Car Insurance, tell or don't tell?
May 15, 2018 11:00 AM   Subscribe

Hi. So we moved into a new house in a new city for a new job (with a new baby!) Within 48 hours of moving in, having parked on the street, a 16 year old backed into our minivan and dented the front panel. So, should we take money under the table, or go through insurance?

The kid left a note and we called her, she said she'd talk to her parents, but we didn't hear back. So we reported it to our insurance to get fixed, and provide the girl's phone number as contact information. Now the parents call. They want to take care of the damage out of pocket instead. I'm open to this, but my wife thinks it's wrong, doesn't teach the right lesson to the girl, and that we should go through our insurance instead. What should we do?
posted by leotrotsky to Travel & Transportation (18 answers total)
Yeah you should go through insurance. She left a note (good) lied about talking to her parents (bad) and now they want to smooth things over? The only reason I wouldn't go through insurance is that the damage is prob very minor but IDK... I'd go through insurance no matter what, to make sure there was a record of this damage (no matter how minor) in case down the road that part failed and the insurance company blamed me for it. By putting it on record with the company if the front panel falls off two years from now they'll know it wasn't your fault.
posted by Homo neanderthalensis at 11:08 AM on May 15, 2018 [5 favorites]

Let the parents deal with the teen; it’s not your job or your place to try and teach her a lesson.

If an adult backed into your car, would you go through your insurance or let them pay out of pocket? Do that.
posted by insectosaurus at 11:12 AM on May 15, 2018 [15 favorites]

If you put it through insurance, your rates could very well go up even though it wasn't your fault. The girls' parents' insurance will also go up, sure, but it's not clear how having her parents' insurance rates go up will teach her a lesson. Presumably the lesson teaching will come through the parents and whatever they teach her will be the same either way. The only thing she's more likely to learn if you go through insurance than if you don't is to not leave a note next time.
posted by If only I had a penguin... at 11:13 AM on May 15, 2018 [1 favorite]

Yeah, it's not up to you to worry about the "right" lesson here. For what it's worth, something very similar happened to me, with a similar "ask." I ended up getting an estimate for the work, which was more than anyone expected since the shop wanted to pull the body panel to repaint it, and Dad decided he wanted to go through insurance, and we did that.
posted by craven_morhead at 11:14 AM on May 15, 2018 [2 favorites]

A few years ago I chose to file an insurance claim to have some ugly but completely cosmetic damage repaired after someone backed into me while I was stopped. I was unpleasantly surprised recently to find that the "accident record" that was now attached to my car cut the trade-in value by A LOT. I won't make a recommendation for you, but bear in mind that if you are ever planning to trade this car that could be an issue.
posted by anastasiav at 11:17 AM on May 15, 2018 [1 favorite]

I've done this before. It mostly went ok, but was a lot more hassle than the time I just had insurance deal with it. Here's my experience.

I'd also add that you have to think about a rental car (will the parents pay for one?) and what happens if the repair takes longer than estimated. I had one repair where the estimated 2 days turned into a week, which meant I was stuck renting a car far longer than I'd planned.
posted by belladonna at 11:17 AM on May 15, 2018

Your decision whether or not you go through insurance should be based on what you plan to do with the car in the future. If you do not intend to sell the car at a future date, it's relatively safe to go through your insurance company. However, you may see an increase in your premium for making a claim, which could add up to more than the cost of your deductible (depending on what you've set yours at, obviously).

However, if you intend to sell or trade the car in the future, you should weigh the decision regarding whether to go through insurance carefully. Some repair shops report even minor work to Carfax, which will have a significant impact on resale value (both with private buyers and dealerships). Jalopnik explains this better than I can.

If you do decide that going through insurance will make life easier and is worth the risk of a reduced value for your vehicle, consider making a diminished value claim against the teenager's insurance company to potentially recuperate any loss associated with the repair. (Insurance companies aren't generally obligated to reimburse on these claims, however.)

It's probably also worth factoring in what kind of relationship you want to establish with your new neighbors, assuming the family you're dealing with is local to your street or neighborhood.
posted by Jaqi at 11:23 AM on May 15, 2018 [1 favorite]

As someone who buys used cars, I’m not thrilled with the idea that people are advising being dishonest about reporting possible damage to the next owner. You’ve had some bad luck, but you don’t need to pass it on. Please go through insurance.
posted by FencingGal at 11:37 AM on May 15, 2018 [6 favorites]

Your rates should not go up in this case. Your insurance company will contact the other party and their insurance to reimburse your insurance company for the repair.

This is how it worked when I was rear ended and he mail him the bill. I called my company and they covered the repair and want after his insurance policy.

What happens when you get your car repaired and the send the girl's parents the bill and they come back a say the bill is too high when are only going to pay X% of the bill. Now it it your headache to deal with.

As I see it this is why your pay premiums each month.
posted by tman99 at 11:39 AM on May 15, 2018 [1 favorite]

Yeah, your rates won't be affected.
Your neighbors' rates, though, will definitely go up. Especially given that the fender-bender was their 16-year-old's fault. This is why they want to go under-the-table.
posted by Thorzdad at 12:06 PM on May 15, 2018

If you like talking to difficult people (as proven by their desire to handle this outside the system) and you like talking to mechanics, go nuts.

Your rates won't go up, and your insurance company will literally handle everything else. They're better at it anyways. You don't even need to interact with them much either. At most the inconvenience will be picking your rental up and dropping it off when your car is in the shop.

Insurance companies are often lame, but this is not one of those scenarios.
posted by furnace.heart at 12:20 PM on May 15, 2018

There is no "under the table" here (nothing is illegal!), there is no "teach her a lesson here" (she left her contact info!), there is no here, here. I don't even understand what your question is. What do you care who pays to fix your car? And why would you have your own insurance fix something that you know who damaged it and is offering to pay to fix it? I'm obviously missing something.
posted by Pig Tail Orchestra at 1:40 PM on May 15, 2018 [1 favorite]

As someone who buys used cars, I’m not thrilled with the idea that people are advising being dishonest about reporting possible damage to the next owner. You’ve had some bad luck, but you don’t need to pass it on. Please go through insurance.

I also buy used cars and think that you are under no moral obligation to create a paper trail that will be leveraged against you later, for repaired cosmetic damage that has no actual impact on the appearance or function of the car. It is also absolutely the case that your insurance could go up for filing a claim-mine certainly did in similar circumstances. Go through insurance, or don't, but don't go through it because you feel like you have to secure a baseless negotiating point against you in favor of a hypothetical future buyer of your car.
posted by Kwine at 1:41 PM on May 15, 2018 [2 favorites]

I have had the weird bad luck to be in multiple accidents in which my car was either parked or legally stopped. My rates have never gone up as a result of going through insurance. If the other party is insured, you will also likely get reimbursed for your deductible, but that can take a while.
posted by soren_lorensen at 1:58 PM on May 15, 2018 [1 favorite]

I had this happen once literally while in the act of moving. It turned out that the teen who hit me was eager to go under-the-table because he was driving his dad's car but was not on the insurance policy. Any chance that's the case here?

Have you gotten a damage estimate? Damage that looks minor can be surprisingly expensive to repair. The teen who hit me was unwilling to pay the amount my reputable shop quoted me, and tried to get me to take it to some guy he knew, which... no. I wouldn't agree to anything until you get a quote and they agree to it. Even then, I'd personally go through an insurer, to be honest.
posted by halation at 2:06 PM on May 15, 2018 [1 favorite]

I just want to agree that if you do explore handling this without involving your insurance, get a quote from a reputable body shop before you agree to anything with the parents. You want to make sure that they're willing to pay whatever amount this is actually going to cost, which could be a fair bit.

Also, I personally don't think it's unethical to keep a minor accident like this off your car's record. Minor body damage that is professionally repaired is not some huge important thing that future buyers need to know about for their safety. As long as it gets fixed properly I can't think why it should matter at all.
posted by Anticipation Of A New Lover's Arrival, The at 3:15 PM on May 15, 2018

I was the idiot who hit someone; a minor scratch on the bumper, totally my fault. We agreed that he'd go to a body shop and get a quote and if I could pay it cash to keep the documentation simple, I would. He did, emailed me a shockingly high, but extremely detailed estimate to make the car perfect again, and said it was either pay it cash in 3 hours, or he'd file a claim.

I had the cash, so I paid it in full, with a little written agreement that the payment would make the entire problem go away & that I would not hear from him again. I did, and he went away.

I think this is a reasonable approach. Go to a body shop, get an estimate for what it would take to make your car whole again, and present the bill. If they don't want to pay it in full in cash or an electronic transfer, then go after their insurance.

Up to you what you do with the money!
posted by seanmpuckett at 5:10 PM on May 15, 2018

Note that insurance works differently in different jurisdictions. That's why some people say their insurance went up and some people say it didn't. My assumption would be that "no-fault insurance" is more likely to go up. The actuarial argument is that the fact that you got hit by a 16 year old demonstrates that you're at risk of getting hit by 16 year olds, therefore they raise the rates.
posted by If only I had a penguin... at 5:36 PM on May 15, 2018

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