When is a car considered total?

A car is generally considered whole when the cost of repairing the car exceeds the value of the car. Some states have laws that define a vehicle that is added to certain thresholds. For example, in Alabama, a car can total when the damage exceeds 75% of its value. In this case, when a vehicle is worth $ 5,000 and the repair estimate is $ 4,000, the vehicle is likely to be considered total.

In other cases, the insurer determines whether a vehicle is considered a total loss.

Comprehensive coverage and collision coverage helps pay for the complete replacement of the vehicle. These two separate coverages are generally required for your auto insurance when you lease or finance your vehicle. If your car is paid for, they are optional. However, if your vehicle is complete and you don’t have full coverage or collision insurance, you may have to pay out of pocket to purchase a replacement vehicle.

What happens if my car is totaled in an accident?

If you are in a car accident, there are a few basic steps you should take before and after your vehicle is viewed as a whole:

Contact your representative and file an insurance claim

Your insurer will use the repair costs to determine if the vehicle is a total loss.

Your insurer will issue payment for the actual cash value of the vehicle less your deductible for your full or collision coverage.


To determine the value of your car (the “actual cash value” against insurance) at the time of the accident, insurers typically use a number of factors to calculate the actual cash value of your car, including your age and condition. , Mileage and Resale Value, in addition to the selling price of similar vehicles in your area.


If you are financing a car that has been appraised in total, your insurance company will likely pay the damage check to you and your lender, which means you need to make an agreement with your lender on how that money will be released. , says the Insurance Information Institute (III). Usually, the lender is paid off first and then the remaining money is paid to you.

You may still owe your lender more on the car than the insurance payment you received. In this case, you will be responsible for paying the balance of the rental car or loan. For example, let’s say you owe $ 15,000 on your car loan, but the total value of your vehicle has dropped to $ 13,000. If you have collision insurance, your insurer will reimburse you for the actual cash value of your car, in this case, $13,000. You will have to pay this amount to your lender out of pocket, plus the remaining $2,000.

Adding a credit or rental gaps to your auto insurance is one way to protect yourself from a lender who pays out of pocket for an entire vehicle. Depending on your insurer, this optional coverage may be offered as part of a package or as stand-alone coverage. May also be available only for new cars

What if the total loss wasn’t my fault?

In some cases, a wrecked car may not be everyone’s fault. For example, suppose a tree falls on your parked car and your insurer claims it is total. If you have full coverage for your auto insurance, you will likely be reimbursed for the actual cash value of your vehicle (again, minus your deductible).

When your car adds up in a crash caused by another driver, your collision coverage may come into play first. However, your insurer may request reimbursement from the driver’s primary insurer to cover the damage. In some cases, this may mean that the deductible deducted from your insurance payment will also be refunded.


If your vehicle’s airbags inflate in a car crash, that doesn’t necessarily mean your car is a total loss. Your insurer will assess the situation and determine if the cost of replacing the airbags and repairing your vehicle would exceed its actual dollar value. If the cost of repair is less than the value of your car, it is likely that your vehicle will not be declared a total loss.