Car accidents are stressful enough and even worse when your car is a total loss. Sadly, many cars aren’t’ even worth the amount owed on the loan. When that happens, it’s especially important to get every dollar you can from the insurance company.
Assuming no one was injured in the accident, there are two different sources of insurance for your car. The first is the collision coverage for damage to the vehicle. Second is rental insurance for the cost of a rental while you are settling your claim with the insurance company.
Call your insurance company immediately after the accident and agree to let the company take possession of your car. After you sign over the title, the company will sell the car for parts. If you delay in giving permission, the car will accumulate storage charges, and you will be responsible for payment. Also be sure to ask about rental insurance during this conversation. The company will authorize a rental car for a set number of days and authorize additional time if needed, usually up to 30 days.
If you want to keep the car for yourself, there are many rules you need to know about. First, the company will estimate how much they could expect to get for the car at auction. They will deduct this value from your settlement if you keep the car. Also, many states have strict laws about repairing and reregistering total loss cars that could give you many headaches. Be sure you educate yourself about the laws in your state before deciding to keep the car. For most people, it’s just easier to let the insurance company take it.
After you have cleared who will take possession of the car, you and the insurance company need to agree on how much your car is worth. The company will hire a company to place a value on the car and call you with the figure. It is important that you NEVER accept this first figure. Understand that cars are valued within a range and the insurance company is obligated to its policyholders to try to save money. Therefore, the company will offer the lowest figure first.
If you think the initial offer is too low, do not get angry. Simply tell the adjuster that you think the car is worth more. The adjuster will ask you to submit for-sale car listings that show your point. You will need to collect three listings, easily found online for most cars. Be sure to choose vehicles that match the year, make and model of your car. They should have similar mileage and options as well. In most cases, the adjuster’s second offer will be more in line with what you want. You might even negotiate a little higher.
Once you have settled the value of your car, don’t forget to ask about other expenses that might be covered. Ask about additional title and registration fees on the replacement car you will need to get. As long as you treat your adjuster with respect during negotiations, you should be able to collect the full amount available.