Nobody plans to get into an auto accident. But when it happens, we usually have to deal with the resulting damage pretty quickly. Even with a good car insurance policy, damage from an accident can leave you with a surprise bill. 

While a high deductible might sound like a good idea when comparing car insurance quotes (hello, lower premiums), it’s not so nice when it comes time to pay the bill. And when these charges come as a surprise, sometimes we just don’t have the cash on hand to cover the deductible. 

If you can’t afford to pay your car insurance deductible, you’re not entirely out of luck. We’ve put together a list of options to help you get your repairs covered and get you back on the road safely. 

Time to consider a lower deductible? Check out other car insurance options to see how much you can save from your current policy. Insurify helps you compare personalized car insurance quotes, so you know exactly what you’re getting.

How does a car insurance deductible work? 

A car insurance deductible is an amount you are responsible for paying a mechanic or repair shop before your insurance pays for any covered repairs.

You’ll usually have the chance to choose your deductible amount. Common options are $250, $500, and $1,000. Generally speaking, if you choose a higher deductible, you’ll have a lower premium. This is because covered repairs that cost less than your deductible are the policyholder’s responsibility. The higher the deductible, the less likely your car insurance company will have to pick up the bill. 

Insurance deductibles work differently from payout limits. While deductibles set the minimum threshold for your insurance company to pay for a claim, the payout limit is the cap on how much an insurance company has to pay for covered damages. This is another amount you choose when selecting an insurance policy. There are different limits for comprehensive, collision, and liability insurance. It refers to the total dollar amount that would be paid after your deductible has been met. 

Choosing a high deductible might seem like an easy way to avoid higher premiums, but if you’re not prepared to pay that amount in case of an emergency, you might want to reconsider. There are other, less risky ways to save money on your car insurance premium. One of the best ideas? Compare personalized quotes. Try a car insurance comparison site like Insurify to find your best insurance rate without skimping on the coverage you need. 

What to Do When You Can’t Pay Your Car Insurance Deductible

If you can’t afford to pay your auto insurance deductible when you need a covered repair, you do have some options to get your car back up and running. Here are some of the most reliable ways to pay your car insurance deductible, even if you can’t afford the cost out of pocket right away. 

Take Out a Loan 

If repairs are urgent and you just don’t have the cash on hand, you can try some ways to access money fast. Getting a payday loan is a quick and easy way to get the cash you need quickly to pay your deductible. 

According to the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB), payday loans often come with restrictions and strict terms

  • Repayment is usually due with your next paycheck. 
  • Payday loans are often capped at $500 (although the cap could be higher or lower)
  • As security, you need to leave a valid payment method with the lender to be charged if you don’t repay the loan in time. This can be a post-dated check or electronic debit authorization. 

As you can see, payday loans are not a long-term solution but can take the pressure off if you’re running out of options and need your car back ASAP. Just make sure you understand the terms of the agreement first. You don’t want another cash emergency right after you solve your deductible problem. 

Wait to File Your Claim

Insurance claims don’t necessarily have to be filed immediately. Most insurance companies do advise submitting an insurance claim right away, but your auto insurance policy probably doesn’t require it. Just make sure you don’t drive your vehicle if it’s unsafe to do so. 

There can be some risks to taking this route, though. First, you should be aware of the statute of limitations in your state. This is the maximum amount of time you can take to file a claim for property damage after an accident. However, if you’re just waiting a week or two to get the money together, you should be in the clear. 

It’s also critical that the claim you eventually file only include damages from the incident, and that the damages you intend to file are clearly documented. If it seems like repairs are included in the claim that resulted from a different, undocumented (and potentially not covered) event, parts or all of your claim could be denied.

Ask Your Mechanic for a Payment Plan 

If you can’t afford to pay your deductible right now but could get the cash together shortly, it could be worthwhile to request a payment plan from your repair shop. Maybe you can split your deductible payment into two, for example. 

Since the insurance company pays the repair shop only for the amount above the deductible, the shop itself may be able to work with you to come up with a plan. However, it’s not guaranteed that every mechanic will allow this. You should also be aware that in many states, mechanics are legally entitled to hold your car until you finish paying for services. 

If your mechanic can offer you a payment plan, just make sure it’s one where the terms work for you. 

Shop Around for a Cheaper Mechanic 

Even if your vehicle’s damage is covered under your collision coverage or comprehensive coverage, if the amount of money owed for repairs is less than your deductible, your car insurance policy won’t cover the repair costs. 

This might sound disappointing at first, but it’s actually an opportunity to save some money. When your insurance company doesn’t have to be involved, you can shop around for a body shop that might be a little cheaper than where you get your first quote. Insurance providers sometimes require that policyholders use an approved mechanic, but you can use any shop if insurance isn’t paying for it. 

You can even combine this method with asking for a payment plan to save money while still getting a little extra time to get the cash together for repairs. 

How to Find Affordable Car Insurance 

Having to pay a deductible out of nowhere can be an unwelcome financial surprise during a time of crisis, like after a car accident. That’s why it’s essential to choose a deductible that you can afford to pay if you’re ever in an accident. Even though it could lower your premiums in the short term, it’s not worth the risk if the deductible amount will cause you hardship. After all, car insurance should make dealing with accidents a little easier—not harder. 

But even filing a claim in the first place can cause your monthly car insurance rates to increase—even if another motorist is at fault in the accident. Starting on the right foot with an affordable monthly car insurance rate and deductible are key to making sure you can afford any expenses that appear down the line. To make sure you’re getting the best rate and right coverage for you, check out different auto insurance quotes with a car insurance comparison tool like Insurify

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Updated September 17, 2020

Mandie Kelleher is a freelance content writer for financial services and personal finance. With a background in financial administration, and teaching, she crafts content that deepens her readers' understanding by making complex topics simple. You can learn more about Mandie by visiting her site, mandiekelleher.com.