If you've dented your bumper, developed deep paint scratches or otherwise damaged your car, you may be surprised to discover that the cost to repair auto body mishaps can range between $50 to $1,500, and more.
Cars today are lighter, safer and get much better gas mileage. However, newer manufacturing technology also makes auto body repairs a lot more expensive.
Review five common scenarios that lead to auto body repairs and understand the auto insurance coverage you should have in place before they happen.
1. Dented bumper
You're slowly pulling out of your parking space at the gym when you realize that what you thought was a puddle is in fact a patch of ice. Your brakes are useless, as your car slowly pirouettes like an ice skater and gracefully glides into a telephone pole. Your front bumper is scratched and dented. And you are embarrassed.
How much does it cost to fix a bumper? $450 (repair) to $900 (replacement)
The cost to repair or replace today's bumpers is high because they are part of a complex system. Technicians must disconnect lights, warning systems, air bag deployment alerts, trim, and even cameras, then the bumper must be repaired if possible. If not, a new one must be prepped, painted and installed.
Fix it yourself: If the damage is minimal, you may be able to repair the bumper yourself with a few everyday tools. See how to repair a bumper.
Auto insurance coverage: If you included collision coverage when buying car insurance, it would take care of your repair, subject to your deductible. If you also damaged the telephone pole, your liability coverage, which is required by law, would pay for that repair. Remember that your insurance doesn't start to pay out until you've surpassed your deductible amount. So if the cost of repairs is $450 and your deductible is $500, there is little reason to make a claim. Even if the repair costs are $600, you may want to pay out-of-pocket rather than making a claim for $100 and potentially incurring an increase in future car insurance rates.
2. Deep paint scratches
You had a great day at the ball game. Your team won in the final inning, and you're stoked. Unfortunately, one of the other team's faithful did not appreciate the flags, bumper stickers and other fan-decor on your car -- you emerge to find jeers about your team's hitting ability and your own parentage scratched into your paint.
How much does it cost to repair extensive paint damage? $50 to $1,500
Fix it yourself: If you're willing to accept a less-than-perfect repair, you may be able to hide the scratches yourself with a touch up pen (under $50). Here's a more information on how to fix scratches on your car.
If you want a professional job, good as new, expect to pay between $800 and $1,500 to make deep scratches disappear. Why so expensive? Depending on the car, the entire part may need replacement if the scratch is too deep. In addition, auto paint is very expensive, costing $50 to $300 for two ounces. Matching a vehicle's color can really put the "pain" in "paint."
Auto insurance coverage: Auto insurance claims for damage due to vandalism can be filed if you have comprehensive coverage, subject to your deductible. This coverage is optional, so check your policy and consider adding this insurance if you don't already have it. For vandalism claims, most insurers require that you file a police report. So whether you're at the parking lot of the ball game or at home when you notice the damage, call the police to document what happened to your car. In many cities, you can file this type of report online through your local police department's website.
3. Cracked windshield
You're zipping down a winding road in your speedy little sports car, having fun until you come upon a big logging truck, hogging the road. You get closer, looking to pass, but the big bully kicks sand in your car's face, cracking the windshield.
How much does it cost to fix a cracked windshield? $50 to $300, on average
Windshield repair/replacement costs depend on the car's make and model as well as the size of the crack. Smaller cracks can be repaired for under $100, while extensive pitting or larger cracks can't be fixed -- you have to replace your windshield.
Fix it yourself: you can always take the time to fix the crack yourself if the cost is too high to have is professionally repaired. Here are the steps in fixing a cracked windshield yourself.
Auto insurance coverage: Windshield replacement or repair is covered by comprehensive insurance. You won't even have to pay a deductible if you live in Florida, Kentucky or South Carolina. Those states, and certain others, require insurers to replace your windshield at no cost to you. If you choose to have it repaired, most insurers waive the deductible for these small but vital fixes.
4. Suspension damage
You're commuting to work, drinking coffee and balancing a cheese Danish on your knee. Then your car drops into a Great Depression -- a huge pothole that was absolutely not there yesterday. Your Danish hits the steering column, your coffee burns your arm and your car's suspension is damaged.
How much does it cost to fix pothole damage? $300, on average
Suspension repair can necessitate a $200 do-it-yourself shock absorber swap, a $5,000 complete suspension replacement, or anything in-between. Cost depends on the extent of damage, the make, model and year of the car, and your own auto repair ability (or lack thereof).
Auto insurance coverage: To escape potentially high costs, be sure you purchase collision insurance, and medical coverage or personal injury protection for your burns.
If you don't have collision coverage, you can see if there is a way to make a claim against the state or local agency that is responsible for the roadway. If the pothole was there for a while and already brought to the entity's attention, you may have a case and can try making a claim (or filing a lawsuit if your damages are severe enough that you want to try going through the court system).
5. Rear end damage
A cute little squirrel crosses the road in front of you -- and naturally, you stop. And just as naturally, your lead-footed, tail-gating neighbor slams into you from behind. His giant bumper makes no contact with your sedan's. Instead, it crunches through your car's body. While the squirrel is unscathed, your neck and shoulder are killing you.
How much does it cost to repair rear end damage? An arm and a leg
It is difficult to calculate an average rear end damage cost because it can range from a few hundred dollars for a simple bumper repair to more than $10,000 for major frame damage. And don't forget your injuries -- average whiplash claim: $9,900.
Auto insurance coverage: If your neighborhood nemesis has insurance, his liability coverage should pay to repair your vehicle. It should also compensate you for your medical bills, lost work, and other damages you suffer as a result of the accident.
If he has no coverage or insufficient coverage, your own insurer should pay for your medical claim, as long as you have optional uninsured/underinsured motorist bodily injury coverage. Your vehicle would need uninsured motorist property damage coverage (if the other party was uninsured) or collision coverage, which pays regardless of fault.
Auto body repairs are just one reason why it is important to have good car insurance. Compare auto insurance quotes to be sure you have all the coverage you need at the lowest possible price.