Crash Course: What to Do When Your Car is Totaled

It’s a situation no one wants to be in: your car is totaled and suddenly out of commission due to an accident. It’s a case that many people don’t often find themselves in and we know it can be stressful not knowing what to do next when you've totaled your car.

We’re here to the rescue: we have a crash course on what you can do when your car is totaled so you can quickly get the ball rolling again.

Understanding total loss

Your insurance company may deem your car a total loss (or totaled) if the value of your car, pre-accident, is less than the amount of repairs, post-accident. What's more, is that some vehicles can be too dangerous to repair. If any of these apply to your vehicle, it could be considered a total loss.

The best defense? Get familiar with your car insurance policy when it comes to total loss. For example, some companies will cover towing your car to a garage, others won’t. Or, some may only cover your rental car for three days versus a longer period of time.

Insurance policies vary from driver to driver so it never hurts to see what yours covers in the event you’re left carless due to an accident.

Step 1: Report the accident to your insurance.

Most car accidents we’ve been in require a quick call to our insurance companies. In the instance where you suspect you might have totaled your car, it will generally require a more thorough inspection of the damage. Some insurance companies have mobile apps where you can report images of the damage right away but an inspector can get more specific on the repairs needed for your vehicle to determine if it's a loss or not.

With car accidents there is more than meets the eye: some parts of the car that are damaged may carry heftier repair price tags than others. For example, a broken or damaged axle will cost much more to a replace than a broken window. Leave it to your trusty insurance inspector who can take a closer look at your vehicle to tally up damage.

Step 2: Submit the required documents to your insurance.

Each state has different requirements but generally speaking, you can count on needing to submit a few documents in order for your insurance to move forward.

Be sure to check with your insurance to make sure you have the correct documents ready:

  • A physical copy of your title (if you a lender holds your title, you’ll need documentation to show who owns your loan plus contact information)
  • A completed odometer disclosure form
  • A signed, notarized Power of Attorney (POA)

Most companies won't move forward with your settlement until they've received all the above completed or notarized documents. 

Notarize your Power of Attorney

Step 3: Collect your total loss insurance settlement.

What’s in a total loss settlement?

If your insurance inspector deems your vehicle a total loss, you won't be able to keep the vehicle in your possession in exchange for a settlement, which includes what your insurance company will offer you on your car, as well as any taxes or fees associated with totaling your vehicle.

The insurance company will write a check to either you, your lender, or lease company, depending on whether you own the vehicle, owe a particular amount on the vehicle, or are leasing it.

Wonder how much you’ll receive from your settlement? Your insurance company will pay out the ACV, or the average cash value of your car, which takes into account a combination of factors: the current market value of your car, the condition of your car pre-accident, as well as mileage and options (such as leather seats, power windows, and all other vehicle bells and whistles).

How to speed up the total loss process

One important document involved in the process adds undue stress during the total loss process: the notarized Power of Attorney. It can be frustrating to have to find a notary in-person when you may not have a rental vehicle, or a vehicle at all (it was totaled, after all).

But you can speed up the total loss process by getting your Power of Attorney notarized online. No more searching for a notary, only to find they’ve gone home for the day, or worse, there isn’t one on duty where you looked. Save yourself the stress and get your Power of Attorney notarized online, 24/7.

Are you currently going through the Total Loss process?
Get to a new car quicker by getting your Power of Attorney notarized online.

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