Mitchell Total Loss Valuation

I totaled my 1998 Honda Civic. I received a Total Loss Vehicle Valuation from AAA. Mitchell prepared the report. I really can’t understand the adjustments made to the comparables. In particular, there is an adjustment for Vehicle Configuration, which is defined as “an adjustment for differences in configuration between the comparable vehicle and the loss vehicle (e.g. differences in trim)” I don’t understand what trim is. I think of it as the little extras, like white walls, that are on the car when you buy it.

The valuation also lists MSRP for the comparables. All four are grouped together and within 10% of each other. Shouldn’t the original MSRP reflect cost differences for trim?

But the comp adjustments for Vehicle Configuration bear no relationship to original MSRP. They vary by over 200%. The only car that appears identical to mine is listed for $3,499 but that price is reduced by $208 for trim. How can that be? If the cars were identical at the outset, shouldn’t they still have trim of identical value? I admit that 208 seems like a small number but it is 6% of the list price.

This also bothers me because this is a higher mileage vehicle and the adjustment for that higher mileage is more than offset by this trim deduction. On the one hand they seem to be saying that as car mileage increases the car becomes less valuable (i think everyone would agree with that), but on the other they are saying, that as the car gets older trim becomes more valuable. Doesn’t make sense.

It seems to me that a 1998 Civic is a 1998 Civic. On a fifteen year old common vehicle, it either runs or it doesn’t. I can’t see that the odometer reading or the trim option should make any difference.

The trim level means like LX,EX,DX or Si. For the Civic higher trim levels had a more desirable engine that’s worth a bit more than the basic models, it might have alloy wheels and other differences that make them worth more. If you have the basic DX or LX model and the $208 difference is for the EX or Si model, then there you go.

You don’t have to accept their offer. They need to pay you what a similar car is worth on the street. So regardless of what method they use, if you can show that its too low for similar cars for sale, then ask for an increase. Trim, mileage, and so on though for a 98 model is really not very significant. On the other hand, things like new tires, mechanical work done, and so on will make little difference in the final offer. You’ll always lose with a well maintained older car if it gets smashed. Been there.

I would suggest you look at some on line used car valuations to validate the report you received. I would look at, and to see how close your honest evaluation of the car comes to the one you received. That is about the only way you can determine if the valuation is fair or not. Discuss and negotiate any differences with the claims rep. Be concerned about each bottom line figure, not how each individual computation got there.


My mom’s car was totaled last year when some young jerk with his head in the clouds rear ended her. It was 14 years old at the time.

Her car was valued considerably higher than the comparables because it had far less miles.

And it also looked cleaner and better taken car of. Which it was.

So trim line, mileage and condition certainly do make a difference.

@FoDaddy explained the trim issue well. Note that Honda did offer options within each trim level in 1998. BTW, @NotCarGal, what trim level is your Civic? Also, is it a hatchback, coupe or sedan?