UPDATED: May 23, 2020
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|Vehicle total loss thresholds vary between 50 and 100% depending on the state||Matthiesen, Wickert, and Lehrer, Attorneys at Law|
|Insurance companies use the actual cash value of your vehicle to determine total loss||Nolo|
Has your insurance company ever requested to see your vehicle title? If so, you may be wondering why. In some cases, you may be asked for your vehicle title when you are looking to purchase an insurance policy and times, an insurer may request to see your vehicle title if you’ve been in an accident.
So why does the insurance company want to see my title? We know finding insurance information can be frustrating. Not to worry, we’ve done the work for you. In this article, we’ll discuss why insurance companies may request to see your vehicle title, how to tell if your auto insurance company is reputable, and more.
Read on to discover everything you need to know about how your vehicle title relates to your insurance coverage. Before we get started, take a moment to use your ZIP code and get a free quote on auto insurance.
Auto Insurance & Vehicle Titles
While it is not typical, there are some situations in which insurance companies may request to see your vehicle title.
Why? Keep reading to find out and when it can be in your best interest to provide it. We’ll also discuss insurable interest, how liens can affect your vehicle title, and the importance of being honest about where your vehicle is parked at night.
Why do auto insurance companies request to see vehicle titles after an auto accident?
In most cases, an insurer will only ask to see your title after an accident. They may ask to see your title after your car got totaled or almost totaled, for example.
This is because if the vehicle may be totaled, the insurance company cannot calculate total loss without the title (unless you’re planning to salvage the vehicle after the insurance payout, in which case you need to look for auto insurance for a car with a salvage title).
Often, however, if you’re in an accident, the request to see the vehicle title is simply a part of the claims process to confirm ownership of the vehicle.
What does it mean when my vehicle is totaled?
When your vehicle is totaled (also referred to as a total loss) it means that post-accident, the claims adjuster has estimated the cost of repairs and determined it is more efficient to replace your vehicle.
The percentage of the cost of repairs compared to the actual cash value (ACV) of your vehicle, known as a total loss threshold, varies by state but can be anywhere from 50–100 percent of the vehicle’s current value.
Watch this video to learn more about ACV.
When your vehicle is totaled, your vehicle title will be changed from a clean title to a salvage, rebuilt, or junk title, but the terms depend on the state.
- New Mexico – a salvage title refers to a vehicle that was a total loss, but the term is also applied to a total loss vehicle that was repaired. If a vehicle cannot be repaired, the title will be marked “non-repairable.”
- Utah – a salvage title is used for vehicles that are a total loss, but when the vehicle is then repaired/rebuilt to acceptable standards, the title is re-branded as “rebuilt/restored.”
There are reasons other than total loss car insurance settlement calculations for an insurance company to request a title. Read on to learn more.
What are some other reasons insurance companies request to see a vehicle title?
Some insurance companies may ask to see the vehicle’s title when you’re buying insurance. Why? The insurance company wants to verify you’re the legitimate, registered owner of the vehicle you’re insuring.
If you’re not comfortable providing your title to your insurer, you can switch to another auto insurance company. Many insurers won’t ask to see your title when you’re purchasing a policy (however, in the event of an accident, as noted above, you may be required to produce your vehicle title).
What is insurable interest?
You can buy non-owner’s auto insurance on vehicles you don’t technically own. However, most auto insurance policies are designed to cover cars you personally own. If your insurer asks to see your title, they’re simply verifying you have an insurable interest in the vehicle.
What’s insurable interest? According to the Insurance Risk Management Institute, it’s defined as “…an interest by the insured person in the value of the subject of insurance, including any legal or financial relationship. Insurable interest usually results from property rights, contract rights, and potential legal liability.”
Companies want to know you do actually own your vehicle to confirm you have both the property rights and the legal or financial responsibility for it.
In the event of an accident; insurance companies may request to see your vehicle title to confirm ownership as a part of the claims process. The insurance company is protecting both your interests and their own, as negotiating an auto insurance settlement can get complicated in situations where insurable interest is up for debate.
What if my vehicle has a lien?
The insurance company may want to see your title if there’s a lien on the vehicle. When there’s a lien on the vehicle but not listed on the policy, it can significantly complicate the claims process, particularly in the event of a total loss. In this situation, the insurer may ask to see the title to protect the lienholder’s interest.
Why do insurers care where I park my vehicle at night?
Insurance companies may ask to see the title of your vehicle to verify its location at night, because insurance rates can change significantly based on where your vehicle is parked at night.
This can mean insurance costs are higher in some ZIP codes, resulting in paying up to twice as much for auto insurance than a ZIP code in a safer part of town. As an example, we pulled the 25 most and 25 least expensive ZIP codes in Georgia by insurance rates. Take a look at the ZIP codes with the lowest rates first.
|25 Cheapest GA Auto Insurance Rates by ZIP Codes||Average Annual Auto Insurance Rates|
If you’re moving to Georgia, you might want to avoid these ZIP codes, which have the highest auto insurance rates in the state.
|25 Most Expensive GA Auto Insurance Rates by ZIP codes||Average Annual Auto Insurance Rates|
The ZIP code with the most expensive insurance rates in the state (30088) has an average auto insurance rate of $6,913.82, which is 73.85 percent higher than the ZIP code with the cheapest rates in the state (31699), whose average rate is $3,976.82.
As another example, take a look at this video to see how ZIP codes affect insurance rates in Missouri.
You must list the “garaging” location of your vehicle accurately on your auto insurance policy, even if it means your rates are higher. If insurers suspect you’re lying about the garaging location, they may ask to see your title. Enter your zip code below to view companies that have cheap auto insurance rates. Secured with SHA-256 Encryption
Enter your zip code below to view companies that have cheap auto insurance rates.
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Trustworthy Auto Insurance Companies
Regardless of your situation, you want to be insured by a reliable and trustworthy auto insurance company. If you’re asked to provide your vehicle title when purchasing an insurance policy, company trustworthiness is especially important.
How do you know if a company is trustworthy?
One way is to check the company’s customer satisfaction and financial ratings. Read on to find out more information about these ratings and how some of the largest insurers in the country stack up based on this information.
What do customers say about the largest insurance companies in the country?
J.D. Power studies company customer satisfaction in the auto insurance industry, among others. They have been researching customer satisfaction in the auto insurance industry for over 20 years, providing their findings to the public.
Their J.D. Power Circle Rating™ system is based on a 1,000-point scale that is then reduced to the five-point Power Circle Rating™. We’ve summarized their system in this list.
- Five Circles – among the best
- Four Circles – better than most
- Three Circles – about average
- Two Circles – the rest
In this table, we summarized the Power Circle Rating™ for the top companies in each region across the country.
|Companies||California Ratings||Central Ratings||Florida Ratings||Mid-Atlantic Ratings||New England Ratings||New York Ratings||North Central Ratings||Northwest Ratings||Southeast Ratings||Southwest Ratings||Texas Ratings|
|Alfa Insurance||NA||NA||NA||NA||NA||NA||NA||NA||4 circles||NA||NA|
|Allstate||3 circles||4 circles||5 circles||2 circles||4 circles||3 circles||3 circles||3 circles||2 circles||3 circles||3 circles|
|American Family||NA||3 circles||NA||NA||NA||NA||3 circles||4 circles||NA||3 circles||NA|
|Amica Mutual||NA||NA||NA||NA||5 circles||NA||NA||NA||NA||NA||NA|
|Auto Club of Southern California Insurance Group||4 circles||3 circles||NA||NA||NA||NA||NA||NA||NA||NA||3 circles|
|Auto-Owners Insurance||NA||5 circles||2 circles||NA||NA||NA||3 circles||NA||4 circles||NA||NA|
|Automobile Club Group||NA||NA||NA||NA||NA||NA||2 circles||NA||NA||NA||NA|
|Cincinnati Insurance||NA||NA||NA||NA||NA||NA||2 circles||NA||NA||NA||NA|
|COUNTRY Financial||NA||NA||NA||NA||NA||NA||4 circles||NA||NA||NA||NA|
|CSAA Insurance Group||3 circles||NA||NA||2 circles||NA||NA||NA||NA||NA||3 circles||NA|
|Erie Insurance||NA||NA||NA||5 circles||NA||NA||5 circles||NA||4 circles||NA||NA|
|Esurance||5 circles||NA||5 circles||NA||NA||NA||3 circles||NA||NA||NA||NA|
|Farm Bureau Insurance – Tennessee||NA||NA||NA||NA||NA||NA||NA||NA||5 circles||NA||NA|
|Farm Bureau Mutual||NA||3 circles||NA||NA||NA||NA||NA||NA||NA||NA||NA|
|Farmers||3 circles||2 circles||NA||2 circles||NA||NA||3 circles||3 circles||NA||3 circles||3 circles|
|Geico||4 circles||4 circles||3 circles||4 circles||4 circles||3 circles||3 circles||3 circles||3 circles||3 circles||3 circles|
|Grance Insurance||NA||NA||NA||NA||NA||NA||3 circles||NA||NA||NA||NA|
|IN Farm Bureau||NA||NA||NA||NA||NA||NA||5 circles||NA||NA||NA||NA|
|KY Farm Bureau||NA||NA||NA||NA||NA||NA||NA||NA||3 circles||NA||NA|
|Liberty Mutual||3 circles||2 circles||3 circles||2 circles||2 circles||3 circles||2 circles||2 circles||2 circles||3 circles||2 circles|
|MAPFRE Insurance||NA||NA||NA||NA||2 circles||NA||NA||NA||NA||NA||NA|
|MetLife||NA||NA||2 circles||NA||2 circles||4 circles||2 circles||NA||2 circles||NA||NA|
|MI Farm Bureau||NA||NA||NA||NA||NA||NA||4 circles||NA||NA||NA||NA|
|National General||NA||NA||NA||NA||NA||NA||NA||NA||2 circles||NA||NA|
|Nationwide||2 circles||2 circles||2 circles||2 circles||3 circles||3 circles||3 circles||2 circles||3 circles||2 circles||3 circles|
|NC Farm Bureau||NA||NA||NA||NA||NA||NA||NA||NA||4 circles||NA||NA|
|New York Central Mutual||NA||NA||NA||NA||NA||5 circles||NA||NA||NA||NA||NA|
|NJM Insurance Co||NA||NA||NA||5 circles||NA||NA||NA||NA||NA||NA||NA|
|Plymouth Rock Assurance||NA||NA||NA||2 circles||2 circles||NA||NA||NA||NA||NA||NA|
|Progressive||3 circles||3 circles||2 circles||2 circles||3 circles||2 circles||3 circles||2 circles||2 circles||2 circles||2 circles|
|Safeco||3 circles||2 circles||2 circles||NA||2 circles||NA||2 circles||3 circles||3 circles||3 circles||NA|
|Safety Insurance||NA||NA||NA||NA||2 circles||NA||NA||NA||NA||NA||NA|
|State Farm||4 circles||3 circles||3 circles||3 circles||4 circles||4 circles||4 circles||3 circles||4 circles||5 circles||3 circles|
|The Hanover||NA||NA||NA||NA||3 circles||NA||2 circles||NA||NA||NA||NA|
|The Hartford||3 circles||NA||2 circles||4 circles||NA||NA||4 circles||4 circles||NA||5 circles||NA|
|Travelers||NA||3 circles||2 circles||2 circles||2 circles||4 circles||2 circles||NA||2 circles||2 circles||NA|
|TX Farm Bureau||NA||NA||NA||NA||NA||NA||NA||NA||NA||NA||5 circles|
|USAA||5 circles||5 circles||5 circles||5 circles||5 circles||5 circles||5 circles||5 circles||5 circles||5 circles||5 circles|
J.D. Power customer satisfaction ratings for companies vary by region. For example, Allstate has a circle rating of:
- Two in the Mid-Atlantic region
- Three in California
- Four in the Central region
- Five in Florida
What are the financial ratings for some of the largest insurance companies in the country?
In some cases (like Liberty Mutual, for example), you can pull a company’s published financial statements from their website. However, this requires time, effort, and understanding exactly what the financial statements indicate about the company, which can be time-consuming and frustrating.
That’s what companies like A.M. Best are for; they do the hard work for you (and potential investors). They look at a variety of factors, including financial statements, to generate a credit rating based on financial strength and outlook for the future.
Under their rating structure, companies are considered financially solid and have a stable outlook for the future if they receive a rating of A- or better.
Watch this video to learn a bit more about A.M. Best.
Take a look at this table to see a summary of the A.M. Best ratings for some of the largest companies in the country.
|Companies||A.M. Best Rating||Financial Outlook|
If you purchase a policy from one of the listed companies, it’s clear that you’re in good shape from the perspective of company financial stability.
The Bottom Line: Why does the insurance company want to see my title?
Ultimately, if auto insurance companies request to see your vehicle title, they aren’t scamming you. They’re simply doing their due diligence to ensure you own the vehicle, park it where you say you do, or they need it to process an accident claim.
It’s important to confirm your insurance company is trustworthy, which is why looking at data from companies like J.D. Power and A.M. Best can help you decide which insurance company is right for you.
Now that we’ve covered information on your vehicle title and when and why insurance companies might ask to see it, take a moment to use your ZIP code to get a free quote on auto insurance.
Frequently Asked Questions: Why does the insurance company want to see my title?
Still have lingering questions about your vehicle’s title and when an insurance company might request to see it? Read through these frequently asked questions to find out more.
#1 – Do I have to accept the insurers’ offer on a totaled vehicle?
If you feel insurance is not paying enough for your totaled car, you don’t have to accept the offer for your totaled vehicle. You can negotiate with your insurer, particularly on their initial offer, or if you believe the insurance isn’t paying enough for your totaled car.
So how do you negotiate a total loss? You need to know the ACV of your vehicle. This will include:
- Listing any features that could increase the value
- Conducting comparison shopping to see what similar vehicles (make, model, age, mileage, etc.) typically sell for in your area
Once the insurance company makes an initial offer, you can counter it, based on your research and what you believe is fair market value. As part of this counter offer, you should include research documentation that supports it (ex. features, estimated value based on comparison research, any recent repair receipts, etc.).
#2 – When should I sign over the title to my vehicle?
In general, the only time you’ll sign over the title of your vehicle to someone else (either a person or entity) is if you sell it. If you don’t own your vehicle outright, you may need to work with whoever financed your purchase to actually transfer the title.
In some (very) limited circumstances, you may also find yourself signing over the car title to your insurance company as a part of a total loss insurance settlement. In the event of a totaled car title transfer, do your own research so you know the fair market value of your vehicle before agreeing to any payouts from insurance companies.
#3 – How do you sign over a title to an insurance company?
The process of signing over or releasing your car to your insurance company is simple. You and the insurer will need to reach an agreement on the fair market value of your vehicle. Then you’ll need the following information for the process:
- A physical copy of your title
- Odometer reading
- Date of sale
- Transaction cost
Finally, you and the insurer will sign the title as the seller and buyer.
#4 – Do I need to notify the DMV if my car is totaled?
This depends on whether or not you’re keeping the vehicle. If you accept the offer from your insurance company to sell the vehicle for parts, you’ll need to buy a new car after a total loss, and you won’t need to report that your vehicle was totaled. However, if you choose to keep the vehicle, the DMV will need to be notified.
Can you still drive a totaled car? Yes, as long as it’s safe and meets road-worthiness standards.
#5 – Do insurance companies notify the DMV?
Sometimes they do and sometimes you’ll need to make the DMV notification. Speak to your insurance company to find out their process. Reporting the total loss to the DMV will generate a new title for your vehicle, marked “salvage.”
What about each other? Do insurance companies share information? Some information is shared between insurance companies, mainly to prevent fraud. For example, do car insurance companies check the mileage, or share that information? Some do, but generally only if you are using pay-per-mile insurance or requesting a similar discount. That information generally isn’t shared, however.
#6 – Can I keep my vehicle if the insurance company totals it?
The insurance company wants to total my car but I want to keep it. Can I? In most cases, you can keep your vehicle after it’s totaled, but you won’t be able to drive it unless and until you get it repaired. You’ll be able to keep your vehicle if you and your insurance company agree they should pay you the actual cost of your vehicle.
When you choose to keep your vehicle after it’s totaled, even post-repair, the insurance company will notify the state DMV that your vehicle was totaled. Then you’ll get a new title marked “salvage” (or in some cases, “re-built” post-repair, as we discussed earlier).
#7 – Can I dispute a total loss determination?
If you disagree with the total loss determination, you have the right to dispute it. In that case, your insurance company will likely require evidence to support your dispute, after which they will re-review the case.
#8 – Can an insurance company force you to total your car?
If you’ve disputed the total loss determination and lost, the insurer will total your vehicle. However, you can choose to keep the vehicle, and your insurance company will still pay you the ACV (minus your deductible and the salvage price), which you can use to repair or rebuild it.
If you accept the insurer’s determination and transfer your title, you may be wondering how to get a new car after a total loss. You’ll still need to negotiate the ACV payout with the insurer. If you owe on the vehicle, you’ll need to put your lender in contact with your claims adjuster.
Once the payout is defined, you’ll receive some or all of the insurance money, depending on how much you owe on the vehicle. After you’ve gotten your check, you can use the insurance money toward a new vehicle.
#9 – What happens if my vehicle is declared a total loss when I’m not at fault?
If you’re in an accident and your car is a total loss but you’re not at fault, you’ll follow the same steps we’ve already discussed, but you’ll be negotiating with the other driver’s insurance company instead.