How to Calculate Actual Cash Value (ACV) For Your Car

To determine the ACV of your car, you’ll need to research the resale value of comparable cars. Be sure to factor in its condition and odometer reading too.
Written by Hillary Kobayashi
Edited by Sarah Gray
car insurance
claims adjuster will have their own approach to figuring out your car’s actual cash value (ACV)—but you can follow some general guidelines to arrive at a fairly accurate ACV yourself.
To determine the actual cash value of your car, follow these steps:
Look at some price guides. The most reliable ones in the business are:
Kelley Blue Book
, and
National Auto Dealer’s Association
Research cars like yours online. Pay attention to the condition of similar vehicles and how much they are being sold for. 
Think about your car comparatively. What kind of condition is it in? Does it need any repairs? Check for pre-existing damage, like worn-out tires, rust, vandalism, and peeling paint. 
Consider what other factors might impact your car’s worth. Things like accident history, how old the car is, and how many times it has been sold will be important.
Make sure to check your odometer reading, as your car’s value will be adjusted based on mileage. Low-mileage cars are worth more. 

Why is ACV important?

Actual cash value comes up when a car is totaled or heavily damaged. If it would cost more than a certain percentage of your vehicle’s ACV to repair it, your insurer will declare your car a
total loss
. Your insurance company will then use ACV to determine how much they will pay out for your car.

Is ACV negotiable? 

Somewhat, but not really. If you and your claims adjuster come to wildly different actual cash values for your car, you can ask to negotiate, but you’ll need to prove that your estimate is more accurate than theirs. 
If the insurance company won’t budge, you can always hire a private appraiser. You’ll have to foot the $200 to $300 bill yourself, though. If your estimates are close, it’s probably best to take the insurance company’s offer. 

Actual cash value vs. replacement cost value

While actual cash value takes depreciation into account, replacement cost does not. Replacement cost is the amount you’d have to pay to purchase the same or similar car new. 
This means that your car’s replacement value is higher than the actual cash value of your vehicle. To ensure a payout that will allow you to purchase a vehicle comparable to the one that was totaled, many providers sell new car replacement policies.

What about gap insurance?

Another way to ensure you’re not left with a car payment after totaling your car is to purchase
gap insurance
. Gap insurance pays out the difference between what you still owe on your car loan and the ACV of your totaled car. 

For example: Let’s say your $50,000
is totaled in a collision. Its cash value was $40,000 at the time of the accident, but the amount you owe on your loan is around $48,000. 
This means you’re "upside down" on your loan because you owe more than your car is worth. After your
collision coverage
pays out your actual cash value settlement, there will still be $8,000 outstanding on your loan. In this situation, gap insurance will typically cover the $8,000, minus your
Keep in mind: Most providers will only add gap coverage to a full coverage insurance policy.
How much does gap insurance cost, and where can I get it?
You can purchase gap insurance through your car dealership, your financing company, or your insurance provider.
  • Gap coverage typically costs about $20 per year from your insurer. 
  • Gap insurance through your car dealership or financing company usually costs between $200 and $400 dollars.
Many major car insurance companies offer gap insurance—but not all. Some of the biggest providers in the country, including
, and
State Farm
, don’t offer gap insurance.
View insurers and manufacturers that offer gap coverage
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How do I figure out the actual cash value of my car?

Check out websites like Edmund’s and Kelley Blue Book to see how much comparable vehicles are going for. You’ll need to consider the mileage on your vehicle as well as its condition. 

Does actual cash value only refer to cars?

The term “actual cash value” is used throughout the insurance industry. You might hear it in reference to other insurance products, like
homeowners insurance

Is ACV the same as salvage value? 

ACV refers to the depreciated value of a car before an accident and salvage value is how much you can sell a totaled car for. 

Meet our experts

Hillary Kobayashi
Hillary Kobayashi is an insurance writer and editor specializing in insurance and finance topics. Hillary’s mission is to use her knowledge and love of education to help car owners better understand how they can save time and money on car ownership. The articles Hillary has published for Jerry span topics from state-specific bill of sale requirements to SR-22 insurance information.
Prior to joining Jerry, Hillary spent over ten years in education at Pacific University and the University of Oregon.
Sarah Gray
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Licensed Insurance Agent — Expert Insurance Writer and Editor
Sarah Gray is an insurance writer with nearly a decade of experience in publishing and writing. Sarah specializes in writing articles that educate car owners and buyers on the full scope of car ownership—from shopping for and buying a new car to scrapping one that’s breathed its last and everything in between. Sarah has authored over 1,500 articles for Jerry on topics ranging from first-time buyer programs to how to get a salvage title for a totaled car.
Prior to joining Jerry, Sarah was a full-time professor of English literature and composition with multiple academic writing publications.

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