Should I report this car damage?
April 18, 2009 2:12 PM   Subscribe

How much is avoiding reporting car camage to the insurance company worth in terms of out-of-pocket repairs?

A whole chain of events led to me damaging one side of my car; no one else was involved and no one (except me) had property damaged. The actual events don't matter for the purposes of this question, assume I was 100% at fault. That isn't really the case but for the purposes of this question assume it is.

Since the only thing damaged was my own car there is no reason to report this to my insurance if have it fixed myself. Except that the first estimate for fixing the damage is a bunch higher than I had thought; on the order of $2200-$2800 depending on whether they have to replace the door shell for both passenger side doors or just the front door shell. I'm going to get more estimates on Monday because that seems a lot of money for what doesn't appear on the surface to be that much damage but lets take the repairs as costing $2500.

I have collision insurance with a $500 deductible. So reporting it could save me like $2000 in the short term. What are the long term consequences of reporting vs paying for it myself? I've been with the same insurance co for like 12 years and have never had an at fault accident (was rear-ended once, other party found 100% at fault) so have never had to have them pay a cent. How much do rates get jacked up if you report your first accident and are there any other implications? Seems like this is the whole reason to get collision insurance but I've heard horror stories about people making claims on insurance companies and having it come back to bite them. Does that not hold for car insurance?

(I've got a 2004 Volvo S60 if it matters for any reason but I doubt it does).
posted by Justinian to Travel & Transportation (9 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
Hopefully you have a good agent that would be willing to advise you on this (without filing a claim or reporting it unless you choose to)... this will vary from situation to situation and from company to company.... I suspect that acting on info here might be risky...
posted by HuronBob at 2:25 PM on April 18, 2009

I think this will largely depend upon your particular insurance company.

With Nationwide, after a period of accident free (or actually, claim free) driving, you get a freebie; which is to say that you can file a claim without any negative implications as regard your future premiums.

That said, I have a $500 deductible on the collision portion of my policy, and when my son did $1300 worth of damage to one of my former vehicles, I decided to eat the extra $800 and keep the insurance company out of the loop completely.

I may or may not be correct in my thinking, but as money hungry as automobile insurances companies seem to be these days, I'd rather cover incidents out of pocket when possible than run the risk of substantial rate hikes. I insure three automobiles and a motorcycle.
posted by imjustsaying at 2:32 PM on April 18, 2009

I have a pretty extensive history of needing body work done for a variety of causes, and the first thing I am asked when getting an estimate is "Is this an insurance claim?". I suspect it is not the way things are supposed to be done, but in my experience, the price quoted when the body shop knows the insurance company will be paying for it can be very different from the price if you are paying for it out of pocket. The body shops around here will also work with you on the deductible to minimize out of pocket expenses. At the (fairly large but independent) body shops I have gone to, the guy doing the estimate does nothing else, and he has a lot of discretion. Talk to him a little and see what he says before you talk to your insurance agent. It turns out that in some cases, even making an inquiry about a claim can raise your rates. See CLUE database for more info.
posted by TedW at 3:10 PM on April 18, 2009

If the damage was not caused by a collision with another vehicle, the damage may fall under comprehensive, which typically has a lower deductible. When I collided with a deer a few years ago I was surprised to learn that it fell under comprehensive and not collision. The potentially lower deductible may factor into how you want to pursue this. Although if it's been a few days since the damage you may have already violated the terms of your policy. I'm pretty sure mine requires me to report damage immediately, or as soon as practically possible if I'm unable to call immediately due to an injury or whatever.

I would start by reading your actual policy closely.
posted by COD at 4:12 PM on April 18, 2009

I one held an insurance license - worked in a home office: you may be required to report a collision no matter what; your insurance carrier could drop you for not calling it in, especially if it's going to be a couple-thousand-dollar claim. Talk to your agent (hopefully you have an agent and didn't just buy online) - tell him/her you didn't think the repair would be over your deductible and it wasn't bad enough for a claim, and he or she may be able to get you through. The whole "any accident and they jack up your rates" is a bit overstated; if you're a good customer and claims are a rarity, you have very little to worry about....but if you're a new customer, or you have a claim more often than once every year or two, you're definitely going to get a rate increase because - duh - you're showing you're a high risk. If you're a good customer, use that leverage to your advantage. Don't be afraid of your insurance company; you're paying them to help you...if they don't do that, start shopping for an insuror who will.
posted by AzraelBrown at 5:06 PM on April 18, 2009

You are me a year ago; I pranged my driver door and bent it out of shape. To get it restored as good as new cost $3000, of which I paid $1000 as deductible.

I had my insurance with State Farm since I bought the car; this was my first claim in that time and they didn't raise my rate.
posted by mrt at 6:39 PM on April 18, 2009

Body shops charge more to insurance cos - go to a shop and tell them you're paying for the repair, the quote will likely be lower. And unless the doors are really damaged, if it's you paying and not the insurance co, they will probably just pull the dents, fill, and paint.

You don't say whether you need the car to look like new. If you can live with a few dings or imperfections, the repair will again be less expensive.
posted by zippy at 8:17 PM on April 18, 2009

Response by poster: Yeah, I've been reading up on my policy.

It appears my big mistake was underestimating how much car repairs cost since I've never had to pay a cent before; as I assumed the cost would be lower I planned to pay for it myself. If I had known it was going to be quadruple the deductible (potentially, I'm getting at least one or two more estimates since these guys want to completely replace both passenger side door shells) I would have just had the insurance handle it immediately.

Live and learn; body repairs on your car are expensive.
posted by Justinian at 12:05 AM on April 19, 2009

Justinian, I assume you CAN still get your insurance company to pay for it though, right? Your follow-up here almost assumes you've missed your window of opportunity.

Here's what I would do: 1) Call two or three auto insurance companies (or do this online). 2) Get quotes 3) But get quotes with the assumption that you have been in an accident several days ago. 4) Take the lowest quote, and compare it to your insurance right now 5) Multiply the difference between that quote and what you're paying now times 36 months (3 years is how long an accident stays on your record in Oregon, your state/situation may be different) 6) then decide whether to report the accident, based on that info. You can't know for sure how YOUR insurance company will raise your rates but at least you can know what your best alternative is if your rates skyrocket.
posted by Happydaz at 9:00 AM on April 19, 2009

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