How to Determine the Payout When Your Car Is Totaled

by Kaylee Finn

Your car is considered "totaled" by an insurance company when it determines that it would cost more to repair the car than to buy it. If your car is totaled, you will not be waiting several weeks for repairs to be completed, but the payout may not be as much you would like. There is a chance, particularly for newer cars, that you will be paid less than you owe for the car because the payout is based on the market value of your car and not on what you may owe.

Determine your car's make, model, year and mileage. If you don't remember, most of this information is in your owner's manual.

Look up your car's value using Kelly Blue Book, the National Automobile Dealers Association and Edmunds as references. These resources give estimates of your car's worth. Check multiple sources to get an average value. It is also worthwhile to check classifieds in your area to determine what similar cars are selling for.

Account for any improvements or components you added to your car. This includes things like a nonstandard stereo or speaker system that adds to its value.

Add the value of the improvements you made to the car to the car's base value determined in step 2. This value should be a close approximation of what the insurance company will pay you for your totaled car.


  • check Make your insurance company aware of improvements you made to the car that may affect its value.


  • close Insurance companies have their own private methods for determining the fair market value of your car that may not agree with your estimate.


About the Author

Kaylee Finn began writing professionally for various websites in 2009, primarily contributing articles covering topics in business personal finance. She brings expertise in the areas of taxes, student loans and debt management to her writing. She received her Bachelor of Science in system dynamics from Worcester Polytechnic Institute.