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How is my car determined to be a "total loss"?

There are a few variations, but simply: If the cost of repairing the vehicle, plus its salvage value, plus rental reimbursement expense during repair equals or exceeds its actual cash value, it is not economically feasible to repair. This situation is commonly referred to as a "total loss."

A total loss is usually not a good situation even if you hate your car. If you don't agree with the "total loss" determination you typically can get an independent appraisal of the damage (at your expense).

Some companies consider a damaged vehicle a total loss when the total cost to repair it exceeds just 51 percent of the vehicle's actual cash value (because of added storage costs, rental car, etc.), while others don't consider it a total loss until it is at 80% of the ACV.

Add comments of your situation, as insurance companies and adjusters vary in their determination. For example, a new car may be closer to 50% of ACV while an older car may be 90% of ACV before distinguishing it as a total loss. We have also seen some situations that are the opposite.

CarInsurance.com recommends you purchase a separate GAP insurance policy when you purchase insurance on a new vehicle. Alternatively, with many CarInsurance.com companies you can add Loan/Lease (GAP) coverage to your CarInsurance.com policy.

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17 Responses to "How is my car determined to be a "total loss"?"
  1. Visitor

    Great info!

  2. Visitor

    Has answered all, and then some, questions I've had! I am pleased to see some answers are even more specific to each state! Thank YOU! Great site :)

  3. Anonymous

    Depending on your state the total loss threshold can be as low as 75% (e.g. South Carolina). Actual cash value is determined on the book value (NADA, KBB, etc.) vs actual condition of the vehicle. Optional features add value for a number of years and condition of the vehicle (mileage, prior damage, interior, etc.) affect the total value of your car.

  4. Anonymous

    I give you a 10 because I got @#$%^ by my ins. co. My vehicle is only 2 years old and sustained close to $11,000 in damage. The trade in was $11,075 on the low end. Thank you for helping fight for my rights.

  5. Anonymous

    It was such a nice article that has helped me improve my knowledge about car insurance policy/claims.

  6. Anonymous

    So what happens after vehicle is deemed a total loss, are you given some type of settlement and how much? (percentage wise) - Thanks

  7. Anonymous

    It provided the basic facts needed for the situation at hand.

  8. Anonymous

    Thanks for the good info in the article.

  9. Anonymous

    kind of vague as to the criteria used to determine the actual loss

  10. Anonymous

    the answer was easy to understand, but created many more questions on top of it!

  11. Anonymous

    great answer

  12. Anonymous

    I hit a deer before christmas, and the body shop just told me that to repair my car is only $100 away from being considered to be totaled, and in the State of NC. they are not allowed to work on a car that is considered to be totaled. What do I do now?

  13. Anonymous

    My problem is that I know the car can be fix, but it was not my fault. So do I have the right to have the car replace with same. It is new, 3500 miles and if I trade next year I will lose money on trade in value do to this damage REPORT.

  14. Anonymous

    How is the actual cash value determined? My insurance company just paid out $16,400.00 on a car I purchased new in November of 2006 for $23,000.00

  15. Anonymous

    Very satisfied with your easy to understand explanations.

  16. Anonymous

    It answered alot of questions I had about my GAP insurance.. It was helpful

  17. Anonymous

    If the cost of repairing the vehicle equals 90% of its actual cash value, it is not logically feasible to drive or repair. This situation is commonly referred to as a "total loss."