It’s typically an easy call if you’re in an accident that totals your car: you contact your auto insurance company. But what do you do if something happens that causes a scratch or minor dents? Is it worth making an insurance claim? Does car insurance cover minor damage? Often, the answer is “yes, but…”. Your insurance may cover minor damage, but it might not be cost-effective to file a claim if the damage can be fixed for a reasonable cost without it.
Is minor damage covered by car insurance?
Does car insurance cover scratches and dents? First, what constitutes minor damage? Scratches and dents may mar the paint job on your car or lead to imperfections, but they do not impede its operation. So it would likely be considered minor damage if someone keyed your car or road debris flew up and left a mark or dent on the finish, for example. If the damage is significant enough that you can’t drive your car, you should have it taken to a repair shop immediately.
In most cases, collision or comprehensive coverage could be used to pay for minor damages if you have them. However, it’s important to consider your deductible in weighing whether the claim is worth it. Say your minor damage totals $150, but you have a $500 comprehensive or collision deductible. In that case, your insurance would not kick in and you’d pay the full cost out of pocket. If you only carry your state’s minimum insurance requirements, you won’t have this type of coverage. For vehicle damage, you’d need a full coverage insurance policy.
When does car insurance cover scratches and dents?
As the name suggests, collision coverage pays for damage if you collide with another car or an object, like a light post or mailbox while driving. Comprehensive covers damage that happens to your car in any mishaps other than collisions. Examples of comprehensive claims might include a tree falling on your car, vandalism or a hail storm breaking the windows.
Here are some other possible scenarios, and how you might pay for them:
- A deer dents your car: Although you might consider hitting a deer something that would be covered by collision coverage, animal damage is actually part of comprehensive coverage. Even a small animal incident can cause damage, but a deer can total a car under the right circumstances.
- A squirrel chews on your car’s wires: This type of damage may cost more than a minor scratch and could render your car inoperable. Your comprehensive insurance could come into play when it comes to paying for it.
- You get into a fender bender: If you bump another vehicle in traffic and end up scratching your bumper, damage to your vehicle could be covered by collision coverage. Your property damage liability would pay for damage to the other driver’s vehicle.
- Your car gets keyed: Vandalism is also one of the categories that is covered by comprehensive coverage. Other examples might include someone spray painting your car or damaging the doors or windows while trying to break in.
- Road debris hits your car: If a rock or cargo flies off the truck in front of you and hits your car, it may be covered by comprehensive coverage. If, however, you hit an object lying in the road — such as a car bumper from an earlier accident — it could be considered a collision loss. Your insurer may also offer you additional glass coverage, with a lower deductible or no deductible, that would cover you if an object cracks your window or windshield glass.
When does car insurance not cover scratches and dents?
There are some cases where car insurance will not cover scratches and dents. In these scenarios, it wouldn’t make sense to file an insurance claim and you would have to pay for repairs out of pocket. Some examples include the following:
- If you don’t have collision and comprehensive coverage: If you only carry your state’s minimum liability insurance, you do not have coverage that pays for damage to your car. Liability covers damage to the other driver’s car in an accident you cause, as well as covering medical costs for the other driver.
- If the damage is caused by normal wear and tear: As your car ages, it is likely to pick up the occasional ding, no matter how carefully you drive. These will generally not be covered by your policy.
- If you acted in a negligent manner to cause the scratch or dent: If, for example, you get annoyed after finding a ticket on your window and kick your vehicle, creating a dent, your insurer is likely to turn down any claims you make on damage that occurs.
- You don’t know when the damage happened or the damage is old: If you wait to make a claim on damage that happened years ago, you will likely not succeed. Insurers set limits on how far back they’ll pay a claim. Although you may not always remember the exact time damage occurred, you should be prepared to give your insurer a date of loss and the circumstances of its occurrence.
- If you were acting in a way that violated your policy: If, for example, you drove across the border into Mexico for a weekend and the damage happened while you were there, you would be on the hook for repairs unless you purchased a country-specific policy for Mexico, since the country does not recognize U.S. policies.
Should you make a claim for a scratch or dent?
Just because you can file a claim on a scratch or dent doesn’t mean you should. Filing a claim may lead to an increase in your premium unless you have accident forgiveness. And if the damage is truly minor, it may not make sense to file because it could cost less to fix than the amount of your deductible.
For example, if a shopping cart bumps your car and leaves a scratch with an $100 estimate to fix, filing a claim wouldn’t make sense if your deductible is $500. However, if damage from an incident amounts to a more significant repair cost, like $1,000, you may want to file a claim because it is more than your deductible.
If there are any injuries in an accident, even if they seem minor at the time, you should get a police report and let your insurer know about the accident. Sometimes, an injury that seems minor may become something more serious after the fact and unless you let your insurance company know in a timely manner, they could refuse to pay out on a claim.
Frequently asked questions
What if I scratch another car?
If the damage is minor and both you and the other driver agree on who is at fault, you may be able to avoid involving insurance. However, if you worry that the other driver might change their mind later and submit a claim, contacting your insurer right after the accident might be better.
Are scratches expensive to fix?
The cost to fix a scratch or dent will depend on the extent of damage experienced. Your costs may differ significantly from someone else’s for similar damage depending on your area, vehicle type and repair shop. Get several quotes from reputable repair shops, if possible, before approving any fixes.
Will I be covered for scratches and dents if I only carry minimum insurance?
If you only carry your state’s minimum liability requirements, you won’t be covered for damage to your car unless it is the other driver’s fault (and then, your damage should be paid by their policy, not yours). To protect your car, you may want to consider full coverage insurance, which includes comprehensive and collision coverage.
Should I always contact my insurance company after an accident?
Unless you do not plan on filing a claim, it’s a good idea to let your company know you’ve been in an accident, especially if other cars are involved. That way, your company can be prepared if the other driver later files a claim against you.