What to Expect from a Totaled Car Insurance Payout

Apparently, real life isn’t like Mario Kart. When you run into someone or they run into you, your vehicle gets damaged. And even if it’s isn’t an accident, your vehicle can be totaled from flooding, a fire, or vandalism.

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Regardless of the cause, dealing with your insurance provider to settle up the claim is about as much fun as whiplash from the collision.

Here’s what you can expect when your car has been totaled.

What is a Totaled Car Anyway?

Wouldn’t it help to understand what a totaled car is? It boils down to one thing for an insurance company, and that’s cost. At the core, a totaled car is one that has experienced more damage than the full cost to repair it. Obviously, it includes physical damage to the car itself.. It also includes the depreciated value, rental car costs during the repair process, GAP insurance reimbursements, and any other costs or fees required to settle the claim from the insurer’s standpoint.

While there isn’t one specific formula used by all insurance companies, generally a vehicle is deemed a total loss when damage is around 70 to 80 percent of its actual cash value.

Totaled Car Insurance Payout

Once your car has been deemed a write-off or a total loss, the insurance company settles up the claim with a totaled car insurance payout. That doesn’t always mean you get a check though.

Before you get one red penny, any liens are settled. If you owe money on a car loan, any money goes first to the lienholder, then the balance comes to you. Unfortunately, there are plenty of people who owe more on their car loan than their car is worth, a situation known as negative equity. It could mean that you still owe the bank money for a totaled car, plus you’ll still need to buy a replacement car!

If you have a totaled car, not at fault, most insurance policies cover the deductible for you. But if you’re at fault, the deductible is taken off your payout amount too.

Totaled Car GAP Insurance

Lenders have offered GAP insurance, or Guaranteed Auto Protection insurance, for cases of negative equity. If you have GAP insurance, any negative equity is taken care of on a totaled car.

It’s not a blanket coverage, though. If your accident isn’t insured, you probably aren’t eligible to cash in on GAP insurance.

I Totaled My Car, No Insurance. What Do I Do?

If you didn’t have insurance on your car when it was totaled, you’re in for a world of hurt. No insurance means no money for car repairs and no GAP insurance coverage. You’re fully on the hook for the damage, and you’ll probably be sued by any other parties involved for their damages too. Add to that aggravation that you’ll be stuck with a car that you can’t or shouldn’t drive, and you can see how bad the situation can become.

If you’re like the average American where commuting plays a rather large part in your life: you’re going to want to look into the best options for getting cash for your vehicle.

If your car has been totaled without insurance, options are limited. You can repair your car and foot the bill yourself or you can get rid of it.

Can I Sell a Totaled Car?

It’s possible to sell a totaled car as it is, even if it doesn’t run or drive. If you’re able to put a small amount of cash into repairs so that it will run and drive again, that’s a good idea to boost its value. However, your totaled car’s value has taken a rather large hit (pun intended), and it’s not likely you’ll make any other repairs worthwhile.

How Much is My Totaled Car Worth?

Unrepaired, a totaled car is substantially less than if you hadn’t gotten in that accident. Unlike undamaged cars, determining its worth is difficult and at best, an approximation. To get a rough idea of your totaled car value, there’s a calculation you can do.

Totaled Car Value

  • Find your car’s actual cash value. KBB.com calls it Fair Market Value and NADA Guides goes by Trade-In Pricing. Fill in your vehicle details at either site for a start.
  • Divide the actual cash value in half. Your totaled car value is, at most, half of what the ACV may be.
  • Estimate how much damage your car has compared to a non-accident vehicle. If the damage is mostly cosmetic, divide the value in half once again. If your car has mechanical issues as well, you might need to trim another 80 percent or so off the value.

Who Buys Totaled Cars?

Armed with an approximate value for your totaled car, you can find the best option to sell it. The selections are somewhat limited because, let’s face it, people just don’t want to get into a can of worms like a totaled car.

Sell Your Car Privately

There’s an outside chance that someone wants a car just like yours. Perhaps it’s for the few remaining undamaged parts or to fix it up and drive it again, or it could be for lawn art. You’d try to sell your car privately just like an un-smashed car: list it on Craigslist and other local classifieds. Be sure to price it low enough to solicit responses but high enough to make a few bucks on it. There aren’t many buyers privately for junk, so it could take some time to find a buyer.

Trade in Your Totaled Car

Are you looking to buy a newer vehicle from the dealership anyway? You can ask about trading in your totaled car at the same time. You might get laughed at or offered $1 to take it away, or you might get what seems like more money than you’d expect. If the offer seems high, chances are they’re adding it to the back end of the deal somehow. At least it’s a fast option to get rid of your car.

Scrap Your Car

If you want it done quickly, tow your totaled car to the scrap yard. They’ll pay you cash for your car without a second look. It’s all done by its weight in scrap metal, so it might be a couple of hundred dollars at best. Don’t forget to account for the cost of the tow also.

Donate Your Car to Charity

Some charities will take cars in any condition, even totaled cars. You’ll get a donation receipt to use at tax time for its fair market value, but that’s next to nothing. One bonus is that they’ll haul it away at no cost to you.

We Buy Totaled Cars

Often the best solution to sell it fast and easy gets you a fair price too, and that’s with WeBuyTotaledCars. We’ll make you an offer for your totaled car, as it is, no strings attached and in around 90 seconds or less. If you like the offer, simply accept it. We’ll pay you within a couple of days and will pick your car up at no cost to you!

It’s a Quick and Easy Process


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Answer a few quick questions and provide a picture if you can.



In less than two minutes, you’ll have a guaranteed offer.



Accept the offer if you’re happy with it.


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