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Fixing A Car Scratch : Out of Pocket vs. Insurance

October 22, 2018 7 min read

Fixing A Car Scratch : Out of Pocket vs. Insurance

So, you just finished doing your weekly grocery shopping, yay! Feeling as productive and lucky as ever, you walk back to your car feeling like a champion just to find a deep, yawning scratch on your bumper. Suddenly, you feel this heat in your head, your blood boiling, and the desperate feeling of, “What now!?” Thinking, “This is going to cost a fortune!”, “Should I contact my insurance?”, “What if I can’t fix it myself?”

When something unfortunate happens to your car, the first thing that pops into your head will most likely be to contact your insurance company. After all, it is quite an expense that we pay in case something happens to our vehicle. However, is it wise to initiate a claim? Or, should you just take it to a professional? Perhaps, maybe DIY? Here is some information for you to consider when deciding what to do with any type of damage to your vehicle.

Should I contact my insurance company?

Do not file an insurance claim right away. Not all car scratches are created equal. There are so many variables that come into play, depending on your auto policy and the cause of the scratch. Damage caused by different factors are covered differently.

  • Comprehensive Scratches – Generally a damage NOT caused by collision. Frequently seen as a non-fault claim because of an unpreventable damage (e.g. vandalism, falling objects, theft, etc.)

                                  Comprehensive_surface_scratches

(Image Source: http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-566327/The-street-vandals-scratched-single-parked-car-caused-250-000-worth-damage.html)

  • Collision Scratches – Typically a damage caused by hitting another object. (e.g. another vehicle, guardrail, tree, etc.)

                                  Collision_Scratch

  • Not sure how your car got scratched? – Contact your auto insurance carrier and speak with a claim adjuster. He or she will be able to identify the cause of the scratch then determine what type of claim you should file. Furthermore, the location of the scratch could affect the price. If the scratch is on a removable part, it’s probably more affordable to replace it. But if it’s located on the frame, roof, rear quarter panel, or door, a large area must be painted to cover the scratch and blend in the new paint.

(Image Source: http://driving.ca/auto-news/news/hit-a-car-and-thinking-of-running-shame-on-you)

Sometimes, you are better off fixing the scratch and not filing a claim. Checking your insurance policy first is the best way to decide if a claim is to your advantage. Here is some additional information to consider when deciding whether you should file a claim on your insurance:

  • Ineligibility for renewal:Some insurance companies may not renew your policy if you have had more than two claims in 3 years. Hence, paying for your own repairs costing under $1,000 is often worthwhile to prevent the possibility of no coverage in the future ( CNN Money - Car Insurance: Things to Know).
  • Deductible costs:A “deductible” is the out-of-pocket portion you must pay before your insurance pays for a claim. The national average of vehicle insurance deductible is $500. If the cost of your deductible is higher than the cost to fix your car damages, it is better to pay for the damages upfront instead of filing a claim with your insurance provider. For instance, you verified that your policy covers Comprehension Damage and you decide to file a claim. You take your vehicle to a body shop for a free estimate and realize the total cost for repair is $1500. You will have to pay the $500 deductible to your insurance provider for them to take care of your $1500 damages.
  • Monthly premium increase: Insurance companies usually have two onsets when insurers file a claim. If the damage is less than $1,800, your rate may not go up. However, if the cost of repairs is between $1,800-$2,800, your rate may increase. For most insurance companies, the magic number is $2,800 or more. If your damage cost is more expensive than that number, your premium will rise significantly. (How Much Does Insurance Go up after an Accident?)
  • Ineligibility for discounts:There are about 20 types of discounts you could be receiving on your auto insurance, saving you quite a bit of money! However, filing a claim could cost you from taking advantage of those enticing money savers.

Now that we have an idea on how an insurance claim works and if you decide it’s to your advantage to file it, you have the option to have the claim check made to your name so you could spend it toward your repair or replacement costs.

If filing a claim is not to your advantage, the next step is to determine the best course of action to repairing your car depending on the severity of the damages.

 

Is the scratch fixable?

Your car’s paint is more important than just for looks, it protects the exterior from corrosion and rust. Therefore, it’s important to try and mend the scratch as soon as possible since it may worsen over time causing additional, costly problems. If it is a minor, superficial abrasion, you can try these DIY steps.

Generally, the depth of the scratch will determine whether it’s a repair you can do yourself, or if it will require an automotive professional. A great way to see if a scratch is repairable, is by performing a test using your fingernail! That’s right, if your fingernail can fit in the scratch, you can possibly touch it up yourself or by a paint tech who is experienced in automotive touch up paint. But, if the scratch is too deep (usually cutting into the metal or plastic of the car part), the only proper way to fix the damage is to repair and repaint the area. If the scratch is somewhere in-between, not too deep, it can probably be buffed out by a professional, which will cost much less than repairing the area. A good way to check if the scratch is repairable, is to see if your fingernail cannot fit in the damage area. Car part painting costs could range from $300 to $7,500! Here is more information about car paint jobs.

 

What if the scratch requires repair work by a professional?

If your scratch is beyond DIY repair, you will want to get an estimate on the cost to repair the damages by an automotive professional. Often, it is more cost effective to replace the entire car part rather than getting it repaired and repainted due to the number of labor hours a shop will allocate to get your job done. Therefore, you’ll want to get an estimate before deciding whether it’s best to repair or replace your part.

If you decide to replace the car part, here are some choices for you to consider:

Dealership

Dealerships are usually the standard when it comes to any kind of car repair. They will do a great job to make certain your vehicle is back to its original state. Dealerships provide Original Equipment Manufacturer (OEM) car parts which may give you greater assurance. Your car may even be under warranty depending on date of purchase or if you have an extended warranty. It’s a great option for high quality repairs. You’ll get the best paint products, the best high-tech equipment and practices. Dealerships usually employ highly skilled and experienced mechanics and technicians making it a worry free option when it comes to repairs. Dealerships spare no expense when it comes to their quality. Reputation is key in any industry and dealership know this better than anyone. If there are any issues with any type of work, the dealership will right its wrongs.

Body Shop

This option has the most variety. Body shops are the most common form or practice for any car repair. There are specialty shops that specialize in show room vehicles from luxury vehicles to economy cars. There are great mom and pop shops that have a great reputation not only with the community but also partner with insurance companies to handle their repairs. Just like any industry, you’ll awesome shops and terrible shops. Beware of shops that cut corners and do very low skilled repairs.

You should always do your due diligence when choosing a body shop. There are many ways to cut corners when it comes to repairs but everything depends on “how” the repairs were made or the correct steps in repairing damages. Body shops out number dealerships, so they will have different methods and equipment that get the job done. It all depends on the quality and experience of the body shop technicians. There are many right ways to fix damages and twice as many ways to do it wrong. In the eyes of an insurance company, a repair is repair, plain and simple. Insurance companies cannot dictate to their customers on where to service their vehicle, it’s illegal! Insurance companies will pay the proper dollar amount for repairs but it’s up to the shop you choose to execute those repairs the proper way. Body shop will differ based on the experience of their technicians and staff, so make sure to choose a reputable one!

Painted Auto Body Part Stores

There is an ever-growing number of pre-painted auto body part stores online. Make sure to choose a reputable one that provides auto parts that meet the same standards of the original (OEM) parts. There are many companies that manufacture aftermarket car parts for all the major automobile brands but not all manufactures are created equal. While you are generally safe in purchasing aftermarket parts today, some companies put a lot more time and care into their process while others cut corners. Pay attention to certifications such as ISO-9001 and CAPA. All parts meeting those two standards are generally sold in the USA and Canada and are used by body shops and insurance companies nationwide.

It is important for a reliable online painted parts shop to offer color matching to ensure that your painted replacement car part corresponds with your vehicle. High quality paint plays an important role when purchasing a pre-painted car part! The quality of the paint will not only determine perfect color matching, it will also guarantee durability of the coat that protects your auto body part. 

Always do your due diligence when purchasing anything on the internet. Don’t be afraid to ask about each online store’s paint process, quality of paint, and if they offer any guarantees and warranties