My Car

What happens when my car is a total loss

23 June 2023

You may not know exactly what happens if your car is a total loss – or even exactly what that means. If you’ve never had to deal with it, you’re one of the lucky ones! 
But – just in case it does come up someday (touch wood!) – here’s what a total loss means and what your options are.

What is total loss in car insurance?

We consider your car to be a total loss – sometimes referred to as a write-off – if:

  • it is stolen and unrecovered after 14 days, and we accept your claim for theft of your car, or
  • it is uneconomical or unsafe to repair, including where the combined repair costs and salvage value are likely to be more than the amount covered by your policy.

We will also have respect for the law in relation to what is considered a write-off that applies in your State or Territory when determining when a car is to be written off. If it is declared, a total loss cover for your car is subject to your policy terms, conditions and exclusions. Read your Product Disclosure Statement for full details.

Making a total loss claim for car insurance

What compensation can I receive for my total loss car?

The most we will pay if your car is a total loss, and that loss is covered under your policy is the amount covered shown on your Certificate of Insurance (the amount covered includes GST and unexpired registration, and compulsory third party/motor accident injuries insurance. It also includes any accessories and modifications that are fitted to your car. Deductions may apply, so read your PDS for full details).

That is, unless:

  • new car after a total loss for cars less than two years old additional cover applies, or
  • the lifetime new for old car replacement optional cover applies

when we settle your claim in accordance with that additional or optional cover.

The amount covered for your car is set at the time you take out or renew your policy and is the maximum amount we will pay for loss or damage to your car covered under your policy, and this amount will be shown on your Certificate of Insurance.

If you have chosen the market value cover optional cover and this is shown on your certificate of insurance, the amount covered will be ‘market value’. Market value is determined by what the market would pay for your car at the time of the incident. You can the full meaning of market value in your PDS.

Will my car be replaced with another car if it’s a total loss?

With Comprehensive Car Insurance, if your car was stolen or damaged in an incident in the period of insurance and we have agreed to pay your claim as a total loss, under additional cover ‘New car after a total loss for cars less than 2 years old,’ we will replace your car with a new car of the same make and model. That is if it's available within 90 days, or if not, with a similar make and model if:

  • the loss or damage to your car occurred less than 2 years from the date of the original registration of your car,
  • you are the first registered owner, or you purchased your car as an ‘ex-demonstration’ model from a licensed motor dealer who was the first registered owner of the car, and
  • anyone who financed your car provides us with written consent to us replacing your car.

All of this is unless you are eligible to claim under ‘Lifetime new for old car replacement’. Read the PDS for full terms, conditions and limits which apply to this additional cover.

What is Lifetime new for old car replacement?

If you’ve chosen the Comprehensive Advantages level of cover, you may instead be eligible for ‘Lifetime new for old car replacement’. To be eligible for ‘Lifetime new for old car replacement’ with Comprehensive Advantages level of cover you must be:

  • the first registered owner, 
  • your car must have been continuously insured under Suncorp Comprehensive Advantages cover from within 13 months of purchase until the time of total loss, and
  • a replacement car of a similar make and model must be available. 

You can find out what these eligibility criteria are by referring to the PDS.

What if I don’t want the replacement car?

If you choose not to accept the replacement car, a replacement car cannot be supplied within the eligibility criteria, or an agreement cannot be reached between us on a replacement car, then we will pay you the amount covered shown on your Certificate of Insurance, less applicable deductions.

Deductions may include things such as unpaid excesses, unpaid premiums, and unexpired registration (depending on state law). Refer to the PDS for more information on total loss deductions.

How would a total loss claim affect my car insurance premiums?

When you make a claim, your premium for your current period of insurance will stay the same. If you’ve had a total loss claim previously and are looking to get a quote or set up a new insurance policy, you’ll be asked if you’ve had any previous claims. This will be taken into account when calculating the premium amount which may increase or decrease due to past claims history. Which is based on past claims history in the aggregate.

What happens after a total loss if my vehicle is under finance?

If your car is covered for a total loss claim and if your vehicle is financed by a creditor, then we will pay them what they are entitled to, up to the value of your claim. We will then pay you the remaining balance. If the credit provider needs to retain the salvage, then we will settle with them, less the salvage amount.

Moving forward after a total loss

Can I keep my car after total loss?

No, when we replace your car or pay you for the total loss, your car salvage becomes our property.

Can I repair my car after total loss?

Unfortunately, no. If we have deemed the car a total loss, then it means that it is uneconomical or unsafe to repair. This is where the combined repair costs and salvage value are likely to be more than the amount covered by your policy; hence it being uneconomical. When, even with repairs, the car is dangerous to operate, it is classified as unsafe. This is also determined by what is considered to be a write-off by your State or Territory. Refer to the PDS for more information on this.

Can I still drive my car after total loss?

Your safety and the safety of your passengers are a top priority for us at Suncorp. If we have deemed the car to be a total loss, then it is not in a safe, driveable condition.

Last financial year, Suncorp assessed 55,000 vehicles for total loss. We take every claim seriously and treat all of our customers with the expert care they deserve. Find out more about Suncorp’s award-winning insurance below.

Explore Suncorp Car Insurance

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Insurance issued by AAI Limited ABN 48 005 297 807 trading as Suncorp Insurance. Read the Product Disclosure Statement before buying this insurance. The Target Market Determination is also available. This advice has been prepared without taking into account your particular objectives, financial situations or needs, so you should consider whether it is appropriate for you before acting on it.

The information is intended to be of general nature only. Subject to any rights you may have under any law, we do not accept any legal responsibility for any loss or damage, including loss of business or profits or any other indirect loss, incurred as a result of reliance upon the information. Please make your own enquiries.