Getting the Actual Cash Value of Your Vehicle (2022)

The Actual Cash Value (ACV) of your vehicle estimate can fall as much as 30 percent as soon as you drive off the dealership lot when you purchase a new (or new-to-you) vehicle. The age of your car, the make and model, the mileage, and how many accidents it's been in will all affect the actual cash value of your car. Knowing what your ACV is will help you get as much as you can out of a car insurance accident claim. In this guide, you'll learn how to calculate your actual cash value, and how to negotiate with your auto insurance provider for better rates. If you've recently been in an accident, enter your ZIP code below for a free quote to see how much your car insurance rates may change.

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Rachel Bodine graduated from college with a BA in English. She has since worked as a Feature Writer in the insurance industry and gained a deep knowledge of state and countrywide insurance laws and rates. Her research and writing focus on helping readers understand their insurance coverage and how to find savings. Her expert advice on insurance has been featured on sites like PhotoEnforced, All...

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Written by Rachel Bodine
Insurance Feature Writer Rachel Bodine

Leslie Kasperowicz holds a BA in Social Sciences from the University of Winnipeg. She spent several years as a Farmers Insurance CSR, gaining a solid understanding of insurance products including home, life, auto, and commercial and working directly with insurance customers to understand their needs. She has since used that knowledge in her more than ten years as a writer, largely in the insurance...

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Reviewed by Leslie Kasperowicz
Farmers CSR for 4 Years Leslie Kasperowicz

UPDATED: Jun 16, 2022

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Getting the actual cash value ( or ACV) of your vehicle is an art in itself – the market value may be one figure for one insurance company, and another figure for another insurance company.

Indeed, with so many different factors affecting an auto insurance company‘s judgment on a vehicle’s ACV, it is no wonder why different companies can come to different figures for the exact same car.

So, what is your vehicle worth? If you want to find affordable rates after finding out your ACV estimate, enter your ZIP code in our free online tool above.

What is the actual cash value of my car?

The actual cash value of your car is, simply put, how much your vehicle is worth at the time of assessment.

You may have bought your car for $20,000, but you can be sure that your vehicle’s worth a lot less than what you have originally paid for when you’re assessing the actual cash value of your car years, or even just months later.

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How is the actual cash value determined?

This is because the actual cash value of your car falls immediately after it leaves the dealership’s hands by up to 30 percent. Even though your car is still “brand-new” when you’re driving it away from the dealership’s store, assessors will still count it as “used” once you lay your hands on it.

We’ll talk more about calculating the ACV in the next section.

When would I need to use the actual cash value?

Knowing the actual cash value of your car is important because insurance carriers will be paying you that sum if you somehow end up totaling your vehicle.

Understanding how ACV is calculated can help you negotiate a better ACV for your vehicle, thus increasing your auto insurance payout for your vehicle.

How do you find the actual cash value of your car?

So how do you calculate ACV? In the calculation of the actual cash value of the vehicle, a few points are taken into account:

  1. The age of your vehicle – obviously, the older the vehicle, the lower the ACV because of wear-and-tear.
  2. How well you take care of your vehicle – do you turn up for servicing before the stipulated mileage? Do you change the vehicle’s engine oil as recommended by the mechanics? Doing this will increase your vehicle’s ACV as it proves that your vehicle is well-maintained.
  3. Vehicle Model – the vehicle model and make affect your insurance policy rates as well as your ACV. For example, if there’s a particular model that has been recalled because of faults, you will find the ACV of your vehicle much lower than other similar models of the same age.
  4. Mileage – the lower your mileage, the higher the vehicle’s ACV, as there will be less wear-and-tear due to lower vehicle usage
  5. Accidents – If your vehicle has never, ever been in an accident before, your ACV will be much higher compared to a vehicle that is in a less-than-pristine condition.

In addition, there are certain standardized methods to calculate a vehicle’s ACV, such as the Kelley Blue Book (KBB) or the NADA guide. These guides rate vehicles using several markers to determine the category of a vehicle. There are 6 categories in total, ranging from “pristine” to a “basket case.” These methods are also used to determine the fair market value of a vehicle.

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How do auto insurers calculate ACV?

However, ACV versus NADA estimates or ACV versus KBB estimates will be different, as determining ACV can be slightly subjective. However, there is usually a baseline of what the ACV depreciates to. The table below shows the KBB’s ACV depreciation estimates for how much a car’s value will go down.

ACV Depreciation Estimates
Time Period Car's Estimated Deprecation in Value
First year of ownership 20% or more
First 5 years of ownership 60% or more
Average annual deprecation10%
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Eventually, your car will depreciate in value so much that the ACV will become zero.

Can I ask the auto insurance company for actual cash value?

How does insurance calculate actual cash value? Sadly, insurance companies are often reluctant to reveal the actual manner in which car insurers value cars (your vehicle’s ACV) when you are trying to claim the payout from them.

Most insurance companies use the KBB or NADA guide to determine your vehicle’s ACV using the category and points system, but the points given are subjective – a strict employee will be less generous with points than a lenient one.

There is a reason behind this decision – every car owner will want to get the most out of their payouts, and they will never let go of an opportunity to dispute the assessment of these insurance companies.

Indeed, with such subjective means of determining the ACV of your vehicle, who wouldn’t dispute the assessment in an effort to get a few thousand dollars more from the payout?

How can I negotiate the ACV of my car?

Keep in mind that insurance companies are just like any other corporation – their main motive is to reduce cost and increase revenue, thus increasing profits.

This makes it tough for auto insurance companies to budge from their final assessment of your ACV car value. Of course, argue for the ACV that you think is fair if you decide that your insurance company has underestimated your vehicle’s ACV.

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How do I dispute my insurance company‘s valuation?

You must know that negotiating actual cash value is not easy – as insurance companies don’t release the exact details of how they assess your car’s ACV, it is hard for you to nitpick exactly which area they might have assessed wrongly.

Of course, there are blatant errors, such as “dents on the doors” when there obviously isn’t. Bring these up to your insurance company – these errors will definitely help boost your ACV.

In addition, it is a must to have evidence to back up your arguments. While the previous examples simply warrant a simple visual check on your car doors, other points of dispute such as servicing will require proof from the car workshop to substantiate your stand.

If you are not yet ready to buy auto insurance, keep reading to see what others are asking about ACV and their vehicles.

#1 – Does ACV cover theft?

ACV is not an auto insurance coverage, so it won’t cover anything. However, if you have comprehensive coverage, your insurer will cover theft. The claim amount you receive will be based on the ACV of your vehicle.

We highly recommend carrying comprehensive coverage. According to the Insurance Information Institute, the rate of stolen vehicles was “228.9 per 100,000 people in 2018,” costing an average of six billion. Having comprehensive coverage will make sure you aren’t paying for a new car out of pocket.

#2 – What is the difference between replacement cost and actual cash value?

RCV is the replacement cost value, which is the value of a product without depreciation. In comparison, ACV calculates the deprecation of a car to determine the current value.

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#3 – Which is better: actual cash value versus replacement cost?

Replacement cost (RCV) is better when it comes to an accident, as it will cover a higher amount because it replaces products without depreciation. However, RCV will cost more than ACV. Which one is better depends on your situation and finances.

#4 – Is ACV the same as trade-in value?

The ACV is very similar to trade-in value, as the trade-in value is what the seller determines a car to be worth. So if you wanted to trade in your vehicle for a new one, the seller would first calculate your current vehicle’s trade-in value to determine what you would pay for your new car.

However, trade-in value is usually used as a term for car swapping, while ACV is used for insurance terms.

While there isn’t a set ACV calculator for you to draw from, referring to Kelley Blue Book (KBB) and knowing what your ACV estimate is will be vital if you get into a car accident and need a new car. Because accidents can raise your rates, make sure to shop around for auto insurance quotes by entering your ZIP code.

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