I have written a lot about total losses before. You can find those articles here. But it bears repeating since so many people ask me this: why can't we use Blue Book value?
The simple answer is that Blue Book does not reflect the value of YOUR car. Spend 5 minutes looking for used cars and see how many dealers state that they are selling cars "under KBB" or "under Blue Book." (By the way, it is not just Blue Book that is not accurate. The NADA guide, Red Book and a whole host of other "books" are not accurate as well.) Why is that? It is simply because Blue Book is not an accurate reflection of the value of a car.
Here are some easy steps to remember if your car is declared a total loss:
1. Ask for the estimate prepared by the insurance company or body shop for repairs. You need to make sure that they have written an estimate and the car is really a total loss. Caveat: some cars are so badly damaged that it is a no-brainer.
2. Ask for the total loss evaluation. This will typically be a print out from ADP, CCC or another company and will show how the value of your vehicle was determined.
3. Review the evaluation carefully. Make sure they have the right year, make and model. While this seems easy, it is often a source of mistakes. Then, check carefully to make sure they have the right trim (LX, SX, EX, etc...) and the right equipment. About 80% of the total loss evaluations I see are simply missing optional equipment.
4. Make sure you understand how the evaluation was used. For example, did they find 3 cars and take the average or did they make adjustments, then take a weighted average?
5. If you do not understand, contact an attorney. And to be more clear, talk to the RIGHT attorney. Not every attorney knows how to handle a total loss. Not every attorney is willing to deal with it. Find an attorney who has dealt with these issues before, ask for a consultation, and if you are uncomfortable at all with what the insurance company is doing, hire an attorney.
Total losses are complex claims. With updates to technology, it can be complicated figuring out what a car is worth since there are so many ways to search. The insurance companies are using the latest technology to lower the value of cars. You need to make sure you understand the process and get the help you need.