How to negotiate your car's value with an insurance adjuster

If your insurance company offers you a settlement that is too low, you can use the value of your vehicle and other accident-related expenses to negotiate.

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Rachael Brennan

Rachael Brennan

Senior Editor & Licensed Auto Insurance Expert

Rachael Brennan is a senior editor and a licensed auto insurance expert at Policygenius. Her work has also been featured in MoneyGeek, Clearsurance, Adweek, Boston Globe, The Ladders, and AutoInsurance.com.

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It may seem surprising, but the car insurance settlement you’re offered after a claim is actually negotiable. Whether you file a claim against the at-fault driver’s liability coverage or through your own comprehensive or collision coverage, your insurance company will assign a claims adjuster to review your case and determine how much you should be paid. 

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But the amount they offer you isn’t set in stone; you have the ability to push back for a higher amount if you feel the insurance company’s offer is too low.

Key takeaways

  • If you get a settlement offer that is lower than you think you deserve, you can say no and ask for a better offer (without going to court).

  • You need to know how much your car is worth and how much your accident-related expenses are to know whether or not you should negotiate a higher settlement offer.

  • Hiring an attorney can be helpful when negotiating a settlement, but the added expense may not be worth it in some situations.

How to negotiate with an insurance adjuster

There is a lot of information your insurance adjuster uses to determine how much you should be paid after an accident, including the value of your vehicle and, if you’ve been injured, your total medical expenses. The adjuster will use this information to offer you a settlement, but it may be lower than you expected.

The good news is that you also have access to all of the same information. You can review the value of your vehicle, your medical expenses, and anything else you feel should apply to your claim and counter their offer if you’ve come up with a higher figure.

But if you are going to counter your insurance company’s settlement offer, you’ll need to take the following steps:

1. Figure out what your vehicle is worth

Whether your car was totaled in an accident or just needs minor repairs, it is important to know what your vehicle is worth. You can use sources like Kelley Blue Book to figure out the value of your car.

2. Determine if the initial offer is too low

If the insurance company’s initial offer is reasonable and will pay for the expenses you’ve accumulated due to the accident, you don’t have to negotiate anything. You can take the offer and repair or replace your car and pay your medical bills. But if you determine the offer is too low, you can (and should) push for a higher settlement.

3. Argue your side of the case

If you decide to negotiate, you’ll need to explain why you think the insurance company should increase the settlement. You can use the research you’ve done to make your point and even share more details from your experience. If you’ve had trouble sleeping, needed to see a therapist, or your pet was injured in the accident, you can share those things when you are negotiating your settlement.

➞ Learn more about negotiating an insurance settlement for your car

How should you respond to a low settlement offer?

Before you sit down with the insurance company, you should have an idea of what you think a reasonable settlement would be in your situation based on facts, not your emotions. 

If you get a settlement offer that is lower than you think you deserve, you can say no and ask for a better offer without going to court.

You should be both polite and firm if you push for a higher settlement. Going to court is expensive and insurance companies don’t want to deal with it any more than you do, but if you are insisting on an unreasonable payment they may not hesitate to take your case in front of a judge.

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Getting a higher value for your car

If your car is damaged or totaled in an accident and you don’t think the claims settlement you’ve been offered is equivalent to the value of your vehicle, there are several things you can do to get a higher value for your car, including:

  • Do your research: Make sure you know the details of your car insurance policy, as well as the laws in your state, and how they apply to your situation.

  • Gather your documentation: Do you have maintenance records showing you kept your vehicle in immaculate shape? Gather up your records from previous oil changes, regular maintenance, and any other information showing that your car was in excellent condition before the accident.

  • Organize your argument: Take pictures of the damage and provide examples of how the accident has impacted your daily life. Do you now have childcare expenses, lost wages, or domestic services (like a housekeeper or lawn service) you didn’t need before the accident? Document those things so they can be included in your claim.

Frequently asked questions

Can you negotiate the value of a totaled car?

Yes, you can negotiate the value of a totaled car with your insurance company. You’ll need to do some research on the actual cash value (ACV) of your car and learn about your state’s total loss threshold, but you can negotiate a total loss claim just like you can negotiate any other claim.

What should you not say to an adjuster?

When talking to an insurance adjuster, you shouldn’t apologize or admit fault for an accident. You also shouldn’t speculate about the accident, downplay any damages or injuries, or make any statements on the record when speaking to a claims adjuster.

Do I need a lawyer to help me negotiate my car’s value after an accident?

You can hire an attorney if you aren’t successful in your negotiations with the car insurance company, but it will be more expensive than negotiating on your own. Hiring a lawyer may or may not be worth the cost in your situation; you can schedule a meeting with an attorney to find out whether hiring legal counsel is right for you.

Author

Senior Editor & Licensed Auto Insurance Expert

Rachael Brennan

Senior Editor & Licensed Auto Insurance Expert

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Rachael Brennan is a senior editor and a licensed auto insurance expert at Policygenius. Her work has also been featured in MoneyGeek, Clearsurance, Adweek, Boston Globe, The Ladders, and AutoInsurance.com.

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