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Should You Use Insurance to Repair a Collision?

4 min read

Car collision repair

You’ve gotten in an accident – and it was your fault. Insurance will cover it, right? If you have collision insurance, or full-coverage car insurance, your insurance should cover the cost to repair both your vehicle and others involved in the accident. But you’ll still face out-of-pocket costs that could add up to more than it costs to repair it yourself. 

Let’s look at all the costs involved in repairing collision damage using your insurance company, including your deductible, car rental, increased premiums, and other additional costs. You can use this information to determine whether it makes sense for you to use insurance to repair after a collision or do a DIY repair with replacement parts.

Increase in Insurance Premium After a Collision Claim

There’s no question about this: after an at-fault accident claim, you should expect your car insurance rates to go up. You’re now a riskier driver and insurance companies will expect that you’re more likely to file claims in the future – which means you’ll pay more in car insurance premiums.

How much more will you pay for car insurance after an at-fault collision claim? About $750 per year. And that’s not a one-time cost: you’ll carry a higher rate for at least a couple of years until you’ve gone claim-free long enough that insurance companies don’t view you as a higher risk. You could also lose any claim-free or good driver discounts you have on your policy.

Bottom line: making an at-fault claim is likely to cost you at least $1,500 in increased insurance premiums.

Covering Your Insurance Deductible

Before your collision insurance pays out for repairs or other expenses, you’ll have to meet your deductible. That’s usually at least $500 but depends on the coverage you selected. 

So if your repair at a body shop costs $1,000, you’ll need to pay $500 first and will be covered for the remaining $500. If you have a repair that would cost you just $350 out-of-pocket to fix with a painted car part, it would cost you at least $150 more to use your insurance to cover your costs at an auto body repair shop.

Collision Repair Estimate vs. Reality

If you use an auto body shop contracted with the insurance company, insurance should pay the actual cost. But if you choose a different shop you like better, you’ll simply get the estimated amount to reimburse your costs – even if your actual costs are higher than the estimate.

Collision Repair Rental Car

While your vehicle is in the shop, you’ll need a way to get around. Most people choose to rent a car, which you may or may not have coverage for. Even if you carry collision coverage, rental car reimbursement coverage is a separate coverage you might not have. And even if you have rental car reimbursement coverage, it may not cover the full cost of renting a car while yours is in the shop.

Your insurer may reimburse rental car expenses of up to $30 per day and up to $900 total per accident. If your actual cost exceeds those expenses, you’ll need to pay out of pocket. 

For example, it costs $34 to $55 to rent an economy car in Wichita, Kansas, and $51 to $88 to rent a mid-size SUV. If you needed to rent a mid-size SUV for a week, you could wind up with a more than $400 bill that insurance won’t help with.

And let’s not forget that rental car reimbursement coverage only includes the rental cost, not the cost of gas, tolls, and other expenses. If you’re renting a car that has a worse fuel efficiency than the one you’ve got in the shop, you’ll have to cover higher gas costs than you normally would. And without your regular toll tag, you may have to pay a higher rate for toll roads.

Convenience Costs

There’s time, money, and hassle involved in dropping your car at a shop. Body shops may not be open on weekends or evenings, so you might have to take off work to drop your vehicle off for repair. And if there’s not a rental car facility on-site or one that offers free pick up and drop off, you may need to ask for a ride or pay for an Uber to get from the shop to the rental facility.

If you’re repairing your vehicle at home with painted auto body parts, you can still drive it and avoid the cost and hassle of getting it to an auto body shop.

Should You Use Insurance to Repair a Collision?

The bottom line: if your vehicle is driveable after an at-fault accident and you can repair it with a painted auto body part, you could see significant savings by not taking it to the shop – even if you have the insurance to cover it. 

Let’s add up your potential costs for an insurance-covered repair vs. buying a replacement front bumper.

  • Insurance deductible: $500
  • Increased premiums (2 years): $1,500
  • Rental car costs not covered: $400

Total: $2,400

Total: $900 to $1,000

While your actual costs may vary, in this scenario, you’d save about $1,500 by using a painted replacement part and not using your insurance to make a claim.

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