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Edited by Jackie Cohen
Last Updated June 15, 2022
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The aftermath of an accident is always a series of headaches. Let’s simplify one aspect: collision repair. If you need bodywork after a collision, you’ll have some decisions to make, like whether to make an insurance claim to pay for the car repair and which auto body shop to use for the job.
We’ll talk through these decisions step by step, along with what to expect for repair costs depending on your type of car and the severity of the damage. A car accident presents an important opportunity to reassess your car insurance situation, especially if your insurance company raises your rates after a claim. Compare car insurance quotes for free today.
- Auto body repair costs range widely depending on the severity of the damage and your vehicle but can get expensive quickly.
- Only file a claim with your insurance company if the repair costs significantly exceed your deductible.
- Vet your auto body repair shops carefully before choosing one with a great reputation that gives you the best estimate.
Will my auto insurance cover the damage?
Will my car insurance cover the cost of minor auto body repairs?
Depending on the type of coverage you have, your car insurance may or may not help you cover the cost of different repairs. Full coverage insurance is the most likely to help you cover costs of these repairs.
First of all, your insurance policy might not cover the repair costs for your car. It depends on your answer to this question. “Do you have comprehensive and collision insurance?” If so, whoever is at fault in the accident, or whatever you hit, your insurance company will cover the cost of repairs after you pay your deductible.
If you don’t have comprehensive insurance or collision insurance and the car accident was your fault, you’ll pay the cost of repairs out of pocket. At least you won’t have to agonize over whether to make an insurance claim and risk increasing your insurance premium.
If the accident is not your fault, you’ll have to contact the insurance provider of the person at fault to get reimbursed for the repair costs. Take extensive documentation of the damage, and save all your receipts and invoices, including if you have to rent a car while your vehicle repairs are being done.
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Common Collision Repair Costs
So what can you expect to pay for different types of damage? That’s a hard question to answer with generalities. Vehicle repair costs vary depending on the type of vehicle in question and the severity of the damage. So with a luxury car, you’ll be on the high end of these ranges, while older, cheaper cars can expect to pay lower repair costs.
If it’s only a small crack, a windshield repair can cost you less than $100. The average cost of a windshield replacement is usually several hundred dollars. That depends on whether you need specialized glass, which could put you into the $1,000+ range.
Fender and Bumper Repair
More than most bodywork, the cost of this repair will depend on the extent of the damage. A few dings on your fender or bumper will cost you between $200 and $600 in general, but front or rear bumper or fender replacement is probably going to exceed $1,000 in overall costs and could be close to $2,000.
Your repair costs will be especially inflated if your car has sophisticated sensor and camera technology that gets damaged inside the frame. Those electrical systems and computers can be pricey to fix.
Suspension and Alignment
A ding on your car might result in a few paint scratches that look pretty harmless at first glance. But the real danger is that the shock to your car’s body has damaged the frame, shock absorbers, alignment, or suspension. This is when some pretty high repair costs come into play, and you’ll want to think carefully about involving your insurance company.
If you’re only repairing your car’s body rather than replacing parts, a body shop might be able to use a repair process called paintless dent repair to smooth out dents without requiring touch-ups to your paint job. But often, you’ll need some paint in addition to almost any collision repair.
If you have an older car and a few paint scratches don’t bother you, it might be worth your while to just let them be. New paint jobs can be costly, at least a few hundred dollars just for the most basic. If your car is a victim of significant vandalism and requires a brand-new paint job, you’d better have comprehensive insurance because that could cost several thousand dollars.
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Should you file a claim with your insurance company?
After you’ve been in a car accident, you have the choice of whether to file a claim with your insurance company to try to get help paying for the repair costs. After all, that’s what insurance is for.
But there’s a trade-off here you have to take into account: once you make an insurance claim for repairs, you’ll probably see your insurance premium go up. So the repair costs have to be worth your while. Here’s how to think about this decision.
Check Your Policy
If you don’t know the deductible for your comprehensive coverage and collision coverage on your insurance policy, check with your insurance agent, your mobile app, or your policy documents. Your deductible is probably either $500 or $1,000. If you make an insurance claim, you’ll pay your deductible out of pocket before the reimbursement kicks in.
Compare Your Deductible and Repair Estimate
Let’s say your deductible is $500 and the best cost estimate you get from a body shop is $700. That’s a situation where you likely want to forgo an insurance claim and pay the whole bill out of pocket because the increase on your insurance premium will quickly eclipse the mere $200 the insurance company will pay to help out.
On the other hand, a $1,000 repair on a $500 deductible is more of a personal choice. If your repairs are $2,000 or more, it’s a no-brainer to file an insurance claim. If you’re unsure, you can also consult with your insurance agent about what to do.
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Finding the Best Auto Body Repair Shop for the Job
Here are some things to keep in mind when you’re looking for an auto body shop to take on your vehicle repairs.
Call a few places for a cost estimate on the collision repair. Just like shopping for car insurance, you don’t want to take the first offer you’re given. Shop around because the same job won’t always cost the same at every body shop.
Ask for details about the repair process, including the cost of parts, estimated labor costs, and labor rates. This will help you sort out what makes the cost of repair different at different places. Some car repair shops will have access to cheaper parts or sell aftermarket parts you may or may not want. Labor costs will also vary.
If you use a dealership, do your homework first. Dealerships can save money sometimes with better access to parts, but they also might have high labor costs and be required to perform repairs that are unnecessary.
Check each body shop for certifications and online reviews. You want to know what people have to say about the auto body shop you want to work with and if it has bona fides you can count on.
The best referral is by word of mouth. Ask your friends, neighbors, and coworkers where they’ve had bodywork done in the area. They can tell you things that the internet won’t, and you might hear about a place you don’t find with a web search.
If your insurance company is paying, check if they have a network of approved repair shops. You might get discounts for using them, or you’ll only be covered at an approved car repair shop or dealership.
If your vehicle has a warranty, think twice before you void it. If you use aftermarket parts on your car body for repairs, you might void the warranty on your car. If you’re worried about this, a dealership might be the way to go.
Frequently Asked Questions
If you have a full coverage car insurance policy with comprehensive coverage and collision coverage, it covers car repairs from any type of car accident. If you only have liability insurance, you won’t be covered if you’re the person at fault, and if you’re not at fault, then the person at fault will pay with their insurance if they’re covered.
This depends on the cost of the repair in question and what your deductible is. If the deductible and cost estimate are at all similar, it’s probably best to take the hit and forgo the insurance claim so you don’t give the insurance company an opportunity to raise your rates. But if it’s a costly repair, file an insurance claim. Otherwise, there’s no point in having a policy.
Word of mouth is the best way to find a trustworthy repair shop, but online reviews help, too. Ask multiple car repair shops for a cost estimate on the job, with details on labor costs, rates, parts, and when they think they can get the job done. Just like with insurance, comparison-shopping is key.
Generally, yes. If you’re not at fault in the car accident, some states prohibit insurance companies from raising your rates when you make an insurance claim. But this isn’t always the case. You’ll want to weigh the repair costs, your deductible, and the cost of a potential insurance increase when you decide to make a claim or not. Your insurance agent can help with this.
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