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A car accident is never fun, and neither is paying for car repairs. If you've dented your bumper, have deep paint scratches, or otherwise damaged your car, you may be surprised to discover how much body work costs.

While your auto insurance should cover your repair costs -- depending on the type of coverage you carry -- it doesn't always make sense to file a claim. In some cases, a claim can increase your rates at renewal time.

Here are five common accident scenarios that give you a rough idea about how much car repair costs and what type of auto insurance coverage you need to help cover the damage. We’ll also help you determine whether it makes sense to file a claim on your policy.

KEY TAKEAWAYS
  • While there is nothing known as auto body repair insurance, comprehensive and collision coverage will pay for repairs.
  • Minor dents and scratches may not be worth paying the deductible.
  • You aren’t required to use the auto body shop recommended by your insurance company, but the work may be guaranteed if you do.

What does auto body repair insurance cover?

Technically, there is no “auto body repair insurance.” Coverage for repairing damage to your car due to a crash or natural disaster falls under either collision or comprehensive insurance.

Collision pays for damage to your car caused by a crash – not only accidents with other vehicles but also objects, such as a telephone pole or fence. It also pays to restore your entire vehicle to pre-accident condition.

Comprehensive coverage will pay for damage to your car caused by something other than a collision. Here are just a few things that comprehensive covers:

  • Theft
  • Vandalism
  • Fire
  • Natural disasters
  • Water damage
  • Falling objects
  • Damage done to your car by animals, such as hitting a deer
  • Civil disturbance, such as a riot

Comp and collision will cover damages such as

You will have to pay a deductible if you file a claim under your auto body repair insurance. Also, it is important to note that auto body repair insurance typically does not cover the cost of repairing damage to a car's engine or other mechanical breakdowns.

Dented 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. That can also mean costly repairs.

How much does it cost to replace a bumper? Replacing a bumper can cost between $800 and $2,000, with bumper repairs running from $100 to $1,000, according to Eli's Collision Repair in Los Angeles.

Auto insurance coverage

Collision coverage takes care of car bumper repair, subject to your deductible.

You are not required by law to carry collision insurance – although your lender may require you to purchase it -- but you need this type of coverage to get your vehicle fixed.

Collision insurance has a deductible associated. The deductible is what you pay as part of the repairs.

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 with the insurance company?

There is no right or wrong answer to this question; it depends on your circumstances. However, if you decide to make a claim, your premium likely will increase at renewal time.

How much will rates increase?

There is a good chance your premium will rise anywhere from $2,551 to $3,863 for a first at-fault accident. It's worse if you have a second at-fault accident – that will boost your rates from $2,551 to $5,492.

Deep paint scratches

Like most of these repairs, the cost to repaint a car can vary depending on the damage.

A coat of synthetic enamel paint might cost between $300 to $700 for an average-sized sedan, according to a J.D. Power analysis. On the other hand, if the car requires multiple coats of high-quality paint, the cost can soar into the thousands. So while you can make a claim for scratches, the cost to repair the damage may or may not make it worthwhile.

Auto insurance coverage

Auto insurance claims for vandalism are covered by comprehensive insurance, subject to your deductible. If someone scratched your car and didn’t stick around to take responsibility, that’s considered vandalism.

Comprehensive coverage comes with a deductible. You can choose your deductible; in most cases, a higher 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.

If the scratches happened, for example, as another car was backing out next to you and scraped your car, their liability would cover the damage. However, if you were the one backing out, your collision would kick in.

Should you make a claim for paint scratches?

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, a comprehensive claim shouldn't raise your premium.

Rear-end damage

According to data from the National Transportation Safety Board, there are roughly 1.7 million rear-end collisions in the U.S. every year.

It's almost impossible to put a price range on repairing 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

If you are not at fault, the other driver’s insurance will cover your damages, assuming the other driver has insurance.

Damage to your car: The damage to your vehicle would fall under the property damage portion of the other driver’s liability policy. While most industry experts recommend carrying $50,000 in property damage, not everyone follows that advice.

If your fellow motorist only carries the required state minimums, you may end up on the hook for the costs of repairing your car. Minimums vary by state, but in California, for example, the property damage requirement is a mere $5,000, which will most likely not get your car back on the road.

If your fellow motorist is entirely uninsured or is carrying low coverage levels, your own collision coverage (assuming you have it) will cover the cost of repairing or replacing your vehicle.

If you failed to add collision coverage to your policy, your last chance to avoid a big out-of-pocket expense is an 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.

Should you make a claim for rear-end damage?

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 or underinsured, 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 decline 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 your health insurance policy should cover the cost of your hospital bills.

Frequently asked questions

Should I file a car insurance claim for auto body repair?

Before you file a claim, you must know the details of your auto insurance policy. Read over your contract and determine what type of coverage is offered for auto body repairs. You’ll have this type of protection with comprehensive or collision coverage.

Also, it's worth getting an estimate from the shop to decide whether it is worth filing a claim and paying the deductible for a car repair.

Should I choose the insurance company's preferred auto body shop?

While your insurer can suggest one of its recommended shops, you are not obliged to use that option.

Auto body shops in the insurance company’s network often guarantee the work, so consider how important that is to you. However, where you have your car repaired is always up to you.

How much does bodywork cost?

The cost of bodywork depends on what work is being done, what body shop you use and your location. Typical repair costs for minor damage might be a few hundred dollars or less, but the bill can be much higher if the damage is severe.

Do I have to repair my car with an insurance check?

No, you don't have to use the money for repairs. However, if you have a loan, you must repair the damage to your car. Also, you will not be able to file another claim for the same damage if you don’t repair it.

Do auto body shops report damage to insurance?

No, it is up to the policyholder to promptly report damage to the insurance company. The auto body shop has an obligation to fix your car, and nothing more.

Reporting the damage promptly is the best way to get the repair process underway so you can get back out on the road.

Once you have reported the damage, the claims process can get underway. The insurance company will do the initial inspection, discuss things with the repair shop and negotiate a price, says Loretta Worters, vice president of media relations for the Insurance Information Institute.

"Once the job is completed, typically the check is cut to the auto repair shop," she says.

Sources:

  1. Eli's Collision Repair: How Much is it to Replace or Repair a Bumper?
  2. J.D. Power: How Much Does It Cost To Paint A Car?
  3. Learn More About Insurance Requirements by DMV

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