At Great Plains Auto Body Shop Omaha & Council Bluffs, we get accident damaged cars into out body shop every day. The damages range from minor scrapes and hail damage, to obviously totaled cars. Most of the time our customers simply file an insurance claim and get the repairs done. While that is certainly an option, there is another option for paying for auto body repairs, a term we call “self-pay” or “Out of Pocket” payments.
That is a question faced by countless drivers every day and the answer is not always so straightforward. The short of it is yes, there are situations where it is ok, and even more beneficial, to not call your insurance company after damaging your car.
Bumping into a pole, your kid’s baseball putting a dent in the side: these are situations that cause some damage, but nothing that’s too expensive to fix. Damage you inflict to your own car is always handled through your collision or comprehensive insurance. Both coverages come with deductibles that usually range from $50 all the way up to $2,000. If you estimate the damage inflicted to your car to be below your deductible, or even slightly above it, you should just handle the repairs out of pocket. If the damages are $300, but the deductible is $200, you would save $100 by filing a claim, but your company may decide to raise your rates, costing you more money in the long run.
The only thing we would advise in this situation is to make sure your estimate of the damage is accurate. Insurance companies expect claims to be submitted in a timely manner.
In an accident with no more than two drivers where neither is injured and the damage minimal, you can both agree to not call the insurance company. The benefits of not calling your insurance company are the same as in the situation above. Admittedly however, it is a bit trickier with an extra driver. We would advise you only do this if you trust the other driver.
The reason being, the other driver can at any time renege on their agreement to not involve the insurance companies. It may not be wholeheartedly , but say the damage to their car turns out to be more costly than originally thought, or their neck starts to hurt a few hours later. The intent could be malicious as well, where they try to take advantage of the agreement by blaming you for damage to their car you didn’t even cause.
It will be disadvantageous if it comes down to them having their insurance company behind them, and you by yourself. So, unless you know or really trust the other driver, we would not recommend you not call your insurance company even in the most minor of two car accidents. If the other driver is trustworthy however, then this situation would be ok.
If another driver involved in your accident is injured, even if its minor, it needs to be reported. Medical expenses are costly no matter where you go in the U.S. If they need to get themselves checked out due to injury, most likely they will come after you to pay the bills.
How much you need to pay depends on how much at fault you were, and that depends on which state you live in.
Whether it’s a one or multi-car accident, if the damage is large, you must report it. Your car may even be relatively unscathed but if you caused a lot of damage, you need to report it as well. Odds are, in such a large accident, even if no one is injured, someone is going to seek recompense from you. You will want your insurance company on your side for the same reasons you want them if someone else was injured. Your insurer doesn’t want to pay out such a large claim either, so they’re going to use their resources to fight and reduce your exposure.
In most cases, collision repair comes with a deductible payment. Each policy is different, but, generally speaking, most deductibles are in the $500- $1,000 range. The more you pay in deductible, the less your monthly insurance rate is, but you pay the price in the event of an accident. First, check with the insurance company to verify what your deductible is. Compare this to the price of the repair. Let’s say for example that you did $970 worth of damage to your car. If you have a $1,000 deductible, then the answer is obvious- pay for the auto body repair out of pocket.
But what if you have a $500 deductible? Certainly you could get your car fixed for just $500, with the insurance company paying the remaining $470. However, a collision repair reported on your insurance is almost certain to raise your rates.
If your rates go up because you filed a claim, you could be paying that difference in the repair over a long period of time. If you live in am at-fault state, or even pick up a point on your driver’s license as a result of the accident (assuming you were cited for doing something illegal which caused the accident), you could be paying $300-$500 a year extra for three or more years. Most insurance companies count accidents against you in your rate for three to five years. Allstate Insurance says just one point on your driving record could equate to a $400 increase in premiums.
Not all auto body repair shops in Omaha have discounts and specials, but some do, and there is sometimes room for negotiation in a self-pay situation. When a repair is being performed and paid for by the insurance company, the repair, the shop rates, and the parts used are all influenced and sometimes dictated by the insurance company. But when you are dealing directly with your repair shop, and paying the whole repair bill, the shop might have more options available to them, and can get more creative in helping to fit your repair budget.
If your car is old, has other damages, or failing, rusty, or faded auto bodywork, the collision repair might not be worth the money. If the damage does not affect the safe operation of the car and is merely cosmetic, like say a large crease, or a big dent in the bumper corner, you might be able to live with the car as is, even though it is unsightly. There are no laws about the condition of your car, only the safety of its construction.
Obviously, if your car was damaged and you are not at fault, the other insurance company should pay to repair your car to pre-accident condition. In this case, you should not be out any money and not even your deductible however certain situations can vary. If you are in an accident in a no-fault state, you might have to pay a deductible because the laws do not assign guilt or fault to an accident. Here again, consider striking a deal with your repair shop as a self-pay before you process a claim.
At Great Plains Auto Body shop Omaha and Council Bluffs, we’re committed to giving you an unmatched level of service. As a company that’s been family owned and operated for more than 25 years, we’re dedicated to treating our customers as we would treat members of our own family. We’ll keep you informed throughout the entire repair process and make sure you’re satisfied when the job is complete. From estimating and detailing to collision repair and paint services, our ASE-certified mechanics and technicians make sure the job is done right and on time.