How to Tell If a Car Is Totaled

by Louise Balle

If you've ever been involved in an accident, you know the procedure that has to be followed when you're placing an insurance claim. One of the first things that an adjuster needs to determine is if the car has been totaled. An insurance company will not pay for repairs to a car whose worth is less than the cost of the repairs. You can tell if a car has been totaled yourself by noting the following signs.

Step 1

If the car cannot be driven to the repair shop because it won't start or because the parts of the car are bent and blocking the view of the driver, there is a good chance that it is totaled.

Step 2

Check to see if there are any fluids leaking profusely from the car. This could be a sign of an expensive repair that could deem the car totaled.

Step 3

If there is extensive damage to the general frame of the car, and your car is over five years old, there is a good chance that it will be considered totaled. It can cost up to $10,000 or more to repaint and rebuild a car's frame.

Step 4

Look up the value of the car on Kelley Blue Book (see direct link below). Evaluate whether your car was in excellent, good, or poor condition before the accident. Keep in mind that the Blue Book value is only a guideline---most insurance companies use their own private books to determine value.

Step 5

Tow your car to an auto body specialist to get an estimate on the work. You want a full estimate on what it will take to get the car back to 100%. If the price of the repair is higher than the Blue Book value, the car is considered totaled. The insurance company will give you a check for the value of the car and take it away.

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