The Story Of My $3,000 Tank Of Gas

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Dent

What’s worse: a few dents on your car, or a ding on your insurance costs?

Next time I ask one of my college-aged kids to fill my car with gas in exchange for borrowing it, I’ll think twice. The other day, one of my three (who shall remain nameless) had a minor scrape in my car by turning too sharply on the way home from filling my tank. What should have cost me about $75 in fuel—and saved me some time on my morning commute the next day—is now a $3000 problem, thanks to a few dents on the side of my car.

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The really great news is that no one was injured and no other people or vehicles were involved. The bad news is that my car, which doesn’t even look all that bad, is going to cost a whole lot to repair—trust me, I’ve gotten three estimates just to be sure.

To File Or Not To File?

The questions now becomes: Since this was a single car accident with no one else involved, does it make sense to claim it on our insurance? And, should we fix it now, later, or never? This is a totally cosmetic problem, after all, and if we did file a claim, what would happen to my kid’s insurance rates?

I’ve done some digging and decided that in this case, we will not file a claim. My unlucky kid will be paying me back for the repair costs over time (summer work is already lined up, so I already know I’ll be able to garnish the wages). Eventually, my car will get put back together and look as good as new.

Things To Consider

Maybe you’ve had a minor fender bender and wondered what to do, too? If ever you find yourself in a similar situation, here are some thoughts on how to handle it:

  1. Check With Your Insurance Agency: It’s always best to begin with your insurance company and explain the situation. In some cases, you have no choice but to file. Your agent can confirm how much your deductible is and what kind of rate increase you can expect if you file.  They should be able to clearly spell out the pros and cons of filing a claim, given your situation.
  2. The Driver’s Age And Driving Record Make A Big Difference: Younger drivers with fewer years of behind-the-wheel experience, get hit pretty hard with premium surcharges if they have an accident on their record. These surcharges can go on for years, so find out what the ramifications are with your policy.
  3. Get An Estimate: If you are considering filing a claim, your insurance company may refer you to a local garage. In any case, if you have to pay out-of-pocket, be sure to shop around. Ask about second-hand parts versus new parts. Some garages can source good used parts, which will save you a bundle.
  4. Do The Math And Calculate The Risks: You may find, like we did, that the cost of paying a higher premium over the next several years would be much greater than the amount of cash you’d get back from the insurance company after paying our deductible. The other thing is, if this goes on our kid’s insurance record and then another unforeseen event occurs in the future, the consequences of that would almost certainly be a skyrocketing rate.

I’ve decided to make insurance claims only when absolutely necessary, with the goal of keeping our family’s rates down and all of our records as unblemished as possible. You just never know when crazy things will happen that turn an ordinary $75 outing into what amounts to a $3000 day.

Have you had a minor fender bender that cost more to repair than you expected? Let us know how you handled it in the comments!

(Photo: https://flic.kr/p/9AMjnq)

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  1. Aaron March 26, 2014 / 3:04 pm

    I hear you. We just decided not to fix a dent in our car door. It’s just cosmetic. It’ll definitely impact the resale value, but not much more than the scratches in the doors, the corrosion on the alloy wheels, and the general fact that it’s an old car. It’s about 1 year from officially being a terrible-looking beater, I guess.

  2. Sarah Barker March 28, 2014 / 4:51 pm

    Aaron, thanks for writing – sounds like you are making a smart decision based on your car description! Our decision would be so much easier to make if my kid had been driving our falling apart, ever stylish 2000 Windstar. That minivan has had its share of young driver stories – including when one of my kids mistook the gas pedal for the brakes and floored it in reverse – the van was suddenly dangling off the side of the driveway retaining wall, rocking on three wheels….good thing I have AAA.

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