Should you report a fender bender to your car insurance company?

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Should you report a fender bender to your car insurance company?

Buh-bump. That’s the sound of you getting rear-ended by a minivan. You get out of the car and assess the damage. Both you and the other driver are unhurt and the damage to the vehicles seems nonexistent — you don’t even see a scratch! You both agree that getting insurance information or the police involved is a waste of time. Who wants their car insurance rates to go up, amirite!? You drive away, feeling pretty good about the situation.

Then you go to the body shop and find out that your car actually suffered about $3,000 worth of damage. You spend the next hour hitting yourself in the head with your hands, wishing you got that other driver’s number.

The true cost of a fender bender

The logic behind not reporting a small accident seems sound on the surface: accidents raise your car insurance rates, which will cost you more over time than just paying for an inexpensive fix out-of-pocket.

But there are two major problems with this logic:

  1. Car insurance rates don’t automatically rise just because you file a claim.
  2. Small fender benders can still cost you thousands of dollars in medical costs and auto repairs.

According to Esurance, it’s a myth that filing a claim (no matter how small it is or who’s at fault) will automatically raise your car insurance rates. Instead, car insurance companies look at multiple factors to decide if your car insurance rates need to go up. First, they’ll take a look at how serious the accident was. Fender benders are not judged the same way as major collisions, for example, because fender benders don’t cost the insurance company as much. Additionally, they will look at who caused the accident. If you did not cause the accident, your insurer may not raise your rates.

It’s also a myth that small accidents, like a minivan rear-ending a small car at a low-speed, result in small call repairs and non-existent medical bills. The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety tested multiple vehicles to see how much damage these types of accidents caused, and they found that the cheapest repairs added up to almost $3,000. The damage on this vehicle was almost imperceptible — there was no way that someone just casually looking at the vehicle after an accident would be able to see the structural damage done to the car.

Additionally, you shouldn’t assume that you’re uninjured just because you don’t feel anything immediately after an accident. Not only can adrenaline mask your symptoms, but soft-tissue damage can take up to two days to appear.

When there's another person involved, always get insurance information

It’s really that simple — if there’s another person involved, don’t trust that you two can figure it out privately. You never know what the auto repair bill is going to be, you never know if injuries will appear later, and you never know if the other person is going to give you a fake number and disappear.

And if you think that you can always file a claim later if the other person does ghost you, no dice. If there’s no police report and you can’t find the other person, the car insurance company is likely to tell you that there is insignificant information to properly investigate the accident. In layman’s terms: no insurance money for you.

To keep things easy, just remember this simple rule: if there’s another person or vehicle involved, you need to get insurance information, and you need to call the police and get an accident report. No excuses.

Image: Thomas Hawk