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Insurance companies deem a car a total loss when the cost of repairs exceeds a certain percentage of the car’s actual cash value (ACV) before the accident. This threshold varies across companies and states, typically between 70% to 100%.

Factors leading to total loss decision

  • Repair costs – If the estimated repair costs approach or exceed the predetermined percentage of the car’s value, it’s more cost-effective for insurers to declare it a total loss.
  • Safety and structural damage – Extensive structural damage or safety concerns might render the car unsafe, even if repairs are possible.
  • State regulations – Regulations in your state can influence the total loss determination process.

The total loss process

  • Damage assessment – An adjuster inspects the damage and calculates repair costs.
  • Comparing costs – Compare the repair costs to the car’s ACV before the accident.
  • Decision and settlement – The car is deemed a total loss if repair costs exceed the threshold. You’ll receive a settlement based on the car’s pre-accident value minus the deductible.


Understanding when car insurance companies total a car helps you predict outcomes and make quick decisions after an accident. Factors like repair costs, safety concerns, and state regulations all play a role in determining whether a car is a total loss.