Getting into a scrape or fender bender can be upsetting, especially if it’s your fault. You’ll likely need to pay for repairs, but will it also make your car insurance rates go up? Here’s what to expect if you scratched someone else’s car and how it impacts your auto insurance costs.
Will Insurance Rates Increase After Scratching Another Vehicle?
If you cause an at-fault accident that results in a claim on your auto policy, your insurance company will likely raise your rates through a surcharge. Even a minor scratch can get reported and trigger an increase. However, there are a few factors that determine how much your insurance will go up:
Severity of damage – A minor scratch may have less impact than a collision causing thousands in repairs.
Your deductible – Filing a claim below your deductible may not impact your premium.
State regulations – Some states limit rate hikes for first-time accidents.
Insurer guidelines – Each company has their own underwriting policies for claims.
Discounts and protections – You may have accident forgiveness or a claims-free discount to help offset the increase.
So while scratching another car will likely mean a rate increase, the exact amount will depend on your specific situation. Insurers look at your overall claims history, not just one incident.
How Insurance Companies Calculate Rate Increases
Insurance providers consider a few key factors when determining premium increases after an at-fault accident:
1. Number of claims – Frequent recent claims can multiply rate hikes. One scratch may only mean a small bump, while multiple claims in a short time can add up.
2. Cost of repairs – The higher the damage amount, the greater potential impact on your premium. Minor cosmetic fixes typically affect rates less than major collision repairs.
3. Time between claims – Two claims within three to five years will likely mean a larger increase than if years apart.
4. Your coverage and deductible – Lower and higher deductibles affect the rate calculation differently. The rate increase may also vary based on the coverage your claim taps (collision vs. comprehensive).
5. State insurance regulations – Some states cap rate hikes for first-time accidents. Others allow unlimited increases tied to claims history.
6. Policy discounts – Accident forgiveness and disappearing deductibles help limit the rate increase from one claim.
Insurers use complex actuarial formulas that take into account these factors and your overall risk profile. The algorithms then produce your new premium rate after an at-fault claim.
Typical Rate Increase for Scratching Another Vehicle
While the increase will depend on your specific situation, the table below shows average rate increases insurers tend to charge after different at-fault accidents:
|Typical Rate Increase
|Major damage (over $2,000)
|Moderate damage ($1,000-$2,000)
|Minor damage (under $1,000)
So for a minor scratch with cheap repairs, you may see a smaller single-digit bump in your premium. Even a 5% increase on a $150 monthly premium is just $7.50 extra per month.
Major collisions that total a vehicle can sometimes even double your rate. But small scratches resulting in modest repairs will stay on the lower end of increases.
Maximizing Savings After an At-Fault Accident
While rate hikes are inevitable when you file a claim, there are things you can do to minimize the financial impact:
Use your deductible – If repairs will cost less than your deductible, paying out of pocket avoids a claim and potential rate increase.
Take advantage of discounts – Accident forgiveness and disappearing deductibles help limit premium bumps after one claim.
Review your coverage – Dropping collision coverage on an older car may offset the overall price increase after a scratch.
Raise your deductible – Increasing your deductible lowers rates and reduces the dollar amount of potential claims.
Shop around – Check other insurers to see if they can offer better rates post-accident.
Improve your driving skills – Taking a defensive driving course can help offset rate hikes.
While you’ll still end up paying more after scratching someone’s car, smart insurance moves can help cushion the premium increase. And the rise will dissipate over time if you maintain a clean driving record.
How Long Will the Rate Increase Last?
Insurance rate hikes from at-fault accidents stay on your policy record for approximately three years. However, the impact lessens each renewal period as time passes since the claim.
For example, Geico typically applies the following rate penalties after an at-fault accident:
- First renewal – 40% increase
- Second renewal – 20% increase
- Third renewal – No increase
So while your premium will spike immediately after the claim, the effect diminishes until the accident finally falls off your 3- to 5-year record. Just drive safely and remain claims-free to minimize financial consequences.
When Does a Claim Not Impact Your Premiums?
In some cases, filing a claim will not drive up your insurance rates:
Not at-fault accident – If the other driver caused the damage, your premium is unaffected since you were not responsible.
Claim below deductible – If the scratch repair is cheap enough to fall under your deductible, paying out of pocket avoids a rate increase.
Windshield replacement – Many insurers exclude glass claims from affecting your premium.
Comprehensive claims – Damage from environmental events like hail or floods typically don’t impact your rates.
So the simplest way to avoid a rate hike is by not being responsible for the accident. And if repairs will only cost a couple hundred dollars, paying yourself avoids a claim that could potentially increase your premium.
Strategies to Keep Insurance Premiums Low
The best way to keep your insurance rates affordable after an at-fault accident is to avoid additional rate-raising claims in the following years. Here are some tips:
Enroll in a defensive driving course to improve safety awareness and skills.
Increase your deductible level to reduce the number of claims made.
Take advantage of any accident forgiveness or safe driver discounts offered by your insurer.
Have your driving record periodically reviewed for accuracy and appeal any errors.
Shop around for cheaper insurance if your current provider raises rates excessively due to claims history.
Drive fewer annual miles to appear less risky to insurers.
Remaining claims-free for a few policy terms will gradually alleviate the financial impact and allow your premium to fall back down. But getting into another at-fault accident right away could compound rate increases.
The Impact of Multiple Small Claims
Filing multiple small claims for minor scratches or fender benders can ultimately impact your rates similarly to a single major accident. Insurance actuaries don’t just look at claim payout amounts. They also examine patterns like frequency of claims and time between incidents.
So even if the damage is cheap to fix, insurers will view multiple at-fault claims within a few years as high-risk driving behavior. Too many could ultimately cause your policy to be non-renewed altogether. Keep minor scrapes and scratches out of the claims process when feasible.
Scratching another vehicle will likely lead to some premium increase. But insurance rate hikes are not as severe for minor cosmetic damage compared to major collisions. Taking proactive steps like using your deductible for small repairs and improving your driving can help minimize the financial downside in the future. Handle claims judiciously and maintain safe driving habits to be sure your insurance rates remain reasonable even after an occasional at-fault accident.
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