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Car Insurance and Cosmetic Damage: What’s Covered?

Does Car Insurance Cover Scratches and Dents? 

Yes, car insurance covers scratches and dents, but only if a covered event caused them. For example, collision insurance covers damages that result from a collision with another vehicle or object, while comprehensive insurance covers damages that result from non-collision events like theft, weather, or fire. The other driver’s liability coverage would cover your damages if you were not at fault.

Why It’s Worth Fixing Scratches and Dents 

It’s worth repairing scratches and dents because they can lead to more significant issues in the future. Deep scratches can cause the metal to rust, and big dents can affect the functionality of closing doors or using trunk space. Scratches and dents can even prevent your windows from going up and down. 

The cost of repairing cosmetic issues can range from $50 to $1,500, depending on the extent of the damage and location. Of course, this is a rough estimate, and you should visit a body shop for a quote.

Beyond Scratches and Dents: Other Cosmetic Issues

Beyond scratches and minor dents, car owners may experience other cosmetic issues like peeling paint or faded headlights. These are covered by the same insurance policies as scratches and dents.

Understand that these other cosmetic issues must be a result of a covered accident, not simply from wear and tear. Normal wear and tear is going to be excluded from your policy. Additionally, you have to have physical damage coverage (comprehensive and collision) on your policy as well. If you have just liability, you will be out of luck.

How Cosmetic Car Damage Is Covered By Insurance 

Cosmetic car damage will be covered under the section that applies to what caused the damage.

  • Collision coverage: If you are at fault in an accident and have collided with anything other than an animal, the scratches and dents will be covered under collision coverage.
  • Comprehensive coverage: Acts of god, like weather-related incidents, tree damage, or hitting an animal would be covered under comprehensive coverage.
  • Other driver’s liability coverage: If someone else causes damage to your car, they would pay for the damages under their own policy. 

Collision Coverage 

If you accidentally run a stop sign and collide with another vehicle, you will likely have some scratches and dents that need to be repaired. As stated above, repairs are recommended to prevent further issues down the road. Your car would be repaired under collision coverage. Of course, this is assuming your car is not totaled and has scratches and dents or minor damage.

Collision coverage is optional auto insurance coverage. That means it is possible you do not have it, so be sure to check your policy. You also will have a deductible, which is the amount you have to pay towards the claim. Most of the time, if you have a $500 deductible, you will have to pay the body repair shop $500 and then insurance will cover the rest.

Comprehensive Coverage 

If you have ever hit a deer or other large animal, you may know the amount of damage it can cause. Even though you have collided with the animal, this is covered under comprehensive coverage. 

Like collision coverage, comprehensive is an optional coverage that you will choose or decline when you purchase your policy. Without this coverage, you could end up paying hundreds or thousands of dollars to repair your vehicle. You will have a deductible as well. For glass claims, some car insurance companies will waive the deductible if it can be repaired rather than replaced.

Other Driver’s Liability Coverage 

A common scenario is someone is backing out of a parking spot and back right into your car causing a small dent or scratch. You may think it would make sense to make a claim under your liability insurance, but that is not where this coverage is found. Your liability is for bodily injury and property damage that you cause.

The other driver will repair your vehicle under their liability coverage. The property damage section of their liability will pay for the scratches and dents they caused, and you won’t have to pay a deductible. 

When You Damage Someone Else’s Car 

Unfortunately, accidents happen, and even more so now that we have so many more distractions while driving. If you accidentally rear-end someone, or take a turn too sharply and collide with another vehicle, your liability insurance will pay to fix the damage to their car.

Unlike comprehensive and collision damage you do not have to pay a deductible. However, be aware of your coverage limits. If you have state minimum limits, you may end up having to pay some of the claims out of pocket. And with the rising costs of cars and repairs, that could be financially devastating. 

When Will Car Insurance Not Cover Minor Cosmetic Damage? 

There will be some cases in which your car insurance will not cover minor cosmetic damage like scratches and dents.

  • Coverage issues: Of course, to be covered you have to have the proper coverage on your policy. If you do not have comprehensive, collision, or either on your policy then scratches and dents caused by you will not be covered. 
  • Unknown origin: If you walk out to your car one day and notice a big dent and are unable to determine where it came from, this will not be covered by your car insurance policy. The insurer will need to know how it got there to determine if coverage is applicable. 
  • Normal wear and tear: Wear and tear is specifically excluded from your car insurance policy. Signs of aging are just that, and will not be able to be repaired using insurance. You are welcome to pay for those repairs yourself if you wish.
  • Mechanical issues: Sometimes parts on a car can become worn and either shift or come off and cause a dent or scratch. If that happens, it would not be covered as it would be considered a mechanical issue. 
  • Negligence: If you let road rage get to you and cause damage to your car by hitting something, or possibly punching your car out of frustration, this will not be covered. 
  • International damage: If you intentionally damage your car, like kicking it to make a dent or scratching it with a key, the damages would not be covered by your auto policy.

Should You File a Claim? 

It’s not always a good idea to file an insurance claim for minor cosmetic damages because it may result in higher rates or the possibility of being dropped by the insurer if you have several claims with high severity in a short time. If you are considering filing a claim, you should weigh the pros and cons and think about the following:

  • Is the cost of repair significantly higher than your deductible? If you can get a free estimate from a body shop, do so. If a scratch or dent repair is going to be less than your collision deductible, then it would not be worth submitting a claim since the insurance would not contribute. 
  • How many claims have you already filed in recent months and years? Consider how many claims you have had over the last 3 years. Insurers use this information to determine your insurability, and you could end up with higher premiums, or even trouble having insurance if the frequency and severity have been high.
  • Do you intend to keep your car for a while? Because you will have to pay a deductible, and depending on how many claims you have filed a potential premium increase, consider how long you plan to keep your vehicle. If you plan to sell it in the next year or 2, it may not be worth repairing. 

How to File a Claim: Using Car Insurance For Scratches and Dents 

If you have considered all of the pros and cons of filing a claim and still want to proceed, it is essential to know how to do so. Use this as a guide on how to file a car insurance claim for your scratches and dents repairs. 

  1. Document the damage. Be sure to document the damage. This includes how it occurred, when, and take any photos or videos that would be helpful during the claims process.
  2. Collect the necessary information and documents. Be sure to have all of the documentation ready before you try to submit the claim. Have your auto id card handy, as this will have your policy and vehicle information on it. If you have an estimate, police report, or any other documentation, have it handy.
  3. Submit your claim. Call your insurance company, or report the claim online. Since you have collected all of the necessary documentation, this should be rather simple and painless.
  4. Submit a repair estimate if necessary. The insurance company may have a preferred repair shop, but if you have an estimate, you can submit it to them for consideration.
  5. Work with an insurance adjuster. Usually, within 24-48 hours the insurance adjuster assigned to your claim will contact you to get more details and discuss the next steps. This is who will guide you through the entire claims process, so keep their name, number, and email handy.
  6. Get your car repaired. Once the insurance adjuster has determined eligibility, they will let you know, and then you can take your car in to be repaired. You will pay your deductible and be on your way.

DIY or Pro: Know When to Fix It Yourself and When to Call In a Professional 

For small and superficial damages that do not affect functionality, you may be able to fix it yourself with products specifically designed for the task. There are scratch and dent repair kits that you can purchase online. Just be aware that they usually don’t come with a warranty and are dependent on you following the exact instructions. And, for more extensive damages or those that affect performance, it’s better to call a professional.

Do It Yourself When… 

  • The damage is so small it can be buffed out. If you have access to a buffer and the scratch is so small you think it can be buffed out, you may want to consider trying it. Often light scratches can be repaired this way.
  • The damage is small and superficial. The internet is a wonderful thing, and there are kits you can purchase that help to repair small scratches and even dents. Search for these products on Google, Amazon, or even at local automotive shops like Auto Zone or Advanced Auto Parts.
  • The damage does not affect anything functional. If the damage is small enough that you are sure it will not get worse or affect anything else, like closing a door or window, you can try fixing it yourself.
  • The damage can be fixed with touch-up paint. You can get a touch-up paint pen from an automotive dealer that matches your exact color. A simple swipe of the pen could fix a light scratch.

Call In a Professional When… 

  • You are unsure of how to fix it and are uncomfortable. Some things are simply better left to a professional. Even with the available tools, you may be more comfortable with a professional fixing your car. After all, it is a big machine that you expect to get you and your family safely from point A to point B. 
  • The damage is deep. Some scratches are too deep to repair yourself. While a touch-up pen may work on hairline scratches, a longer or deeper scratch should be repaired by a professional. 
  • The damage is over a large area. Some dents and scratches can be huge and will be more than you can fix on your own. DIY car repairs are more for smaller projects that you can handle easily. A large area of damage can be repaired by a professional with the proper training.
  • The damage will or already does affect other functional parts of the car. If a dent has caused you to be unable to open your door or trunk, you need to take it to a professional. And some damages can get worse over time, affecting other parts of the car. 
  • The damage will cost more to repair than your deductible. One easy way to determine if you should take your repairs to a professional is if they will cost more to fix than your deductible. You pay the premiums for insurance for this reason, to use it when you need it most.

Putting It All Together 

Scratches and dents are typically covered by car insurance if you caused them in an accident and have physical damage coverage on your policy. It’s worth repairing them to avoid bigger issues in the future. Before filing a claim, make sure you know your deductible, and review your claims history, and future plans for the car. It’s possible to fix small damages yourself, but for more extensive damages, it’s best to call a professional.

Find an auto insurance policy that meets your needs.

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Find an auto insurance policy that meets your needs.

Get a quote