Most car crashes happen at very low speed. Rather than mangled metal and insurers sucking their teeth and talking about write offs, they result in nothing more than dented panels, scratched paintwork, smashed lights and bruised egos.
But they can still be surprisingly costly to repair. So which is best? Paying to fix a car crash yourself or claim from insurance with all the implications that might have?
Can you claim from insurance?
Assuming there is only damage to one car in this crash, the first thing to do is check your insurance paperwork. If you’ve paid for comprehensive cover, you can claim if it’s your car. If you’ve only got third party, you can’t.
How much is your excess?
The excess is the amount you agree to pay your insurer if you claim. This kicks in before the insurer makes its contribution. A simple way of getting a lower premium is to raise the excess so this might actually be several hundreds of pounds.
All you need to do is take your car to a garage – go to a few if you’ve got time ‑ and ask how much they’ll charge to return the car to its pre-crashed state. If this is less than your excess, it’s a no brainer. Absorb the cost of the repair and don’t tell your insurer.
If you do decide to claim…
Consider the effect of claiming. Insurers reward us for not troubling them with what’s known as a no claims discount (NCD). The longer you remain claim free, the greater the discount.
If you claim, you lose your NCD. How much of it you lose depends on your insurer. Some might take it away altogether, others will reduce it on a sliding scale every time you claim.
Should you decide to claim, the added cost to your premium over the years as you build up your NCD again may actually be quite a significant amount. If you live in a high-risk area or are a high-risk driver, with a high premium, it might be worth not claiming on your insurance.
What if your no claims discount is protected?
This is a feature of many insurance policies. You pay a little extra on top of your premium so if you do claim your NCD isn’t affected. That’s the theory. But even if you protect your NCD, the basic premium that it applies to will still increase simply because you’ve made a claim. So, you’ll still get a discount from your protected NCD but it’ll be on a higher basic premium.
What’s the answer?
It all depends on how much repairing your car is going to cost. If it’s only a few hundred pounds it’ll probably make sense to pay for the repairs yourself and not involve the insurer. But it’s a very individual thing. It’ll come down to the cost of putting the damage right, what your excess is, how much NCD you’ve got, and how much your base premium is.
I’ve been writing about cars and motoring for more than 25 years. My career started on a long-departed classic car weekly magazine called AutoClassic. I’ve since pitched up at Autosport, Auto Express, the News of the World, Sunday Times and most recently the Daily Telegraph. When I’m not writing about cars and motoring, I’m probably doing some kind of sport or working in my garden.