No one plans on getting into a car accident. If you have car insurance, your policy can cover many expenses. However, you’re still responsible for paying the deductible. But what happens if you’re in an accident and can’t pay your deductible? Luckily, you have a few options.

A car insurance deductible plays a factor in your monthly premiums. Before selecting a policy and choosing your deductible amount, compare coverage options with Insurify. Comparing car insurance quotes with Insurify is a quick and straightforward way to save on car insurance costs.

Quick Facts

  • The most common car insurance deductible is $500.

  • Liability insurance coverage doesn’t usually require a deductible.

  • Payment plans and other options might be available if you can’t pay your deductible.

How does a car insurance deductible work?

What happens if I can’t pay my deductible right away?

In order to get repairs started right away, you’ll need to find a way to pay down your deductible upfront.

An auto insurance deductible is how much you pay out of pocket before the insurance company kicks in. Because it transfers some financial responsibility to you as the policyholder, higher deductibles typically mean lower premiums. When setting up your car insurance policy, you must choose your deductible amount.

But how does it work? Let’s look at an example. Suppose you bought an auto insurance policy and chose a $500 deductible. If you’re in a car accident and file an insurance claim, you’ll contact your insurance agent and possibly meet with an adjuster. Then, you must pay $500 of the total cost of the claim before the insurance company can process it and cover the rest.

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What kind of auto insurance requires a deductible?

Most types of insurance require a deductible, from medical and dental insurance to car insurance. Car insurance policies can have more than one deductible, depending on the policy type and coverages you buy. For example, your comprehensive coverage might have a different deductible than your collision coverage has.

Liability coverage: This driver’s insurance doesn’t use a deductible, but most states require drivers to buy a minimum amount of liability insurance. It covers property damage and injuries someone may have in an accident.

Collision insurance: This coverage requires a deductible. It covers damages to your vehicle that happens from colliding with another car. Collision is often expensive coverage, and choosing a higher collision deductible can usually lower the cost.

Comprehensive insurance: This insurance covers damage from things other than a collision, such as fire, vandalism, severe weather, and animals, and it requires a deductible. Because it generally comes at a lower cost than comprehensive coverage, you can often choose a deductible as low as $50.

Collision Coverage + Comprehensive Coverage = Full-Coverage Car Insurance

Even though auto insurance generally requires a deductible, you can often choose the deductible amount for each type. The most common deductible is $500. Other common amounts are $250, $1,000, and $2,000. However, Massachusetts policyholders can choose a deductible of up to $8,000.

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How long can you wait to pay your deductible?

You must pay your deductible every time you make a claim on your car insurance. The deductible amount is set when you purchase your policy. It’s crucial to select an amount you can comfortably afford—accidents often happen when we least expect them.

So, how long do you have to pay your insurance deductible? It depends. Typically, you must pay your deductible up front before the insurance company will authorize repairs. Sometimes, the insurance provider will subtract the deductible from the claim payout. When this happens, the insurance will pay the body shop directly, and you must pay the deductible to the repair shop.

For example, suppose you had a $500 deductible, and your insurance claim was for $2,000 in car repairs. The insurance company will pay the mechanic $1,500 for the cost of repairs, and you pay the mechanic the remaining $500.

How long you can wait to pay your deductible depends on the insurance company. However, the repair shop may allow you to set up a payment plan to buy some time until you can cover the cost.

If You’re Unable to Pay Your Deductible

The deductible you choose for your auto insurance should be an amount of money that’s easy for you to cover. However, life doesn’t always go as planned. If you cannot pay your auto insurance deductible, here’s what to do.

Ask the Repair Shop about a Payment Plan

You may be able to negotiate with your mechanic to pay less or waive your deductible altogether. In this case, the repair shop would accept the insurance company payout as full payment, effectively giving you a discount.

Tap into Your Emergency Fund

Paying the car insurance deductible is precisely the type of expense an emergency fund is designed to cover. Financial experts recommend having three to six months’ worth of expenses set aside in an emergency savings account. If you don’t have enough, now is the time to start building your fund. Even $50 per month can add up over time.

Keep Driving Your Car

Many accidents cause cosmetic damage only, leaving your car safe to drive. You may not need to fix your vehicle right away and may not file a claim at all. It might be worth saving yourself from paying the deductible, especially if you can’t afford the expense.

Wait to File a Claim

You can also wait to file a claim with your insurance company. This is an excellent option if you are between paychecks or will receive a payout soon. You may have to get a rental car or ask for help with transportation if your car is not drivable. However, if your vehicle was towed or is already at the repair garage, ask how long it can be stored and if there are any fees involved.

Ask about a Deductible Waiver

Your policy may have a vanishing deductible or waiver built-in. In that case, you may not have to pay your deductible at all. If another driver hits you and you are not at fault, your auto insurance company may waive your deductible. But if you’re at fault in an accident, you may not have the option. No-deductible car insurance exists but can be very expensive.

Take Out a Loan

A personal loan is another option. If you can’t live without your car and need it repaired quickly, you can use your credit card or take out a loan from a bank to cover the deductible. It can help bridge the gap if you can’t afford to pay the deductible and aren’t expecting an influx of cash anytime soon.

Remember that credit cards and personal loans tend to have high-interest rates, so compare lenders before you borrow.

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Can you lower your deductible before filing a claim?

Lowering your deductible before filing a claim seems like a simple solution. Most car insurance companies let you change the deductible at any time, often with a quick phone call or email.

However, changing your deductible amount after the car accident won’t help the current situation. If you’re honest about the date of the loss, your old higher deductible will apply. Having a lower deductible can offer relief for future accidents, and your future self might appreciate the savings.

Can you make payments on your deductible?

You can’t typically make payments on your deductible. However, a few exceptions exist. For example, the repair shop that handled your repairs may allow you to set up installments if you can’t afford to pay your deductible. You can also take out a personal loan to cover the deductible and make payments back to the bank until it’s paid in full.

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How to Choose a Deductible You Can Afford

The deductible you choose is a personal decision, and high-deductible car insurance isn’t right for everyone. Consider your finances and savings balances to know how much you can afford to pay. You have other options besides raising your deductible if you’re trying to save money.

If you’re in an accident, you’re already dealing with considerable stress. The last thing you want to do is add more pressure and worry by not having the cash on hand to cover your deductible. Shop around to make a car insurance comparison and get better car insurance rates. Ask about discounts to lower your costs even more.

Frequently Asked Questions

  • Car insurance deductibles can be a significant burden on your wallet. At-fault drivers don’t usually have the option of not paying it. But if you’re not at fault for the accident, your car insurance company may waive the deductible.

  • Yes. Car insurance deductibles are one of many factors influencing auto insurance quotes. High-deductible car insurance transfers more responsibility to you, and the insurance company rewards you with lower premiums. On the other hand, lower deductibles translate into higher auto insurance costs.

  • Not usually. But you may be able to negotiate a monthly payment plan with the mechanic who did the repairs on your vehicle. You can also take out a personal loan or use a credit card to cover the costs and make payments until the balance is paid.

  • It depends. Some insurance companies won’t process the claim until you can pay the deductible. Other times, you may not have to cover the cost until repairs are completed, which can take days, weeks, or months after you make a claim.

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  • Data scientists at Insurify analyzed more than 40 million real-time auto insurance rates from our partner providers across the United States to compile the car insurance quotes, statistics, and data visualizations displayed on this page. The car insurance data includes coverage analysis and details on drivers' vehicles, driving records, and demographic information. Quotes for Allstate, Farmers, GEICO, State Farm, and USAA are estimates based on Quadrant Information Service's database of auto insurance rates. With these insights, Insurify is able to offer drivers insight into how companies price their car insurance premiums.

Amy Beardsley
Amy BeardsleyInsurance Writer

Amy is a personal finance and technology writer. With a background in the legal field and a bachelor's degree from Ferris State University, she has a talent for transforming complex topics into content that’s easy to understand. Connect with Amy on LinkedIn.