Man taking picture of totaled car © Monkey Business Images/

Dear Driving for Dollars,

My wife’s car was totaled recently, and the insurance adjuster is not offering a payout for the car that reflects some of the optional equipment that it had. These features, which were factory-installed options, added about $5,000 to the price of the car when we bought it, so I think they should add quite a bit to the value of the car at the time of the accident. How do I get the adjuster to give me a fair insurance payout on the car?

— Harold

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Dear Harold,

You should be compensated for any optional features that were installed by the original manufacturer on your car. (Often, after-market features are not covered by insurance unless they have been previously added to the car insurance policy.)

If the features are clearly visible on the car, it should simply be a matter of pointing them out to the adjuster. If the features are not visible or the car is so damaged that it’s not clear which options it had, you’ll need to provide some documentation proving those features were included. Any paperwork, such as the car’s window sticker, or documents that outlined the car’s features when you purchased it, should be submitted to the insurance company, as well.

It is also a good idea to calculate the value of the car on several auto information websites, such as Kelley Blue Book or, to compare the value there with what your car insurance company is offering. If your auto insurer is offering less, you can use this data to make an argument for a higher payout.

Not all car crashes are accidents. To learn more, read “Was that car crash staged?”

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