Car Repair Insurance: How to Repair Your Car After a Crash

Car Repair Insurance: How to Repair Your Car After a Crash

Find Cheap Auto Insurance Quotes in Your Area

Currently insured?

Whether you're involved in a minor fender bender or your car gets totaled, you need to know what your insurance covers and how much it will cost you. Having the right coverage — comprehensive and collision — from a reputable insurance company will help get your car repaired quickly and correctly.

The types of coverage that pay for your car repairs

Collision, comprehensive and rental car reimbursement insurance cover your car while it's being repaired by a body shop after an accident.

Collision and comprehensive are optional coverages that increase the cost of your insurance premium. The benefit is that they pay for repairs to your vehicle after an accident. These protections carry a deductible — usually $250, $500 or $1,000. The lower your deductible, the higher your premiums will be, but the less you'll be responsible for paying out of pocket if you file a claim.

In the event of a total loss, your insurer will pay out your claim up to your car's actual cash value (ACV), which is your car's original purchase price minus depreciation. These coverages aren't required by law but may be required by your leasing or finance company.

  • Collision insurance pays for car repairs or replacement after an accident with another vehicle or a stationary object. Insurers generally require you to have comprehensive coverage before adding collision insurance.
  • Comprehensive insurance covers damages to your vehicle not caused by a collision. This includes theft, vandalism, fire, falling objects, severe storms and natural disasters, hitting an animal and acts of God or nature that may be out of your control when driving. You're typically reimbursed the ACV amount minus your deductible if your vehicle needs to be replaced.
  • Rental car reimbursement insurance is an optional coverage that helps pay for the cost of a rental vehicle while your car is being fixed. Often, there's per-accident, per-day and maximum days limits (such as $600 per accident, $20 per day and 30 days maximum). It can cost less than $10 per day.

Having both comprehensive and collision is considered "full coverage." Whether they're worth the cost depends on the value of your car. If you have a newer model, it's worthwhile to get full coverage because the amount you stand to lose is higher if your car gets totaled.

These coverages are different from liability insurance, which covers damages to another person's car or property, bodily injuries or death that result from an accident you caused. Drivers in almost every state are required by law to have this coverage, although minimum required limits vary.

What to do after an accident

Following a 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

"Insurance should get involved right away," says Nicholas Cronauer, attorney with Illinois-based Charles E. Cronauer & Associates. "The insurance companies generally assess who is at fault between themselves, based upon their insured's statement and the police report."

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

  • Expect you to answer questions honestly and with as much detail as possible
  • Collect statements from witnesses
  • Examine the accident details
  • Review medical reports
  • Inspect all vehicles involved
  • Provide a damage repair estimate

Who pays to fix your vehicle

If you're at fault for an accident, your insurer will cover your repairs after you pay your deductible. If the other driver is at fault, you can file a claim with their insurance provider.

If the other driver's insurance company isn't cooperative or responsive, you can opt to have your insurer pay for your repairs (minus your deductible).

In this event, your insurer will seek compensation (including reimbursement of your deductible) from the other carrier through inter-company arbitration or a process called subrogation. If there's a dispute over who's at fault, the insurers can sue each other in court.

Kathy Wertheim, a driver in Ventura, Calif., says it's important to be persistent with your adjuster after filing a claim. "Don't assume they know what's going on. Call them every few days, and contact your normal insurance agent, too," says Wertheim, who had to wait several weeks to receive her reimbursement check following an accident involving her 2007 Prius, which was deemed unrepairable.

If the damages are minimal (typically below $1,000), no injuries occurred and no other personal property/vehicles were involved, you can always opt to pay for the repairs yourself without filing a claim. Filing a claim can raise your auto insurance quotes in the future because insurers would view you as riskier to insure.

Choosing an auto repair shop

You have the right to decide where to have your car fixed. But if the estimate from your insurer's recommended shop is lower than a quote you get from another garage, you might have to pay the difference.

The advantage of going with an insurer-recommended repair facility is that the insurer "has an established relationship with that company, is familiar with their work and can trust them," says Bob Passmore, department vice president of personal lines for the Property Casualty Insurers Association of America. "But you should always be comfortable with whomever you choose for the repairs."

Some insurers also offer a repair guarantee if you choose a repair shop in their preferred network.

Consider these tips when choosing a repair facility:

  • Ask friends and relatives about shops they trust.
  • Give a copy of your insurer's estimate to the shop, and be sure they can/will complete all the work indicated on the estimate.
  • Have the shop provide a detailed price estimate in writing, and make sure your insurer approves the estimate.
  • Try to get a lifetime warranty on the repairs, which can indicate a trustworthy company.

Editorial Note: The content of this article is based on the author’s opinions and recommendations alone. It has not been previewed, commissioned or otherwise endorsed by any of our network partners.