Are scratches covered by my car insurance?

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Joel Ohman
Founder, CFP®

UPDATED: Jul 10, 2017

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Here's what you need to know...
  • Always check your policy to see if you have to pay out-of-pocket or not
  • Comprehensive is often seen as a non-fault claim because there is nothing that you could have done to prevent the damage from happening
  • Scratches are covered by your insurance if you carry physical damage coverage

You can be cautious in an effort to avoid scratches but in the long-run, scratches are just as much a part of a car’s life as scars are a part of a human’s life. One of the great things about scratches is that they are easily repairable.

For the right amount of money, you can find a body repair shop that can either buff the scratch or replace the part.

Paying out of pocket is always an option but sometimes that is not necessary when you have the proper insurance.

After all, the entire purpose of carrying auto insurance is to pass the burden of paying for these unexpected expenses on to a company that has the money to do so.

Unfortunately, some mistakenly assume that their insurance will pay for scratches to their vehicle without verifying their cover. Read this guide to scratches and car insurance so that you can do your homework.

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How to Determine When a Scratch Will Be Covered


If you have what the industry calls full coverage, you can easily assume that your insurer will pay to repair the long scratch that now calls your fender home.

This may be true, but how much you will be required to pay out-of-pocket and how the claim will affect your policy depends on which type of coverage will be used for the payout.

To determine which coverage will pay, you first need to understand how the cause of the scratch matters.

It is not the size of the blemish, its depth, or even the cost of repairs that affects how the carrier will handle the claim, but instead how your car got scratched in the first place.

If you want to know what type of insurance claim you will be filing when you call to report those hideous scratches on your car exterior, here are the options.

What is a comprehensive claim?

Comprehensive coverage is a form of physical damage coverage that will apply to the covered auto to pay or reimburse the insured or a loss that is caused by theft, fire, explosion, windstorm, hail, missiles, vandalism or something other than a collision.

As a form of physical damage coverage, in order for the carrier to pay out on a comprehensive claim, you must first cover the deductible.

While there are several different deductibles to choose from, most people will elect to carry a lower deductible ranging between $50 and $300 because the premiums are low.

Here are some of the examples of scratch claims that will be classified as comprehensive losses:

  • Your car is keyed by an enemy while it is parked outside of your home
  • A gust of wind pushes a bike or cart into your vehicle and causes a scratch
  • Debris from a nearby explosion scratches your vehicle
  • A tree branch suddenly falls and scratches your vehicle which is parked beneath it
  • The vehicle is stolen and recovered but has major scratches
  • Your car suffers scratches after you accidentally hit a live animal

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What is a collision claim?

Collision coverage is the second part of physical damage coverage that pays for repairs or reimburses the insured for repairs made to the covered auto after a covered claim. A collision claim is defined as running into another vehicle, object or real property.

Typically, if the vehicle is moving, the damage will be a collision loss instead of a comprehensive loss.

The deductible for a collision loss is typically higher than the deductible for a comprehensive loss. The primary reason for this is because the risk of a collision claim is higher, which makes the cost for the coverage higher.

You can expect to pay anywhere from $100 to $1000 before your insurer will pay for a collision scratch claim. This is why carrying higher deductibles will limit you when you face a situation where you need to file a scratch claim.

Here are some examples of collision scratch claims:

  • You unintentionally scrape your mailbox when pulling into your driveway
  • You just barely scrape a pole backing out of a parking space
  • You scrape a vehicle beside you while driving on the freeway
  • The car is scratched when you are in a car wash
  • You drive past trees and the branches scrape your vehicle
  • A car door opens and hits your car as you back out

How will the type of claim affect your policy?

Jar of coins

You might not be worried about the type of claim that is assigned to the loss until you know how claim type affects your rates.

The difference is no increase at all or an increase that can nearly double your payment when you are talking about a comprehensive and a collision claim.

Comprehensive is often seen as a non-fault claim. This is because there is nothing that you could have done to prevent the damage from happening.

Since you were not behind the wheel or you could not predict the outcome of the scenario, you are not penalized in the form of high rates.

A collision claim, on the other hand, can lead to increases. This is because you were in control when the scratch happened and therefore could have prevented it.

What if the other party causes a scratch?

You might be wondering why your claim is classified as a collision claim when someone else side-swiped you. Until the claim is investigated, it will show up this way.

It is not until it is found to be not at fault that the other party’s insurer will pay for repairs and you will not be obligated to pay your deductible.

Scratches are covered by your insurance if you carry physical damage coverage. If you do not, it might be time to price a policy with broader coverage.

By doing this, you can see what top insurers will charge you to make the switch.

If you want to do a quick comparison from home, start comparing car insurance rates now by using our free tool below!

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