Can I claim a scratch on my car insurance? (Rate Increases + Repair Costs)

You can file a car insurance claim for scratches if the repair cost is more than your deductible. Before you file a car insurance claim for scratches, ask if the claim will raise your rates.

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Zaneta Wood, Ed.S. has over 15 years of experience in research and technical writing bringing a keen understanding of data analysis and information synthesis to reach a wide variety of audiences. She studied adult education and instructional technology at Appalachian State...

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Reviewed byJoel Ohman
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UPDATED: Jul 8, 2020

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Here's what you should know...

  • Filing a claim can lead to increased premiums, so you should consider whether or not the damage is worth the increase
  • Many car scratches are classified as not chargeable and filing a claim for them will not raise your premiums
  • Your decision may hinge on how high your deductible is
  • Talking to your insurance company is the best way to determine whether a scratch is worth filing a claim over

If your car has recently been keyed, you scraped a pole in a parking lot, or a runaway cart dinged your bumper, you’ve probably wondered, “Can I claim a scratch on my car insurance?” Does insurance pay for scratches on my car?

We don’t blame you for wanting to file a car insurance claim for the scratch or dent. However, there are factors you should consider before fixing the scratch, like how high your deductible is, how bad the actual damage is, and how it was caused.

If your car has been scratched or dented, keep reading. We’ll tell you everything you need to know about getting this taken care of, including how to file a claim with your car insurance company.

While you’re here, check out our free car insurance comparison tool above. Just enter your ZIP code to compare cheap car insurance rates instantly.

What should you do when your car gets scratched?

Does car insurance cover scratches and dents, and should I report a scratch on my car to my insurance company?

This is why you pay for car insurance, right? Well, you certainly can file a claim for a scratch, knowing when to file a car insurance claim and when to keep quiet can save you money here. Filing a claim can lead to a hike in your rates that increases your monthly premium.

While the rate increase is understandable when you have a catastrophic at-fault loss, filing a claim for minor damage may end up becoming an expensive mistake.

If you decide to move ahead, how do you claim insurance for damage? Call your insurance company. Take pictures of all of the damage, search for witnesses, and try to determine how the scratch happened. If another vehicle hit your car, make sure to get the driver’s contact and insurance information.

Whether or not filing the claim is wise will depend on the following:

If you have a scratch on your paint and you’re tempted to file a claim, think it over before you call a claims adjuster.

Picking up the phone, reporting a loss, and then accepting the payment of a claim can lead to rate surcharges and a loss of some of the best discounts in the marketplace.

However, there are some circumstances in which a scratch claim will not lead to a rate increase. Keep reading, we’re going to cover those circumstances so you can make an informed decision.

Someone scratched my car and drove off, what do I do? If you know that someone scratched your car on purpose — and you have proof — you may want to consider filing a lawsuit in small claims court. Check out the video below, which shows a vandal who keyed a Tesla she didn’t realize was equipped with its own cameras.

Even if you don’t have a Tesla, you can check businesses nearby for any CCTV footage that might have captured the incident. You’ll also need to call the police when you first notice the damage and file a report if you’re going to file an insurance claim.

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How does the cause of the scratch affect your car insurance claim?

Before you decide whether or not you should file that scratch claim, the first thing you need to know is how the cause of the damage will affect the repercussions for you.

So, should you make the claim? Take a look at this short video.

FindLaw notes that you must file a claim if the accident involved a death, any injury that required medical attention on the scene or at the hospital, or if any vehicle involved had to be towed away.

Some claims are chargeable, meaning they will affect your insurance rates in the future. Chargeable claims are those made for incidents in which you were considered primarily at fault. Other claims are not chargeable, meaning they will not affect your car insurance rates or your eligibility for claims-free discounts in the future. These are claims made for incidents that were not your fault.

The table below shows some common causes of paint scratches, what coverage you need to carry for compensation, and whether or not the typical insurer would deem the loss chargeable.

Damage Claims Affects on Car Insurance Rates
Cause of DamageCoverage RequiredChargeable?Considerations
VandalismComprehensiveNoIf the cost to repair the damage is less than or not much over your deductible, skip insurance and pay for the repair yourself.
A Cart in a Parking LotComprehensiveNo (if vehicle was parked)Insurance company may request video to determine fault.
Fallen Tree or BranchesComprehensiveNoIf you know a big storm is coming, be careful about where you park.
Highway DebrisComprehensiveNoTry to get a license plate number if debris flew off another vehicle.
Car AccidentCollisionYes; you are at fault if you caused the accident. Your rates will increase.Consider the cost of the damage and your deductible and increased rates. If you will pay more in the long run by filing a claim for minor damage, paying out of pocket may be the better option. If you are less than 50 percent responsible, your insurer cannot penalize you.
Accident Caused by an Uninsured DriverUninsured Motorist CoverageNoIf you do not have uninsured motorist coverage, your collision coverage can pay for the damages, but you will have to meet your deductible, first.
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What kind of insurance should you have for each of these incidents? Watch this next video from Allstate, which explains what is generally covered by comprehensive auto insurance.

What if you parked somewhere only to come back and see that somebody dinged your car? That’s never fun. Or what if somebody keyed your car on purpose? That’s even worse. “How did my car get scratched” is not a fun mystery to solve.

If you have full coverage, that includes both collision and comprehensive. Comprehensive has got you covered for theft and vandalism, although you’ll want to consider how bad the damage is before you file a claim if your deductible is high.

The same goes for scratch damage that could come from somebody hitting your car with a cart in the grocery store parking lot. Did a falling tree branch scrape your car on its way down? Covered by comprehensive.

That nightmare of a tool falling off the truck in front of you? That can be covered by comprehensive, but try to get a picture of the truck’s license plate for your insurer.

On the other hand, if the damage came from a car wreck you’re found at fault for, you’ll have to rely on your collision coverage. This is true even if you scratched someone else’s vehicle by accident.

Collision will also help cover the damage if the scratch came from something that occurred while you were driving, such as scraping a line of tree branches. Did you hit a mailbox or back into a pole in the parking lot? Those incidents will likely be covered by collision.

What if you’re in an accident and the other driver doesn’t have car insurance coverage? The danger of driving uninsured is a nightmare many of us have lived. And it’s not unlikely.

The Insurance Information Institute confirms that 13 percent of drivers (one in eight) were uninsured in 2015, and that number doesn’t change a lot from year to year.

Search for your state below to see how many residents are driving around uninsured.

Percent of Uninsured Drivers by State
RankStatePercent of Uninsured Drivers
1Florida26.70%
2Mississippi23.70%
3New Mexico20.80%
4Michigan20.30%
5Tennessee20%
6Alabama18.40%
7Washington17.40%
8Indiana16.70%
9Arkansas16.60%
10D.C.15.60%
11Alaska15.40%
12California15.20%
13Rhode Island15.20%
14New Jersey14.90%
15Wisconsin14.30%
16Texas14.10%
17Missouri14%
18Illinois13.70%
19Colorado13.30%
20Louisiana13%
21Oregon12.70%
22Ohio12.40%
23Maryland12.40%
24Arizona12%
25Georgia12%
26Kentucky11.50%
27Minnesota11.50%
28Delaware11.40%
29Nevada10.60%
30Hawaii10.60%
31Oklahoma10.50%
32West Virginia10.10%
33Montana9.90%
34Virginia9.90%
35New Hampshire9.90%
36Connecticut9.40%
37South Carolina9.40%
38Iowa8.70%
39Utah8.20%
40Idaho8.20%
41Wyoming7.80%
42South Dakota7.70%
43Pennsylvania7.60%
44Kansas7.20%
45North Dakota6.80%
46Nebraska6.80%
47Vermont6.80%
48North Carolina6.50%
49Massachusetts6.20%
50New York6.10%
51Maine4.50%
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These drivers are potential hazards to you and your bank account if you don’t have uninsured and underinsured motorist coverage. Check out the video below for more information on these types of coverage.

So how much coverage do you need? It really depends on the value of your vehicle. If you have a real clunker, you probably don’t need everything we’ve talked about. But, if you have a newer vehicle or a collectible car, it’s definitely worth having full coverage on it just in case something happens.

Average Annual Car Insurance Rates by Coverage Type
Type of CoverageFive-Year Average Rates
Liability$516.39
Collision$299.73
Comprehensive$138.87
Full Coverage$954.99
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The national average rates are above for your reference, but keep in mind that these can change based on a variety of factors. Where you live, your credit history, driving record, and even your marital status can all affect how much you’ll pay for your car insurance.

If you noticed the scratch but have no idea where it came from, your insurance adjuster will probably be able to figure it out. They see a lot of vehicle damage, after all.

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How to Decide If Filing a Car Insurance Claim for a Scratch Is the Right Choice

Now that you understand the difference between chargeable and not chargeable claims, it’s time to determine if you should proceed in filing a chargeable claim.

There are instances in which filing a claim is suggested, even when you know your rates are going to go up.

What happens if somebody scratched my car and drove off? In the video below, an insurance agent from Farmers explains what to do when you notice damage to your vehicle that occurred when you were parked.

However, filing is typically suggested when the cost of repairs is astronomically high, when you cannot afford repairs on your own, or when there is a liability claim for injuries and damages. Otherwise, you may want to consider when not to file an insurance claim and fixing the damage on your own.

How much will the damage cost to repair?

Some vehicles have very expensive paint jobs. In fact, repairing some deeper scratches may require a part replacement and not just a new coat of paint. If this is the case, the cost of the repairs could be more than you can afford to cover out of pocket.

How much does it cost to fix a scratch on the car? You should get estimates on the repairs before filing anything and then assess the situation. The best way to do this is to get an estimate — which is generally free — so you’ll know how to proceed.

The price you’ll have to pay definitely depends on how bad the scratch is. Is it superficial and only affecting the top layer of paint, or did it split open to where you can see the naked metal?

There are four scratch levels, so you may want to determine yours and go from there.

  1. Superficial scuff – A scratch that only lightly damages the clear coat over the paint. These are an easy fix, and you can usually do it yourself by going to an auto shop.
  2. Clear-coat scuff – This would be a scratch that’s a little deeper but still only affects the clear coat. They’re longer and deeper than a superficial scuff.
  3. Paint scratch – A scratch that has penetrated the clear coat and also scratched the paint.
  4. Deep paint scratch – This exposes the base material, such as metal or plastic.

You may be able to take care of a lighter scratch by yourself, but you’ll most likely need to take it to an auto shop to properly repair a deep scratch.

Scratch Wizard did a small survey of about 30 body shops to come up with an average cost of repair for a scratch.

Estimated Costs to Repair a Car Scratch
Severity of ScratchAuto Shop Estimate to Fix
Scuff$50–$70
Clear-Coat Scratch$150–$300
Paint Scratch$400–$1,000
Deep Paint Scratch$800–$1,500
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As you can tell, the price to fix the scratch varies considerably based on how bad it is. But, if it’s just a light scuff, it might be easier to fix it yourself.

How high is the deductible?

If you’re carrying a high car insurance deductible to keep your premiums low, it could hinder your ability to file a claim. Watch the video below to learn a little more about deductibles.

Generally, deductibles are there to keep your rates low. So, despite paying premiums every month, you’re still expected to bear some of the cost of repair for some types of damage. If you have a $250 deductible, it might be worth filing a claim for a deep scratch. But, if your deductible is $3,000, you’re still going to be covering the cost yourself and tacking on a claim to your insurer.

It’s worth considering the value of your car at this point. If your car is only worth a couple of thousand dollars, but it’s going to cost over $1,000 to fix the scratch, is it really worth it? This is especially important if you don’t have comprehensive car scratch insurance or if your coverage costs might increase with this claim.

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Will you lose discounts?

If you want to file a claim and are willing to accept surcharges, you should also keep in mind that this decision could lead to a loss of accident-free or claims-free discounts, which could raise your premiums by as much as 30 percent.

If you have something like a claims-free or good driver discount, it’s worth thinking about this aspect when you make a decision, especially if the damage is light.

Not all claims are worth filing. If you have filed a claim that you regretted in the past, do your homework before you file a claim for a scratch.

Start comparing car insurance quotes now and find the right coverage for you by entering your ZIP code into the box below.

Frequently Asked Questions: Filing a Claim for a Scratch

If you still have questions related to filing a claim for a scratch on your vehicle, keep reading.

#1 – What do you do if someone’s dog scratched your car?

Wondering what to what to do if someone’s dog scratches your car? In this case, it’s not done on purpose, but you still have to deal with the damage. The best advice here is that you may just want to fix it yourself if the damage isn’t that bad. Ask yourself: Is it worth possibly ruining your relationship with your neighbor, friend, or whoever owns the dog? If it’s a light scratch, it may be cheaply and easily fixed.

#2 – What to do if you scratch a parked car?

If you scratched someone’s car by accident or are not sure if you scratched a car, stay and search for the owner. If the owner cannot be found, leave a note on their car with all of your relevant information. Take photos, look for possible witnesses, and contact your insurance company. If you damage another vehicle and drive off, that’s considered a hit and run, even if the damage is minor.

#3 – Can you go to jail for scratching a car?

While it’s pretty unlikely that you’d see jail time for such a minor offense, you’re still responsible for the damage. If you scratched someone’s car and drove off, you could definitely be fined or sued if you try to get out of paying.

#4 – Will my insurance go up if I scratch a car?

If a claim is filed against your liability insurance for a scratch you caused, your insurance rates could go up. Every car insurance company is different, so ask before you file. It may be better to pay for the damage out of pocket.

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