Woman looking stressed and looking at her phone after an accident

How to Get a New Car After Total Loss

Updated February 2, 2024 . AmFam Team

After an accident, you may have a few questions on what happens next. And if the costs to repair your car — plus its salvage value — add up to more than your car’s actual cash value (ACV), you might find yourself learning that your car is considered a total loss.

There’s a lot that goes into the way insurance companies manage vehicles when they’re totaled. Here’s what you need to know if the damage to your vehicle looks like it’s going to qualify as a total loss.

Why do you need gap insurance?
Learn about how this coverage can protect your finances if you owe more on your car than its actual cash value.

Will I get a new car if mine is totaled?

It’s a question you don’t really want to ask, but after an accident you may be wondering if your car’s headed to the shop or the salvage yard. And the next question you’ll be asking yourself is if you’re going to be getting a new car from your insurance company. The answer to that all depends in part on the car coverage you’ve got in place and the extent of the damage done to your car.

Remember that your insurance claims department will need to review the damage and decide on what action to take. Because state laws and individual insurance groups can vary on how a total loss formula (TLF) is calculated, you’ll need to check with the claims adjusters handling your file on their process.

If you’ve got an active gap insurance policy on your vehicle, lease or loan gap coverage can mean a lot. For instance, what happens when your car is totaled and you still owe money? In the event of a total loss, that lease or loan gap protection can help pay the difference between what you still owe on your totaled vehicle and what its actual cash value is.

With it, you may not have to pay that “gap” in pricing on your own. Optional protection like collision coverage also can really help to protect your finances you when you need it most.

Insurance adjuster taking notes on a clipboard

Steps to Getting a New Car After a Total Loss

Navigating the claims process after an auto accident can be challenging. You’ll need to gather some information, do a little research and work with your insurance company to get the job done. Be sure to respond quickly to requests for information. Do your best to send documents via email to your agent, and with American Family Insurance. Or better, you can upload photos via the MyAmFam app and manage the claim there to help expedite the processing. Here’s how to get your totaled car claim going:

Promptly Report the Claim

Because a totaled car claim can be a lengthy process, it’s key to file it as soon as possible. Once your insurance company starts managing your claim, you’ll be able to move through the process.

Inquire About a Replacement Vehicle

Check with your insurance agent to see if you’ve got rental car reimbursement coverage on your policy. With it, you may be able to recover some or all of your rental car costs, taxis, commuter costs or rideshare expenses.

Car getting towed after an accident

Tow the Vehicle to a Preferred Auto Body Shop

Your insurance company may require you to have your car towed to its contracted estimating garage. Or you may be allowed to have the car sent to a facility of your choosing. Once the car’s there, it will be assessed and an estimate to repair the car will be made. After your car is declared a total loss you may be wondering, “Is it still safe to drive?” To answer that, you’ll need to verify the car’s condition with a certified mechanic.

Find Your Paperwork

Next up, you’re going to need to find your sales receipt, taxes and title documents that you received when you bought the car. Scan these files and have photocopies handy so you can get them to your insurance adjuster quickly. Your local DMV can help you get another title if you’ve misplaced yours. Some states require that the title be held by your lender, so check with your bank to see if they’ve got it. Also, be sure to submit receipts for any upgrades made to your car.

Get Loan Details on the Payoff Amount for Your Car

If you still owe money on the car, you’ll need to get a payoff quote from the lending institution. They’ll get a number to you which your claims adjuster will need.

Request that the details be sent electronically so you can forward that quote onto your adjuster. Who gets the insurance check when a car is totaled? That all depends on the car’s actual cash value, its salvage value and how much you still owe on it. If you’ll be applying for a car loan after a total loss, remember to talk to your insurance agent about getting lease or loan gap insurance on the new vehicle.

Research How Much Your Car Is Worth

Do some online homework and learn about what your car is worth before the accident happened. Look at websites like Edmunds.com and kellybluebook.com to get an idea of your car’s relative value. Other groups will allow you to estimate your car’s value based on its vehicle identification number (VIN).

Submit Documents as They’re Made Available to You

Work quickly to get the claims adjusters the files they need. You’ll find fewer delays in the processing of your claim if you can provide all the relevant information.

Sign, scan and return files via email that need a physical autograph. And be sure to sign your name exactly as it appears on these documents. Any differences could hold up the process. And, just like that, your total loss claim is underway.

At American Family Insurance, we work hard to process your claims efficiently. And we’re always trying to streamline the way we work with our customers. Be sure to reach out to your American Family Insurance agent after you’ve started the claims process to get a quote on your next vehicle. You’ll find your agent can build you a customized quote that’s easy to understand and affordable as well.


This article is for informational purposes only and includes information widely available through different sources. This article does not afford, offer, or guarantee any coverage.

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