Know the value of your vehicle!
If you have internet access, determining the value of your vehicle is simple. If you do not have internet access, try going to your local library. They may have internet access you can use for free. Go to the Kelly Blue Book site (www.kbb.com) and look up the private party value of your vehicle in "good" condition. You will then go to NADA Guides (www.nadaguides.com) and get the used car value of your vehicle. These two sites will give you a range for your vehicle's value. If your vehicle is a total loss, the liable party's insurance carrier is required to pay your vehicle's value prior to the collision. They are not required to pay the replacement value of the vehicle, only the actual value of that particular vehicle. If your vehicle was not considered a total loss, the insurance carrier is responsible for the repair of any damage caused in the collision. This is where having your own estimate will be useful. It will be useful in making sure that everything gets fixed.
Getting a rental car
Whether your vehicle is a total loss or can be fixed, the insurance company should provide a rental car. When you first speak to the insurance company to open the claim, be sure to tell them that you will need a rental car while your vehicle is being fixed or while they determine the value if your vehicle is totaled. If you do not ask them for the rental car, they will often not volunteer to provide one. The insurance company will make the arrangements with a local rental company and provide you with a claim number. If your own insurance policy is still in effect and provides comprehensive coverage, you will not have any out of pocket expenses. If your policy does not have comprehensive coverage, the rental company may require that you leave a deposit for some amount or a credit card for collision insurance on the vehicle. This should be refunded to you when you return the vehicle.
What to do if they did not provide a rental car.
In some circumstances, the insurance carrier does not provide a vehicle initially for whatever reason. You may be without a vehicle for a few days or have to make your own arrangements for a rental or borrowed vehicle. In these circumstances, the insurance carrier is required to pay you for your loss of use of your vehicle. This would be either the cost of you renting a vehicle for those days if you had to make that arrangement, or the cost if they had provided a rental car on those days.