It’s an inevitable part of owning a car: you park, run your errand or have your lunch, come back…and there’s a fresh new dent on the side of your car. Darn it, time to take it to the body shop. And the funds for the repair need to come out of pocket, since most door dings cost between $60 and $100 to repair, well below most automotive insurance deductibles.
Fortunately, there’s door ding insurance. For between $300 and $600 a year, you can get the ding repaired and not worry about it. But is it worth it? First you have to understand a few things about dings and dents, and how you feel about your car.
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The first one being …do you really care?
Those Dang Dings
Yes, dings and dents are unsightly and can be annoying. But in most cases, they’re not a serious repair problem. Your car will work just fine, it just won’t be quite as pretty as it was. If it doesn’t bother you, it might not be worth the money. That said, if the paint is scratched, you should probably consider having the paint repaired, because paint resists rust and other problems that can wreck your car. And, of course, if you want to sell the car, you’ll probably want to make it as attractive as possible.
On the other hand, small dings don’t even need to go to the body shop. You can literally fix small dings for under ten bucks:
Yep, if the metal isn’t creased or otherwise damaged, all you need to do is apply something very cold to the dent, and the metal will contract, popping it right out. You can do this with dry ice, a computer air duster held upside down, or anything else extremely cold.
If you decide not to do it yourself, and want to take it to the body shop, how much is it going to cost you? Between $60 and $110 for a one-inch dent, with $25 to $50 added for every half inch. In other words, for a three-inch dent, $260 if you’re really, really lucky, and $510 if you’re not.
Before you ask, yes, it pays to shop around on this; there are dozens of dent repair shops.
But different techniques have different costs, and different levels of effectiveness.
For example, PDR, Paintless Dent Repair, is currently the most common dent technique because it’s both much cheaper and simpler than other bodywork techniques, like filling the dent with Bondo, sanding and painting, or taking off the door panel and literally hammering the dent out. With PDR, you use a specialized set of tools to essentially pop the dent out from the inside, which also has the advantage of allowing you to fix creases in the metal.
Although you can buy these tools online for less than the cost of a professional doing it, you can also easily mess it up; one slip and you can actually break the paint. Contact your car insurance company and see what types of coveragewill cover common dings and dents.
But How Common Are Dings and Dents?
It’s difficult to get statistics on door dings, because people rarely report want to report a claim to their insurance companies, especially if their deductible is higher than the cost of repairing the ding. What we do know is that, like it or not, they’re pretty common; even the most careful and respectful driver can get one at, say, the mall if they park next to the wrong car at the wrong time. And they’re repaired often enough that for many body shops, they’re what’s keeping the lights on.
So basically, getting a ding is inevitable, although there are things you can do to lower your chances.
But, out of the huge pool of drivers, who should think about it?
Basically, people who really hate dings and dents, and people who need or want to keep their car absolutely pristine. For example, if you own a 1998 Taurus and drive that for errands and the like, but keep a finely tuned and maintained Barracuda in the garage that you take to shows and parades, you probably don’t want to pay $400 to cover the Taurus, while for the ‘Cuda, it’s worth every penny. Or perhaps you’re a salesman and want to maintain a specific image, and dings don’t fit in with that. Or maybe you’re just OCD and really, really hate dents.
So, you want the best car insurance…but what do you have to do to get it?
Spot Inspection, Literally
Essentially, get your car inspected by the insurance company’s professional. Before you do this, though, you’ll probably want to get your car professionally cleaned, as dirt can be mistaken for a scratch, and repainted, to reduce the number of scratches. This will help with low car insurance and make filing claims easier.
Then you’ll need to follow the inspector and take photographs of every possible flaw on the body: they’re only going to pay out for damage that incurs after you have the policy. After you sign off on the inspection, you have a policy and don’t have to worry.
The Best Cure Is Prevention
That said, even if you don’t care about dings, you can still keep them limited (and keep any possible resale problems later on to a minimum) by doing the following.
- Park politely: don’t hem in the cars on either side of you if at all possible. Many door dings are caused by people trying to squeeze into their cars after somebody parks too close to them in a garage.
- Avoid parking next to people, if all possible. It probably isn’t, but it’s worth trying to limit the possibility of getting tagged by someone else’s door.
- Don’t inflict dings yourself. Open your door carefully and respect the other drivers around you; we have no statistics on how many dings are inflicted out of vengeance, but consider how furious people get about, well, anything.
- Whatever you do, don’t do this:
Seriously, doing this is just begging for trouble. Like, say, for example, a towing, which can do a lot more damage to your car than a door ding ever could.
Try to avoid gravel and roads covered in rocks: they can ding the heck out of your car, and are likely to scratch the paint. Keep an eye on weather reports and get your car under cover, especially if hail might be in the offing.
In short, ding and dent car insurance is worth it if you get a lot of dings, really hate dings, or are excessively protective of your car. Just remember that courtesy will get you just as far as a good policy.