You can make an insurance claim for damage you caused to your own car if you have collision and/or comprehensive coverage. If you have a liability-only car insurance policy, however, damage that you do to your own car won’t be covered. Liability insurance only pays for the other driver’s damages and injuries.
Unlike liability insurance, collision and comprehensive coverage are not required by law. But you were probably required to carry both if you leased or financed your car. Collision insurance covers damage to your car resulting from an accident, such as a collision with another vehicle, rolling or flipping your car, or hitting an object like a telephone pole or tree. Comprehensive coverage pays for damage caused by events outside your control, like vandalism or falling objects.
Both usually come with deductibles, which you’ll have to pay before the insurance company covers the rest of the bill. Also, even if you have “full coverage,” insurance won’t pay for your own negligence. If you didn’t close your windows before it rained, for example, you’re going to have to pay for it yourself.
Should I make an insurance claim or pay out of pocket?
It might make sense to skip filing a claim and pay out of pocket if you damaged your own car and no one was injured, especially if the damage is close to the cost of your deductible. If you make a claim, it will go on your insurance record and your rates will go up. Drivers who make a single claim of $2,000 or more can expect their premiums to increase by an average of 20% to 40% for three to five years.
Let’s say you backed into your mailbox, causing $700 in damage, and you’ve got a $500 deductible. That means the insurance company is only going to pay $200 of the cost. It’s probably in your best interest to pay the entire bill yourself, since what you’ll pay in higher premiums over the next three years will likely be more than the extra $200 out of your pocket now.
If you’ve filed other claims in the past three years, it’s definitely worth checking the numbers before you file another for damage you’ve done to your own car. Multiple claims will result in significant premium increases—two in one year could nearly double your rate. You could even be dropped by your insurer, depending on your history and other relevant factors.
You may feel that you should always file a claim because that’s what insurance is for, but insurance is really meant for major damage. Although nobody wants to pay for repairs out of pocket, a small claim is usually not worth filing.
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