Even the best drivers can collide with an obstruction that leaves a sizable dent in their car. The route you take to repair the damage varies depending on how the damage occurred and who else was involved.
If you dented the car yourself
Not all collisions involve two cars. You could accidentally run your car into a concrete divider, a tree, a pole, a wall or some other non-vehicular object. In such instances, it’s up to you to decide if you should file an insurance claim or not, because doing so may have ongoing effects on your insurance. “Insurance carriers consider objects in the road avoidable accidents, which makes it an at-fault accident,” explains Emily Delbridge of The Balance. An at-fault collision claim could get you an initial payout to repair your car, but it may affect your car insurance rates — unless you have accident forgiveness, points out Delbridge. Whether you file the claim or not, you still have to resolve damage to the obstruction with the owner of that object or property.
If flying debris damaged the car
If your vehicle received damage from turbulent weather, a leaping deer or debris flying through the air, you would file a different type of claim. “Flying debris is considered unavoidable,” Delbridge explains. “Insurance carriers consider flying debris to be a comprehensive claim.” Comprehensive claims typically have lower deductibles and rate impacts than collision claims, depending on your particular insurance policy.
If someone dented your car
If someone damages your parked car or dents it lightly while in motion, you should exchange insurance and contact information with the perpetrator. Even if the dent doesn’t look severe, there could be underlying damage to the car’s mechanical systems. Then, take the car in for repair estimates. “If the damages are small, you might consider getting quotes as soon as possible from several body shops to determine how much repairs would cost, and then seeing if the other driver would be willing to pay cash out of pocket,” suggest the experts at Value Penguin. “If the repair bill is high, or larger than your deductible, then consider going the insurance route.” If the perpetrator abandoned the scene without leaving their information, it’s best to call and talk to your insurance company to determine your options.
If you dented someone else’s car
If you caused a dent to your own car because you ran into someone else’s car — whether it was moving or parked — then you legally need to resolve the situation with the other driver. Value Penguin recommends the same course of action: Exchange contact and insurance information with the other person and decide if you will pay for their and your damage out-of-pocket or if you will file insurance claims.
To report or not to report
If no other party is involved, it’s up to you to decide: Will you pay out-of-pocket for a body shop to fix the damage or will you report the incident to your insurance company and have them cover restoration costs at an insurance-approved garage? You’ll have to weigh the amount and potential surcharge to your rates to decide if reporting is worth the payout you’d receive to fix your car. Paying out-of-pocket could cost a few hundred or multiple thousands of dollars to repair the dent. On the other hand, your insurance payout might be slim after you paid the deductible and factored in a rate increase if applicable. If you have made multiple claims already, the insurance company may not renew your policy. “Have you already filed an at-fault claim within the past three years? What are the chances of being in another accident?” are questions that Delbridge recommends considering. If the damage is only cosmetic and doesn’t put the structural or operational integrity of the car at risk, you could even leave the dent indefinitely.
If you decide to repair the dent yourself or with your own wallet, make sure you keep a record of the incident and receipt of work performed for your records — since it wouldn’t show up in a vehicle history report.