A car accident is never fun, either is the resulting damage and paying for car repair costs. If you've dented your bumper, developed deep paint scratches or otherwise damaged your car, you may be surprised to discover that the car repair cost for 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 more expensive.
While your insurance (assuming you are carrying the proper coverage) should cover your auto repair costs, it doesn't always make sense to a file a claim. Depending on the type of insurance, a claim can increase your rates at renewal time.
We took a look at five common accident scenarios to give you a rough idea on car repair estimates as well as what type of auto insurance coverage you need to help cover the damage and car repair cost. As an added bonus, we let you know if it makes sense to file a claim on your policy.
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 and your car slowly glides into a telephone pole. Your rear bumper is scratched and dented.
How much does it cost to fix a bumper?
Bumper repair costs vary depending on the severity of the damage and the type of car. Bumpers these days have sensors that help collision avoidance systems. They can also mean costly repairs.
Pricing to replace a bumper ranges from a few hundred dollars for an average car to thousands of dollars on a high-end sports car.
Lisa Siembab with CARSTAR in Berlin, CT, estimates $350 to $450 to replace the bumper on a 2016 Toyota Camry. This bumper replacement cost can increase dramatically depending on the vehicle.
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: Collision coverage takes care of car bumper repair, subject to your deductible.
Collision pays for damage to your own car that's caused in a collision -- not only accidents with other cars but also objects, such as a telephone pole, or fence.
Collision insurance isn't required, but you need to carry this type of coverage in order to get your vehicle fixed.
Collision insurance has a deductible associated. The deductible is what you pay as part of the repairs.
A common deductible amount is $500. That means if you had $1,500 worth of damage to your car, your insurance company would cut a check for $1,000 and you would need to pay the $500 balance.
If you also damaged the telephone pole, your property damage liability coverage, which is required by law, should pay for that repair.
Should you make a claim?
There is no right or wrong answer when it comes to this question; it depends on your personal circumstances. However, if you decide to make a claim, your premium will increase at renewal time.
"If you make a collision claim, your rates are likely to go up. If you're at fault, this is almost always the case, but if you were not at-fault then some insurance companies will give you a break and not raise your premium," says Penny Gusner, senior consumer analyst with Carinsurance.com.
How much will rates increase? "There is a good chance your premium will rise vary anywhere from 10 to 40% for a first at-fault accident. It's worse if you have a second at-fault accident - that will boost your rates 40 to 150%," warns Gusner.
One final bit of advice to consider when it comes to making a collision claim. "You may lose any 'no claims' bonus or discount that you have when you make a claim, effectively pushing up your rates", says Gusner.
"My advice is to make a claim against your car insurance policy for major items and pay out of pocket for minor items if you can afford it. This allows you to carry a higher deductible, which saves money, and by only claiming for major items you should have far fewer claims, which will also keep your premiums down over the years," advises Gusner.
2. Deep paint scratches
You had a great day at the ball game and your team won in the final inning. Unfortunately, one of the other team's faithful didn't appreciate the flags, bumper stickers and other fan-decor on your car. You emerge to find jeers about your team's hitting ability scratched into your paint.
How much does it cost to repair extensive paint damage?
Like most of these repairs, the cost to repaint a car can vary depending on the damage.
However, let’s assume that one entire side of the vehicle is severely damaged. On the cheap side (think Maaco), a single-stage enamel paint that basically just refreshes the look of the car can run between $300 and $1,000 depending on the vehicle.
In this case, you're probably going to need some repair work and a more detailed paint job due to the massive scratches which will most likely push the price range up to $1,000 to $3,500.
If you're looking for a top of the line paint job or are driving a luxury vehicle, the cost of repainting a car can easily skyrocket up to $7,000.
Auto insurance coverage: Auto insurance claims for damage due to vandalism can be filed if you have comprehensive coverage, subject to your deductible.
This type of damage falls under the vandalism heading and vandalism is covered by "comprehensive" coverage. Comprehensive isn't a required coverage in any state.
Comprehensive coverage will pay out for damage to your car that is caused by something other than a collision. Here are just a few things that comprehensive covers:
- Natural disasters
- Water damage
- Falling objects
- Damage done to your car by animals, such as hitting a deer
- Civil disturbance such as a riot
Comprehensive coverage comes with a deductible. You can choose your deductible and in most cases, the higher your deductible lowers your premium.
When it comes to comprehensive claims, it's always a good idea to get a police report. Many insurance companies require it.
Should you make a claim?
As long as the claim amount is significantly more than your deductible, or more than you can comfortably pay out of pocket, you should consider making a claim. In most circumstances, because you're not at fault, a comprehensive claim shouldn't raise your premium
"In general, comprehensive claims may raise your premium but they are less likely to raise them compared to a collision claim," advises Gusner, "Some states, such as New York, do not allow car insurance providers to surcharge drivers for comprehensive claims, however, if you have multiple comprehensive claims on your record, expect your rates to go up," warns Gusner.
3. Cracked windshield
You're zipping down the road and you get stuck behind a big logging truck. You get closer, looking to pass, but the big rig kicks a rock into your car's face, cracking the windshield.
How much does it cost to fix a cracked windshield?
In most cases, assuming you have comprehensive (we covered comprehensive in the last section), it should only cost a small deductible -- and possibly nothing at all. However, if you're uninsured, not carrying comprehensive coverage or covered by a bargain basement policy that doesn't offer windshield replacement, you could be paying for new glass.
A small crack can be repaired cheaply, even without insurance. However, windshield replacement, especially if you are cruising in a high-end sports car, can be pricey.
According to Safelite, repairing one small crack on a hypothetical 2016 Toyota Camry will set you back roughly $110. On the other hand, entire windshield replacement can cost $410.
Repairing a windshield on a high-end sports car can push the price into the stratosphere. According to this article on Jalopnik, the windshield replacement cost (that had to be flown in from the U.K.) on an Aston Martin V8 Vantage was a mind-blowing $4,414. Luckily, insurance covered the cost, apparently it pays to carry comprehensive.
Auto insurance coverage:
Windshield replacement or repair is covered by comprehensive insurance. The details vary by insurance company but most insurers allow you to have your windshield replaced once a year for a small deductible, or in some cases, no deductible at all.
If you live in Florida, Kentucky or South Carolina, it's illegal to charge a deductible. Insurers in those states are required to replace your windshield at no cost to you.
"In Arizona and Minnesota, the law requires insurance companies to offer zero-deductible glass endorsements to motorists who carry comprehensive coverage. This means you pay a little bit extra in premiums but won't have to pay a deductible to have glass on your vehicle repaired or replaced," says Gusner.
If you choose to have a cracked repaired, before it spreads across the windshield, most insurance companies will waive the deductible.
Most insurers offer a full glass rider to your policy, which repairs or replaces glass damage with a zero deductible. This rider tends to be fairly affordable.
Should you make a claim?
Absolutely, there is almost zero downside to making a claim for a windshield replacement. You get a new windshield for free or a small deductible and in almost all cases your premium will not be affected at renewal time.
4. Suspension damage
You're driving to work when your car drops into a huge pothole, damaging your car's suspension.
How much does it cost to fix pothole damage?
Costs can vary dramatically depending on the damage and your vehicle. The suspension system is made up of a variety of parts and repair costs can quickly add up. A full suspension replacement may run up to $5,000.
While there is no realistic way to give an exact cost for repairs, Jill Trotta, director of Automotive Group with Repairpal.com, offers these estimates on both our hypothetical Camry as well as a general price range:
Strut / Shock Absorber replacement
Overall - between $488 and $597
Toyota Camry - between $448 and $582
Overall - between $115 and $302
Toyota Camry - between $105 and $134
Ball Joint Replacement
Overall - between $225 and $285
Auto insurance coverage:
"This type of damage would be covered by your collision policy, because you 'collided' with the pothole," says Gusner. However, if it just causes damage or wear and tear to your tire, it would not be covered.
Collision comes with a deductible. In many cases, the pothole damage may not be enough to make a claim worthwhile.
Should you make a claim?
Probably not, unless the damage is significant and you can't afford to cover the cost of the damage out of pocket. The majority of the repairs would fall under your deductible amount (even if you are carrying a low deductible, such as $500) so it makes no sense to file a claim.
In addition, filing a collision claim will almost always result in a premium increase. Save your insurance for major repairs and pay smaller ones out of pocket.
However, if your entire suspension needs to be replaced or you can't afford the repairs, using your insurance may be a necessity.
5. Rear end damage
A squirrel crosses the road in front of you -- and naturally, you stop. Unfortunately, a lead-footed, tail-gating motorist slams into you from behind. While the squirrel is unscathed, the rear end of your vehicle is heavily damaged and your neck and shoulder are killing you.
According to data from the National Transportation Safety Board there are roughly 1.7 million rear-end collisions in the U.S. every year that kill 1,700 people and injury another 500,000. There is also a good chance that your neighbor is a man. A NHTSA study found that men are 1.2 times more likely to be involved in a rear-end collision than women.
How much does it cost to repair rear end damage?
It's almost impossible to put a price range on this kind of damage. Rear bumper replacement costs can range from a few hundred dollars for a bumper up to $10,000 or more if the frame of your car is bent.
Auto insurance coverage:
In this case, you're not at fault so your fellow motorist’s insurance, assuming he's covered, should pay for the damage to your car as well as any injuries you suffer.
- Damage to your car: The damage to your vehicle would fall under the property damage portion of your neighbor's liability policy. While most industry experts recommend carrying $50,000 in property damage, not everyone follows that advice.
If your fellow motorist is only carrying the required state minimums, you may end up on the hook for the costs to repair your car. Minimums vary by state but in California, for example, the requirement is a mere $5,000, which will most likely not get your car back on the road.
If your fellow motorist is completely uninsured, or is carrying low coverage levels, your own collision coverage (assuming you have it) will cover the cost to repair or replace your vehicle.
If you failed to add collision coverage to your policy (we highly recommend you carry collision) your last chance to avoid a big out of pocket expense is a uninsured/underinsured motorist property damage policy. This coverage kicks in to repair or replace your vehicle if the person who hit you is uninsured or not carrying enough coverage to fix your car.
- Your injuries: As far as your neck, whiplash is one of the most common injuries in a rear-end accident. There are roughly three million new whiplash cases every year in the United States and 35% to 50% of whiplash victims suffer long term pain and 14% become disabled. Research shows that 45% of all people suffering from chronic neck pain can attribute it to a motor vehicle crash injury.
According to Alllaw, settlement for a mild to moderate case is between $2,500 and $10,000. This jumps up to $30,000 for more serious cases that involve months of physical therapy and if there is soft tissue damage of the vertebrae you could be looking at over $100,000.
Auto body repairs are just one reason why it's important to have sufficient car insurance. Compare auto insurance quotes to be sure you have all the coverage you need at the lowest possible price.
Should you make a claim?
In this particular situation, the other driver's insurance should pay for both the damage to your car and your body. If they're uninsured, you may have to turn to your own policy, assuming you are carrying uninsured/underinsured coverage.
You will need to carry uninsured/underinsured bodily injury and property damage if you want your medical bills paid for and your car repaired. If you declined these coverages and the person that hit you is uninsured, you may be on the hook for the damages, or headed to court if you end up suing the other driver.
It's important to remember that if you are carrying health insurance that should cover the cost of your hospital bills, depending on your policy.
As one last reminder, if it's a simple repair like a dented bumper or even a bumper that needs to be replaced, consider paying for it out of pocket and saving your insurance for a major claim.
--Additional reporting by Mark Vallet