Actual Cash Value

Insurance Q&A: “How is actual cash value determined?”

Sadly, at some time or another, we’ve all heard the phrase, “My car got totaled.”  Typically, this conjures a picture in our heads of a car so badly damaged that there is no way it can possibly be repaired.

We’ve also heard stories where a vehicle “should have been totaled,” but was somehow repaired.  This article aims to explain how an insurance company makes that determination.  As you may have guessed, it comes down to limiting the expense to the insurance company, thereby allowing them to keep insurance rates as low as possible.

In the event of a covered physical damage claim, your insurance company must pay either the “actual cash value” (ACV), the expense to repair your vehicle, or replace it with a vehicle of like kind and quality, whichever loss cost settlement option was detailed in your policy when it was purchased.

It’s important to note, your insurer will calculate the ACV of your vehicle as the replacement cost minus any depreciation or obsolescence.  In the event the cost to repair your vehicle exceeds the ACV, your car may be deemed a total loss, or “totaled.”  In this event, you receive the ACV minus any deductible that applies.

Example 1: Tim crashes his car into a telephone poll, bending the vehicle’s frame and smashing the engine compartment, destroying the entire front end. Let’s assume Tim has physical damage coverage with a $1,000 deductible and the ACV of the vehicle is $35,000.  The cost to repair the vehicle is $37,000.  In this instance, Tim’s insurance company would consider the car a total loss, and pay Tim $35,000 minus his $1,000 deductible.

If Tim happened to be leasing the car, and the ACV exceeded the current payoff amount of the vehicle, he would keep the difference.  So if the payoff amount on the lease is only $30,000, but the insurance company values the vehicle at $35,000, Tim would keep the additional $5,000.

Example 2: Rita backs into a dumpster at a grocery store while parking her car, damaging her bumper and tail light.  Let’s assume Rita has physical damage coverage with a $250 deductible and the ACV of the vehicle is $7,500.  The cost to replace the bumper and repair the tail light is $950.  The cost to repair Rita’s car would be shared by Rita, paying her $250 deductible, and her insurer, who would pay the remaining $700.

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One Comment

  1. Gustavo October 16, 2017 at 6:20 pm -

    My car was recently a total loss due to hurricane Irma and my insurance payed the leasing company the ACV of $40,000 and the payoff was $34,000. I was expecting to get that difference to recover the downpayment I just gave 3 months ago, but the leasing company(Infiniti/Nissan) does not want to return the excess amount with the argument that they must kept ACV just because.

    I will appreciate any advice.



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