When Does Car Insurance Cover Repairs?

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Car insurance will pay for car repairs after a car accident. It may also pay to repair damage after events like theft or a hailstorm, if comprehensive coverage is included in your policy. However, car insurance won't cover routine car maintenance or ongoing repairs.

For example, if a transmission is damaged in a car accident, car insurance would pay for the repairs. But if a transmission needs to be replaced because it's old, you would have to pay for it yourself or get mechanical breakdown insurance or an extended warranty.

What repairs will car insurance cover?

Your auto insurance policy only covers repairs after a car accident or event. The type of coverage that applies is based on who caused the accident.

  • A minimum coverage policy (also called liability coverage) will pay to repair a car that you damaged in an accident. It also works in reverse, and if another driver crashes into you, their liability insurance will pay to repair your car.
  • A full coverage policy includes liability coverage as well as additional coverage to pay for damage to your car. It includes collision insurance to pay for your car repairs after you cause an accident. It also includes comprehensive coverage to pay for repairs after events such as vandalism, fire or a fallen tree limb.

Full coverage costs more than minimum coverage, but it's usually worth it if you have a car that's worth more than $5,000.

Auto repair insurance covers mechanical breakdowns

Car repair insurance, also called mechanical breakdown insurance (MBI), can be used instead of your standard car insurance policy to help pay for some car repairs.

This coverage usually pays for major mechanical issues such as a new transmission or timing belt. However, you'll still have to pay for normal wear-and-tear items, such as replacing windshield wipers, brake pads or spark plugs.

Auto repair coverage is available if you:

  • Add mechanical breakdown insurance through your car insurance company
  • Get a vehicle service contract from a third-party company
  • Get a manufacturer warranty from the dealer when you buy a car

Some car warranties will only cover certain parts of the car, such as the powertrain. A bumper-to-bumper warranty will cover more types of repairs.

Additional coverage to help when your car breaks down

You can also purchase two optional car insurance policy add-ons to cover other costs related to car repairs.

  • Roadside assistance can pay for some repairs when you're stuck on the road, including changing a flat tire, jump-starting a dead battery or getting a tow truck.
  • Rental car reimbursement insurance is an optional coverage that helps pay for the cost of a rental vehicle when your car is being fixed after an accident or another covered event. Often, there are per-accident, per-day and maximum days limits (such as $600 per accident, $20 per day and 30 days maximum).

What to do after a car accident

After a car wreck, immediately contact:

  • 911 emergency services if anyone is injured
  • Local police if other cars or property are involved
  • Your insurer to report a claim

Calling your car insurance company starts the claims process, which helps you get your reimbursement check. Make this call as soon as is reasonable to avoid delays.

An insurance claims adjuster will be assigned to your case, and they will likely be your main point of contact throughout the claim resolution and repair process. This person will:

  • Expect you to answer questions honestly and with as much detail as possible
  • Collect statements from witnesses
  • Use the police report to determine who caused the accident
  • Review medical reports
  • Inspect all vehicles involved
  • Provide a damage repair estimate

Who pays to fix your vehicle

The insurance of the person who caused the accident would pay for the damage.

If you caused the car accident, your liability coverage would pay to repair the other car. It would also pay to repair your car, after a deductible, if you have collision coverage.

If the other driver is at fault, you can file a claim with their insurance provider to pay for repairs to your car.

Depending on the insurance company, the claims process can take several weeks. After filing a claim, it can help to regularly check with the claims adjuster about the status of your reimbursement check.

If the damage is minimal (typically below $1,000), no injuries happened and no other personal property or vehicles were involved, you could always opt to pay for the repairs yourself without filing a claim.

Filing an insurance claim can raise your rates in the future because insurers would view you as riskier to insure.

Choosing an auto repair shop

You can legally choose any repair shop you want. But the insurance company will only pay a certain amount to fix your car.

If your mechanic quotes you a higher price for the repairs than the car insurance company will pay, you might have to pay the difference.

Insurance companies also have a network of repair shops where they'll cover the full cost of the repairs. They may also guarantee the repairs if you use one of these shops.

If you use one of these mechanics, you won't be stuck with additional costs if the repair is more extensive than expected. And if your car doesn't work properly after its repairs, you can bring your car back to the mechanic without having to pay.

How to choose a good repair shop

  • Ask friends and relatives about shops they trust.
  • Give a copy of your insurer's estimate to the shop, and be sure it can and will complete all the work listed on the estimate.
  • Get a detailed price estimate in writing.
  • Make sure your insurer approves the estimate.
  • Ask if there's a lifetime warranty on the repairs, which can indicate a trustworthy company.

Frequently asked questions

Does car insurance cover mechanical problems?

No, car insurance policies only cover repairs after a car accident or an event such as vandalism or a tree falling on your car. You can buy separate coverage called mechanical breakdown insurance, which would pay for issues like replacing an old transmission. However, this is not the standard type of car insurance that most people have.

How much will my insurance pay after an accident?

After an accident, an insurance assessor will estimate the amount of damage that occurred, and they will pay that amount. However, insurance companies will only pay up to the policy limit that you chose when you bought the policy. For example, a property damage liability limit of $10,000 means your policy could pay up to $10,000 for damage to other cars if you cause an accident.

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