You come out of the office after a long day, pull out your keys, and as you go to unlock your vehicle, you stop in your tracks.
Right across the driver’s side door is a big glaring scratch in your pristine paint surface. Your once solid black sedan is tarnished with battle wounds, and now you are wondering what to do next.
The scratch is big and deep enough that a DIY patch won’t do, but the local auto body shop wants a few hundred to repaint and fill a scratch.
Before you assume your auto insurance cannot help you here, you might want to review your policy. Scratches are one of the reasons you buy insurance. Naturally, you expect your insurance to kick in for more substantial expenses, like collisions or theft, but those monthly premiums also go toward a comprehensive policy which may help cover the cost of unseemly scratches.
When Does Car Insurance Cover Scratches?
If you have car insurance, you might have comprehensive coverage. Comprehensive is the catch-all coverage that handles damage to your car outside of a physical collision – including scratches, dings, and dents of an unknown origin.
How Your Vehicle Was Scratched Matters Too
While you have comprehensive policies to cover you in situations like these, how the damage was done matters too. If that scratch came from someone keying your car on purpose or a shopping cart scrapped across the side of your vehicle, you would receive coverage through comprehensive.
However, if there are dents and dings that look as though someone might have struck your vehicle or scraped alongside it in the parking lot, you may need to turn to your collision policy instead.
Likewise, if you were the one behind the scratch, you can file a claim. Perhaps you scraped a mailbox or pole while trying to park, or your vehicle was scratched at the car wash, and you only noticed when you got home – all covered.
File a Police Report if You Suspect Vandalism or a Collision
If someone struck your vehicle but took off, file a police report. Also, if you suspect that the scratch came from vandalism, you need a police report as well, because insurance will ask for the police report information.
What if You Don’t Know How It Happened?
If you are not sure how the scratch happened, you might find yourself facing a few issues with the insurance company. Regardless, you should notify them immediately after you note the scratch and file a claim. Claims adjusters see damage on vehicles daily; therefore, they can look at the scratch and typically determine how it happened.
Is it Worth Filing a Claim?
The real question on most consumer minds is whether it is worth filing a claim for a scratch – and the answer is not so simple.
Instead, it comes down to a few factors like:
How Much is Your Deductible?
Think about the deductible on your policy versus the cost of repairing the scratch. If your deductible is higher, then you would be paying out of pocket regardless, which makes it pointless to file a claim.
Are You Ready for a Potential Increase in Rates?
A minor claim, like a scratch, will not skyrocket your insurance premiums – and if it does, you might need a new insurance company.
However, if this is not your first claim, it may raise your rates more than you are prepared for. Multiple claims, even minor ones, increase your risk for the insurance company. If you tend to park your car in a place where scratches, dings, and dents become a quarterly ordeal, then you are going to see higher premiums at your next renewal.
Note: if your claim involves a non-chargeable claim, then you have nothing to worry about. For example, if someone caused the damage to your vehicle, and your car was parked, and you were not involved in the accident, you would not see an increase in your rates. However, the insurer may request video to determine that someone did strike your car (if video cameras are in the parking lot).
On the other hand, if you tend to bump poles as you squeeze into tight spaces, have children who tend to scratch your doors every time they enter the vehicle, or you are overzealous with shopping carts, you will see a bump in premiums.
Insurance Covers Your Scratches – as Long as You Have the Right Policy
Review your policy and make sure you have comprehensive coverage. Most states do not require it; therefore, if you only use state minimums to insure your vehicle, you probably will not have coverage. Comprehensive is not much to add to your car, and when it comes to keeping your car looking as good as the day you got it, it might be worth it to add.