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I totaled my car, now what?

Experiencing the total loss of your vehicle can be stressful. Knowing what to expect and getting answers to your questions can help you better navigate the process.

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If you're a Liberty Mutual customer and need to file a claim, please visit our claims center.

We've gathered some answers to common questions about what happens if you have a total loss of your vehicle.

What does it mean if my car has been totaled or deemed a total loss?

Insurance companies define a total loss as a vehicle where

  • The expected repairs will cost more than what the car is worth
  • It cannot be repaired due to safety standards

Every state has its own rules about what counts as a total loss when your car is in an accident. Most use 2 ways to figure this out based on

  • How much your car is worth (fair market value)
  • The cost to fix it compared to the value before the accident (often a state-specific total loss formula)

For example, North Carolina uses a threshold of 75% or more to determine fair market value before being damaged, where Nevada uses a threshold of 65%.

What should I do or expect if I think my car is totaled in an accident?

If you believe your car is a total loss, follow these steps

  1. Contact your insurance company.
  2. Remove all personal belongings in the car and trunk to prepare it to be picked up.
  3. Clear any personal information from your navigation and phone systems.
  4. Remove your license plates.
  5. Give your car title and keys to the insurance company. If you can't find the title to your car, you'll need to contact your local DMV.
  6. Once the insurance company picks up your car, you may need to sign a document that acknowledges their right to remove the vehicle.
  7. While the insurance company estimates your car's fair market value and the cost of repairs, you should contact your lender (if you have one) and let them know about the damage. Once your claim has been settled, a payment will be sent to your lender.

What does it mean if my car has been totaled or deemed a total loss?

The type of insurance coverage used if your car is totaled depends on the kind of loss.

  • Collision Coverage: Total loss is due to an accident with another vehicle or object, like a post, guardrail, or tree.
  • Comprehensive Coverage: Total loss is due to things like severe weather, vandalism, or hitting an animal.
  • Property Damage Liability: Total loss is due to an accident where another driver is at fault, and their insurance covers your damages.
  • Uninsured/Underinsured Motorist: Total loss is due to an accident where the at-fault driver has no insurance.

Can I keep my totaled car?

Depending on your state's laws, you may have the option of keeping your totaled vehicle. However, to drive the car, it must be repaired, pass inspection, and be insured. You'll also need to provide the Department of Motor Vehicles the title and proof of inspection.

If you want to keep the car but don't intend to drive it, you could sell it to a salvage yard, sell the individual parts, or donate it to a local charity.

If you aren't sure if you can keep your car after it's been declared a total loss, contact your insurance company.

If my car is totaled, do I still need to make my loan payments?

Yes. If your vehicle is financed or leased, you should continue to make payments until the claim is settled. Not doing so could negatively impact your credit.

In some circumstances, you may find that the remaining balance of your car loan/lease is greater than your car's actual cash value (what it is worth today).

Having Gap Coverage pays the difference between what's owed and it's current value. Without gap insurance, you may end up making payments on a vehicle that you no longer use/own!

Who gets the payout if my car is totaled?

There are a few scenarios based on vehicle ownership

  • Owned by you: the payout is paid to you
  • Leased/Loaned: The amount paid first goes to the lienholder and if there is any remaining it would be paid to you

Can a totaled car affect my credit?

No. A total loss alone won't affect your credit. However, if you still owe payments on your car, you should continue paying your loan until the claim is settled. Not paying and getting behind on payments could impact your credit.

Will my insurance premiums go up if my car is a total loss?

Any change to your insurance premium is due to many factors. These can include

  • At fault accidents, and the circumstances around it
  • Cost of repairs and injuries caused in an accident
  • And many more

If you aren't happy with your car insurance company or the cost of your coverage, now may be a good time to consider switching car insurance companies. Just remember, don't cancel your current policy until you've purchased new coverage.

See how much you could save with Liberty Mutual on car insurance when you only pay for what you need.

You could save up to 12% when you buy customized car insurance online

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