I'm Jean Chatzky, and this is Bankrate Bottom Line.
According to new research from InsuranceQuotes.com, a claim against your auto insurance policy could up your rate by as much as 41 percent. Make two claims and your premium could double. I've had my share of fender benders and wondered when I should pay for them out of pocket and when I should report it. Here are two rules of thumb I wish I'd known then:
If the accident involves another person, consider filing a claim. Costs could rapidly inflate -- the other driver may be fine at the scene and experience neck pain a week later. And some insurers won't hike rates if losses are under $1,000.
If no one else is involved, and you can afford to pick up the bill, do it -- particularly if the cost is less than or close to your deductible. There's no risk of being sued by a third party, and you can ensure your rate stays intact.
Better to pay for the damage yourself, than to risk paying a higher premium for as long as you're with your insurance provider.