CLAIMS CORNER - What Happens After Your Car Gets Totaled.

May 25, 2013

If you’ve been in an auto accident and your car is totaled (also called total loss), it means your car isn’t repairable, or it costs more to repair than what it’s worth.

The insurer owes you the actual cash value (retail market value) of your totaled car. They can choose one or more of the following methods to determine the value of your car:


  • Offer to replace your car with an available and comparable car in your local area.

  • Offer you a cash settlement based on the actual cash value of comparable cars in your local area.

If you and the insurer agree, the insurer may use other appraisal methods, such as independent auto-value guides (Kelley Blue Book, NADA, etc.).

If your insurer can’t find comparable cars in the area where you normally park your car, it may expand the search in 25-mile increments until it finds two or more comparable cars.

With your permission, it may extend the search beyond 150 miles.


The insurer must add to the actual cash value any required to transfer ownership.


When you and the insurer disagree on your car’s value.


If you and your insurer can’t agree on your car’s value you have the right to hire an appraiser via the appraisal provision in your auto policy. This provision allows you and the company to each hire appraisers.


If you and the other person’s insurer can’t agree on the value of your car, and you have your own collision coverage, you can use it to file a claim with your own insurer. If you don’t have it, you have the right to seek legal advice.


What happens if you keep your totaled car

If you keep your car after the actual cash value, sales tax and applicable prorated taxes and fees are added together, the insurer deducts the salvage value from the total amount of the settlement.

The insurer must report your totaled auto to the Washington state Department of Licensing (

If you have questions about what happens next with your totaled car, contact the:

Washington state Department of Licensing (
Title and Registration Services
Customer Service Unit

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