Accidents happen. A driver is late to pick up their daughter from daycare, runs a stop sign, and crashes into your car. A storm sweeps through town, uprooting the tree in your front yard, which lands on top of your car. Then boom, your vehicle is totaled.
If you have auto insurance, you’d probably expect your insurer to cover the damage. Luckily, they will if the repairs cost less than what the car is worth. But if they will cost more to repair than what it’s worth, the insurer will declare the vehicle a total loss. The company will then reimburse you for the actual cash value of the car — not the total cost of the repairs.