Is filing a claim right for you?

We’ve all been there. You get in your car, back up and … Thud!

It happened to me a few weeks after joining Progressive. Something hit my parked car–irony. Actually, it was me that backed into it. Yeah that’s right, I go to work for an insurance company and promptly damage my car. Luckily, no one else was involved. I had backed into a light pole on the parking deck.

So, I slowly pulled my car forward (rolled my eyes) and got out to assess the damage. The light pole was no worse for wear, but my car? Touch down! A nice football-sized dent was spiked into the driver side quarter panel. My stomach dropped. (I swear I also heard my wallet sigh.)

At this point, you have three options:

  1. Let it go and live with the dent.
  2. Pay out of pocket and get it fixed yourself.
  3. File a claim with your insurance company.

Here’s how I made my decision. If you find yourself in a similar predicament, maybe it can help you make a choice that’s right for you.

Option 1: Live with it

Do I just leave it? Hey, for me that was a fair question. I’ve spent most of my career working downtown and have been no stranger to the dings and scratches that can come with parking on the street or in crowded garages. As I drove home that day though, I noticed the blind spot monitor (BSM) indicator flashing, my phone wasn’t syncing with the blue tooth and some other features weren’t working. That’s when I realized, especially with newer cars, sometimes a dent isn’t just a dent. In-car technology is important to me. I’d missed out before on a lot of the cool tech features like BSM, rear-view cameras, and built-in GPS that became available after 2010. One of the reasons I was excited to have this car was because it had it all. (A dent AND non-working tech in my car? Uh-uh. No way.) The decision now came down to which would cost me more: paying out-of-pocket or filing an insurance claim.

Option 2: Pay out of pocket to get it fixed

The next day I went to my mechanic for a repair estimate. I’m fortunate, I have a mechanic who I trust. (Like I said, not my first time to the rodeo.) If you don’t have a mechanic on standby, here are some tips to find a good one:

  • Ask your friends and family who they trust for repairs.
  • Go online for referrals from sources like your local Facebook Community page or Angie’s List.
  • Read this article to help know what to look for in a good mechanic.
  • Be sure to get three independent estimates for comparison.

The body damage and tech repair came to roughly $2,400. (Rough is right. Ouch!) Still, I didn’t know if the impact of filing a claim would exceed that. Next …

Option 3: File a claim

To make an informed decision, I needed to first estimate my insurance costs. Here are the 3 steps I followed:

  1. I checked my latest bill and located the monthly premium amount.
  2. Next, I called my agent to see how much I could expect my premium to go up if I filed a claim (full disclosure, I wasn’t a Progressive customer at the time). In this instance, my agent said the premium would be about 10% more a month for the next three years.
  3. Then I did the math:
  • My current monthly premium x .10 = the increased amount.
  • My current monthly premium + increased amount = new higher monthly premium.
  • New higher monthly premium x 36 (months)+ my flat $500 deductible = a rough estimate of total cost.
  • Note: That estimated figure doesn’t factor in any rate fluctuation that may occur at the time of a policy renewal. Rates can go up from time-to-time, so keep that in mind as you think through your monthly budget considerations.

I compared the rough estimate to my mechanic’s repair estimate–the difference wasn’t substantial.

My Decision

As it turns out, I would save a little by filing. Paying incrementally over time also made more sense for my budget. For your specific situation, the outcomes may be different, but in this instance, my decision was made: I filed the claim.

I still had my trusty mechanic do the work. The shop even buffed out some of those previous minor battle scars at no cost. (It’s all about personal relationships.) I got a rental car through my insurance company and then a few days later I had my fully tech-functioning and much shinier car back.