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I Want My Car Totaled

Don't let them put you back on the road when it is not yet safe!


Will my car be totaled or not? Is the insurance company telling me that my mangled car will be fixed?

This is a common problem. There is no question that in many accidents, you just want your car (properly) fixed. There are those certain accidents where you want the car totaled.

There is no way your car can be repaired and still be a safe and sound car. You know that the damage is so severe that when you go to trade or sell your car, buyers will turn away or will offer to pay a fraction of what the car was worth before the accident.
You need to be honest with the claim adjuster, or at least make it clear to the insurance company that you want your car totaled. You will not be negotiating with a total loss adjuster. You will be negotiating with a control adjuster or a field examiner.

Review all the documents the insurance company is looking at when making the determination that the vehicle is fixable. They will tell you that the car did not “reach the threshold” of a total loss. Ask them exactly what the threshold value is to render the car totaled.


In other words, you need to find out the percentage of the cost of repairs that the insurance company uses to deem the total loss of your car. You will also need to see the repair estimate.

Knowing these two things will help you document your claim later on. Simply arguing with a claim adjuster will not suffice. Showing documentation will support your value and disarm any “objections” the adjuster may raise.

Getting the proper documentation will help you get what you want – that is, the car being totaled.
Many claim adjusters will tell you that they do not know what percentage they use. They will also tell you they do not know the fair market value of your car.

They will play “musical chairs” with you. Your adjuster might tell you “I do not know, but this other adjuster does.” They will avoid giving you a straight answer. This is a typical negotiation technique by insurance companies. They “throw” the ball between them so you are left in the dark.

Do not allow them to do this. If your car is a “probable” total loss, then the insurance company already has some objective idea of the value of the car.
For example, if the repair cost is $11,000 and your car is worth $22,000, then the car is not a total loss (the repair cost is only %50 of the value of the car). However, the insurance company cannot make a definite conclusion regarding the status of the car unless they know the value of your car.

They will not want to disclose this, but you can press the issue until you get an answer. Talk to the adjuster and the adjuster’s managers.


Also, send an overnight and certified letter to the insurance company requesting them to disclose “the value basis” they are using to render the car fixable. They must produce some kind of research as to the value of your car.

The next step is to look over the repair estimate. Make sure that all the broken parts will be painted. Also make sure the labor rate is where it is supposed to be.
If you have little knowledge or do not feel comfortable looking over repair estimates, take that estimate to a body shop of your choosing (not the dealership because they will argue that their values are not reasonable) and asked them to please review it.

They will tell you if the estimate is missing something critical. Also, ask the body shop for the possibility of “hidden” damages. A common practice is to write the damage estimate based only on what the adjuster sees.

The adjuster will not be taking anything off the car. This means that whatever is broken under the body will not be accounted for. This “hidden” damage can be the difference between getting your car totaled or fixed.

You can request the insurance company to do a “teardown”. This is the process where the insurance companies pay body shops to take pieces off your car, look underneath, and write an estimate on the damage that is not “visible”.


One would think that insurance companies will make sure that everything in the estimate is correctly accounted for, but unless you ask them to look past the visible damage, they will not. Having your car totaled will not be a reality unless you push the insurance company.

The insurance company will have to spend money (something they do not like to do) to do the teardown. They will run the risk of knowing that they have to pay a teardown and end up with a car totaled.

Teardowns usually reveal safety concerns, which insurance companies must justify to you that there is no significant damage. Usually this will compel them to work with you and simply declare the car a total loss.

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