that, most damage can be repaired pretty inexpensively unless there’s damage done to the core of the vehicle. The core includes the car’s skeleton or chassis, the engine block and any vital car organs under the hood. But most of all, the chassis. If the car’s chassis is tweaked and not repaired, the car will be dangerous to drive as it may vibrate or pull to one side or the other. And chassis and under the hood repairs can be pretty expensive.

Also, the value of your car is the depreciated value. A good idea of how to determine your car’s worth is to find your model car at all the used car dealerships in your local area. Find out what they are selling their cars for on their lot and take the average of all the cars as the rough ball park estimate. Also, you can talk to your insurance damage estimator about including the value of car accessories like stereos or special modifications done to the vehicle such as suspension lift kits.

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