How does GAP insurance work after totaling a car?

You may wonder: how does GAP insurance work after an accident? Guaranteed asset protection, or GAP insurance, covers the difference you still owe on a car loan after your vehicle is totaled.

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UPDATED: Jun 14, 2022

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Written By: Laura BerryReviewed By: Joel OhmanUPDATED: Jun 14, 2022Fact Checked

Here's what you need to know...

  • GAP insurance covers the difference between your vehicle’s depreciated value and remaining loan balance
  • GAP insurance is ideal for financed or leased vehicles
  • Drivers do not need to keep GAP insurance for the life of their auto loan

You are responsible for paying off your auto loan, even if the vehicle is stolen or totaled in a car accident. In addition to covering your car insurance deductible, you’ll need to pay the remaining loan balance out of pocket since your insurance payout won’t fully cover the cost of the loan.

But, with guaranteed asset protection (or GAP insurance), you won’t be left in a bad place financially. Here’s how GAP insurance works after totaling a car. 

How does GAP insurance work?

According to the Insurance Information Institute (III), cars depreciate by 20% within the first year of ownership. This leaves drivers with an auto loan balance higher than their vehicle’s value, putting them at risk of paying thousands of dollars out of pocket if their vehicle is totaled in a car accident.

GAP insurance is designed to keep drivers financially safe if their vehicle is totaled by covering the difference between the remaining loan amount and the vehicle’s depreciated value

For GAP insurance to do its job, drivers must purchase full coverage car insurance and/or collision coverage. This type of car insurance is usually required when the vehicle is leased or financed.

Comprehensive insurance covers the cost of damage due to a rollover or collision with an object or vehicle. Collision insurance covers the cost of loss due to theft or damage caused by something other than a vehicle or object. 

For example, let’s say you financed a new vehicle for $30,000. After 12 months, you’ve paid off $5,000, leaving a balance of $25,000. During that 12 months, your car’s value depreciated. It is now worth $24,000.

Following an accident, you pay your deductible, and your insurance would cover up to $24,000, which is less than the remaining loan amount of $25,000. GAP insurance would cover the $1,000 difference, meaning the only out-of-pocket cost to you would be the deductible.  

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What does it mean when a vehicle is totaled? 

When a claim is filed, your insurance company will decide if your vehicle is repairable or a total loss. It will send a claims adjuster to determine the value of the vehicle and the cost of repairs.

A vehicle is considered totaled if the repair cost is more than the vehicle’s value.

If the vehicle is totaled, the insurance company will pay the policyholder or auto lender the car’s value. However, if the repairs cost less than the value of the vehicle, your auto insurance company will pay to repair the vehicle, minus your deductible.

For example, if your vehicle is valued at $7,000, but the cost of repairs equals $9,000, your insurance company will pay you or your auto lender the car’s value, which is $7,000

Is GAP insurance necessary for all car owners? 

GAP insurance is not necessary for all car owners; for example, you don’t usually need GAP protection on a used car. However, it is recommended for drivers who lease or finance their vehicles. If the vehicle is financed, you should carry GAP insurance until the vehicle’s value is lower than the remaining loan balance. Once that occurs, you won’t need GAP insurance to cover the difference between the car’s value and the remaining loan balance.  

For example, let’s say you total your vehicle when your loan has a remaining balance of $5,000. If the vehicle is valued at $10,000, you will pay the auto lender $5,000 to cover the loan and have $5,000 for yourself. 

Is GAP insurance the only way to protect me if my car is totaled? 

GAP insurance isn’t the only way for drivers to protect themselves when their car is totaled. Ensuring they have the money to repay the auto loan is important, but car replacement may be more of a priority than repaying the loan. 

In addition to or instead of GAP insurance, drivers can purchase new car replacements from some companies. With new car replacements, policyholders receive money from the insurance company to purchase a vehicle of the same make and model as the totaled vehicle.

Not all insurance companies offer this type of coverage, but it can benefit drivers who can afford the deductible but cannot afford a new vehicle. 

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The Bottom Line: How does GAP insurance work after an accident? 

The right type of car insurance coverage can save drivers money. Supplementing comprehensive and/or collision insurance with GAP insurance is optional.

Still, it can protect drivers from paying thousands in out-of-pocket costs if their vehicle is stolen or totaled in a car accident. This is especially important for drivers to consider if they simply can’t cover the cost of the loan if something were to happen to a vehicle they have leased or financed. 

Editorial Guidelines: We are a free online resource for anyone interested in learning more about auto insurance. Our goal is to be an objective, third-party resource for everything auto insurance related. We update our site regularly, and all content is reviewed by auto insurance experts.

A former insurance producer, Laura understands that education is key when it comes to buying insurance. She has happily dedicated many hours to helping her clients understand how the insurance marketplace works so they can find the best car, home, and life insurance products for their needs.

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Written by Laura Berry
Former Insurance Agent Laura Berry

Joel Ohman is the CEO of a private equity backed digital media company. He is a CERTIFIED FINANCIAL PLANNER™, author, angel investor, and serial entrepreneur who loves creating new things, whether books or businesses. He has also previously served as the founder and resident CFP® of a national insurance agency, Real Time Health Quotes. He has an MBA from the University of South Florida. Jo...

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Reviewed by Joel Ohman
Founder & CFP® Joel Ohman

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