While our firm does not handle property damage (i.e. damage to your vehicle and belongings), we do have some advice. Some people think that the insurance company is merely paying you for your totaled car.
How Do Insurance Adjusters Determine the Value of a Car?
The reality is, the insurance is buying your car from you at its value prior to the accident. Insurance companies use the lowest rates to value your car, so you need to use the highest rates.
The insurance company will make you an initial offer. Ask to see the report showing the value of your vehicle. The report should have some online valuation, with 2 or three comparable vehicles for sale in you market. In order to counter this report, you need to find your own online values, and comparable vehicles.
Start by searching online vehicle valuation websites like kbb.com (Kelley Blue Book), nada.com, truecar.com, autotrader.com, edmunds.com, carfax.com. Choose the retail or private party value. Don’t choose the trade-in value, because you’re not trading the car into a dealership. Remember, you’re selling your car to the insurance company, which is a private party sell.
After determining your top 3 highest valuations, find comparable vehicles for sell from dealers in the area. While searching for comparable vehicles, call the dealerships that have the vehicles listed for sale in the insurance company’s report. Often, a vehicle included in the insurance’s report will be sold already. If the vehicle is not for sale, then it is not proper to use it as a valuation example.
Can You Negotiate Total Loss Value?
Present your findings to the insurance company, give the adjuster your 3 highest vehicle values, tell him which of his vehicle examples are not actually for sell, and show him your new 2-3 vehicle values. Then make your demand and remember to add sales tax, title and registration fees, and interest. He will come back with a bigger number, but it likely still won’t be what you think is fair.
What now? The squeaky wheel gets the grease. Call the adjuster every day, keep him on the phone for as long as you can while you complain that he is not treating you fairly. Ask to speak his supervisor, squeak, squeak, squeak-em. Eventually, when either you or the adjuster gives in, a check will be written, and your vehicle sold. Good luck!