Q: My car caught fire. I put it out but it might be a total loss. What now?
A: A fire is a comprehensive claim (sometimes called “other than collision” but if someone uses that term with you it means they are either old school or an insurance geek). Comprehensive coverage covers things that are not collision, except it also covers collision with an animal, which for some reason, is a comprehensive claim.
If they have comprehensive coverage, the fire damage is covered. With an older car, the damage can be enough to consider the car a constructive total loss. In other words, it could be fixed, but the cost of repairs are 75% or more than the value of the car. There is a deductible that applies.
I always tell people not to put out a car on fire. Not because I want them to have an insurance claim, but because it can be dangerous with gas and oil and fire. If you do not have the right type of extinguisher, you can make it worse.
If you want to know how to figure out the value of the car, do not use Blue Book, Red Book or NADA values. In California, it is determined by the fair market value. In other words, what is the car selling for in your area. Cars.com is one good resource to figure this out.
Interestingly, with older cars most people recommend you drop comprehensive and collision coverage. But, if you cannot afford a new car payment, then it is usually wise to carry these coverages as the premium decreases as the value of the car decreases.