published Saturday, February 4th, 2012

Phillips: How insurers handle vehicles to be totaled


by Ellen Phillips

Q. My son just totaled the family car. What should I look for when discussing the repair or replacement with my insurance company? — Denny Dad

A. Dear Mr. Dad: Unfortunately, according to an October 2011 report by J.D. Power and Associates, owners of totaled cars were less satisfied with their insurance companies than if their cars were repairable.

AAA.com tells us to think of the following concerns when discussing the repair or replacement with your company:

• The condition of your vehicle is often a differing opinion between owners and companies. Taking into consideration the mileage, its options, the condition of the auto at the time of the accident is most important. If a car is clean and well maintained, appraisers often consider it above average.

However, for it to be declared in excellent condition, it must be “showroom quality.” (And how often do we

see a vehicle in this state?)

• Proper documentation is the key to proving your case. If you’re arguing with the insurance company about just-replaced new tires, for example, your records may be the deciding factor in the company increasing its offer.

• Car payments won’t be covered if the value is less than what you owe and it’s totaled.

In such a situation, the insurance company will more than likely tell you not to let the door hit you on the behind on your way out.

• Renting or buying a vehicle is an important decision. Check with your insurance company to see if it pays for a rental. If a new auto is in order, it’s imperative you research all areas before you even begin to look.

I suggest beginning with Consumer Reports to explore your prospects and ending with Carfax.com if you decide upon a used vehicle.


It’s once again time for my annual tax tips. I hope those prove useful to readers and that the same applies this year.

Tax Tip: Deduct more premiums for long-term care insurance. Taxpayers 71 and older can now claim up to $4,370, seniors 61-70 can claim up to $3,500, and people 51-60 can deduct up to $1,310.

about Ellen Phillips...

Ellen Phillips is a retired English teacher who has written two consumer-oriented books. Her Consumer Watch column appears on Saturdays in the Business section of the paper. An expanded version is at www.timesfreepress.com under Local Business.

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