How much damage totals a car?

While every state and insurance company is different, how much damage totals a car is usually 75 to 90% of its total value. Comprehensive, collision, and GAP coverage can help replace your car.

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Tonya Sisler has a Bachelor’s Degree from the University of South Carolina in Journalism and has worked for 15+ years in management. She has also completed a proofreading certification and is currently a professional writer.

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Brad Larson has been in the insurance industry for more than a dozen years. He started out as a claims adjuster for a national carrier. He has since switched to the agency side of the business. Brad is licensed in all P&C lines.

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Reviewed by Brad Larsen
Licensed Auto Insurance Agent Brad Larsen

UPDATED: Mar 11, 2022

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Things to Know

  • While it depends on the state you live in and your insurance company, your car will be declared a total loss when the damage reaches between 75 and 90% of its value
  • There are a variety of insurance products you can buy that will replace your car if it’s totaled
  • If your car is totaled, you can get a rebuilt title for it so it can be legally driven and insured again

When you get behind the wheel of your car, there’s always a chance that something will go wrong. From an absent-minded driver running a red light to a case of road rage getting out of hand, an accident can happen at any time.

However, it’s not just accidents that cause damage to your car. Other common sources of damage include weather, vandalism, theft, and animal contact.

Your car insurance helps repair your vehicle from situations specified by your policy. However, if the damage is too severe, the insurance company might declare your car a total loss. While it’s easy to understand why some cars are reported totaled, others aren’t so obvious.

So, how much damage totals a car? It depends on the company, but it generally depends on the amount of damage to your vehicle. Even if your vehicle is totaled, your insurance will help you replace your car – if you need coverage, enter your ZIP code into our free tool to see what quotes might look like for you.

How much damage totals a car?

Simply speaking, an insurance company declares a car totaled when it would cost more to repair it than it’s worth. An insurance company will generally define “totaled” as an amount of damage that exceeds 75 to 90% of the car’s worth.

Additionally, your car might be declared a total loss if it can’t be safely repaired. Some states have laws about when a vehicle should be declared totaled, with laws as low as 50% of its value.

For example, if your car is worth $20,000 and you get in an accident, repairs will have to be under a certain amount to keep it from being declared totaled. Suppose your insurance company defines total damage at a 75% threshold. In that case, that means your car will be declared totaled if repairs exceed $15,000.

When you file a claim after an incident, an adjustor will examine your car and determine the percentage of damage.

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What type of insurance protects your car from being totaled?

While most states require a minimum amount of liability coverage before you can legally drive, liability won’t help replace your car after it’s been totaled.

You have several options to protect yourself from losing your car if it’s totaled. If you’re interested in protecting your vehicle, consider the following types of coverage.

  • Collision. While liability pays for damage you cause to other cars, people, and property, you need collision to repair your vehicle. No matter who is at fault, a collision will repair (or replace) your car after an accident.
  • Comprehensive. This insurance covers damage outside accidents. If your car is totaled due to weather, theft, or hitting an animal, comprehensive can replace it.
  • Underinsured/uninsured motorist. Not all drivers have adequate insurance. If an underinsured or uninsured driver totals your car, this coverage will help replace your car.
  • GAP coverage. If you recently bought your car and it’s totaled, you will likely owe more on your loan than the car is worth. GAP coverage will pay for the difference between the car’s value and your loan.
  • New Car Replacement. If you buy this insurance and your car is totaled, your insurance will pay you an agreed-upon amount rather than its actual value. Usually, your car needs to be under a certain age or mileage to be eligible.

These are the most common types of insurance to protect your car from being totaled. Some companies offer additional unique coverages that increase the value of your policy.

What happens after your car is declared a total loss?

When a car has been declared a total loss, the original title is replaced with a salvage title. A salvage title doesn’t necessarily mean that the car is destroyed beyond repair – only that it crossed the minimum damage threshold as defined by either your state or insurance company.

Once your car is declared totaled, you’ll receive a payout for it. The amount you receive for your vehicle is usually its Actual Cash Value (ACV). The ACV of your car isn’t the same as the price you bought it for. Instead, the ACV is how much your vehicle was worth right before the crash happened.

Several factors determine the ACV of your car, including (but not limited to) the following.

  • Vehicle age
  • Total mileage
  • Previous damage
  • Make and model

Normal depreciation makes your vehicle less valuable with each year you own it. Say you bought your car for $30,000, and your insurance company determines it lost a third of its value in the time you owned it. If you total that car, you’ll receive a check for $20,000, or the vehicle’s ACV.

This is why GAP coverage or new car replacement is so valuable – they help make up the difference between what you paid and your car’s ACV.

Insurance companies usually sell totaled cars to mechanics or scrap to make up for their losses. From there, a mechanic will fix it up if possible and try to resell it.

Can you drive a salvage title car?

Once a car has a salvaged title, it can’t be driven on public roads. Because of that, you also can’t buy insurance for a salvage car.

Just because a salvage title has been issued doesn’t mean the car’s life is over. The first step to getting a totaled vehicle back on the road is to repair all the damage. Some cars need basic bodywork, while others need more extensive repairs.

After the repairs are done, a certified mechanic must thoroughly examine your car. You’ll also need to get the car an emissions test. While an emissions test is usually basic, a Level III inspection is more detailed. It will examine all the significant parts of your engine.

Once your car passes inspection, your car will be issued a rebuilt title.

Can you get insurance on a rebuilt title?

Since you can legally drive a rebuilt title and most states require insurance, you can easily find coverage. However, it might be more challenging to find coverage beyond basic liability.

The first step to getting insurance for your rebuilt title is to ensure you have the correct. While you can always check on your state’s DMV site, an easy way to tell is with the color of your title. A green title is clean, blue is salvage, and orange is rebuilt.

Then, make sure to get a statement from a certified mechanic. Not only does this reassure you that your car is in good working order, but it will also make your company feel more confident to provide insurance. You should also get a copy of the original repair notice, so the insurance company knows exactly what happened.

After that, you’ll be ready to find the right coverage for your needs. As said before, most companies don’t offer more than liability. You can find companies that will sell comprehensive or collision coverage. Still, it will be much more expensive than the same car with a clean title.

In fact, your company will use a totaled car value calculator to determine how much your vehicle is actually worth. You might be surprised to learn that your rebuilt car is worth less than you think.

Some companies won’t issue a policy to a rebuilt title at all, so it’s important to research your options.

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Find the Right Car Insurance After Totaling Your Car

No matter how much damage is done to your car, the right insurance will make sure you’re back on the road in no time. From collision and comprehensive to GAP coverage, you have plenty of options to purchase insurance that will cover you.

Now that you know how much damage totals a car, you can find the right insurance to protect your vehicle. Enter your ZIP code into our free tool to see how much insurance coverage might cost for you.

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