It can happen to anyone: You’re carefully turning at a stop sign, and out of nowhere a car comes speeding in your direction, side swiping your vehicle. Now what? You might be thinking, “How long do I have to repair my car after an accident?”
Car accidents are scary, but they happen frequently and can impact anyone. 2.35 million people are disabled or injured each year from car crashes. Injuries aren’t the only thing you have to think about after a car accident.
So what do you need before getting your car repaired? Should you file a claim or pay out of pocket?
Here’s everything you need to know about getting your car repaired afterward:
When do you absolutely need to get your car repaired?
Sometimes a car will be marked as a total loss after an accident, meaning the costs to repair it will be more than the vehicle is worth.
Hopefully, you don’t get in an accident with damage this significant. Something like a fender-bender is much more manageable.
But if the damage is minimal or you don’t have the cash on hand, you might hesitate to get your car repaired. While this can be OK if you own the car, it’s possible that your insurance company won’t let you skip repairs if you hold a loan on the car, meaning you make monthly auto payments.
But why? Technically, the bank you borrowed from owns the car. You don’t own it.
You might be making monthly payments toward the balance in hopes of one day paying it off, but until then the car technically isn’t yours. Any lender will want the car to be functioning without damage while it’s still in their possession.
If you do own the vehicle, your insurance company will likely give you the option to repair it or consider the car totaled. These options will vary depending on the insurance policy.
So be sure to read the fine print or contact your insurance agent for help understanding which option might be relevant to you.
What happens when you file a claim
After an accident, your insurance costs will likely go up.
This happens because the insurance company sees you as a higher and more costly risk to cover. Because of this, you might be hesitant to file a claim.
Think about it: Have you ever heard stories of someone begging a friend, or maybe you, to not call the insurance company after a fender bender?
This is because their premiums are likely already expensive, and they won’t be able to afford another rate hike.
Should you file a claim or pay out of pocket?
You might be reluctant to file a claim after an accident. So should you file a claim or pay out of pocket?
If you choose not to, you should know that you are waiving the ability to get money to help offset the costs of repairs.
If the damages cost more to repair than your insurance deductible, you’ll be footing the entire bill yourself, instead of getting help from your insurance company. After all, you’ve been paying your premiums for exactly that.
Not filing a claim will mean you’ve been throwing money away each month in premium payments.
But it might make sense to skip filing a claim on minor accidents, like backing into a pole or something else. With bigger accidents involving other parties, you’ll want to file a claim with your insurance company and not the other party’s.
How long do I have to repair my car after an accident?
If you’re in an accident and decide to file a claim, it’s important to do it as soon as possible.
Insurance claims can take a long time for companies to process internally. Not only are you involved, but a claims adjuster is, as well as the auto shop that will repair your car.
If you use your car a lot, you’ll want to file a claim as soon as the incident happens. If your car is in the shop for an extended period of time, your insurance policy might cover a rental vehicle.
To file an insurance claim, you’ll need to call your insurance company and provide your policy number, the police report number, information about the accident (in terms of what happened), and you should provide photos of the damage as well.
Sometimes, insurance companies will require you to go to a specific auto repair shop to fix your vehicle. While this could be convenient, it takes any negotiating power out of your hands.
Be sure to read your insurance policy carefully and ask if you have the option to choose which shop you can get repairs at.
If you have the option, it will pay to shop around for the lowest possible quote for a repair shop, if you have the time to do so.
Can you file a claim and use that money for something else?
After filing a claim and the claims adjuster finalizing your case, they’ll send you the money owed to you for the repairs.
One question that might come to mind is, “Do I need to use this money for repairs, or can I use it for something else?” Well, it’s complicated.
If you don’t outright own the vehicle, the insurer might send the check directly to the auto repair shop that fixed your car.
This is because the lender technically owns the vehicle and will want to keep it in good condition. Another reason why they might do this is so the car can get repaired immediately and not incur additional damage.
If you own the car outright and still receive a payout for the damage, you could technically use the repair money for whatever you want. But it’s important to consider the consequences first.
If you don’t get the repairs now with the money, will you have enough of your own money in the future to cover them?
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