how minor accidents could affect your car insurance
Crowded parking lots, blind driveways, and busy intersections are breeding grounds for fender benders. Here you'll find all you need to know about fender benders from a car insurance perspective, including why it's important to file a claim regardless of the accident's severity.
What is a fender bender?
A fender bender is a minor, low-speed accident that involves a car's fender or bumper. While these accidents are usually minor, they can be surprisingly costly when all's said and done.
How much does a fender bender cost?
While it's true that fender benders occur at low speeds and rarely appear to be major, there might be more damage than meets the eye, especially if the bumpers don't match up. (Think of a collision between an SUV and a '70s sports car).
A study conducted by the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety showed that when bumpers don't line up, low-speed collisions produce more damage and higher repair costs than the average bumper-to-bumper collision. The study found that when a high-bumpered SUV collided with a regular-bumpered car at 10 mph, total damages to the 2 vehicles ranged from $2,995 to $7,444 (depending on the makes and models). And when a car collided with an SUV, total damages ranged from $3,601 to $9,867.
Fender benders may be relatively safe for you and your passengers, but the cost of physical damage to your car can be significant.
Why is it important to file a fender-bender claim?
Some states, like Washington and Illinois, require you to report any accident involving an injury or property damage over $500 to the Department of Transportation.
Even if your state doesn't mandate this practice and you feel that the damage is minuscule, we suggest letting your insurer know. In some cases, the other driver will report injuries weeks after leaving the scene, leaving you liable for medical costs without an official record of the initial damage.
Reporting your seemingly minor accident can also serve as insurance against future property damage that you didn't notice at the scene.
For example, say you got into a small car accident. At the time, both you and the other driver decide that aside from a few small scratches, your cars were structurally fine. But 2 weeks later, you hear a whirring sound coming from your engine. If you had filed a claim with your insurer, you could've reported the new damage to your insurance company and brought your car into the shop. In practice, this is a lot easier than reporting a fender bender from a few weeks ago.
Will reporting a fender bender increase my premium?
The truth is that it's possible a small incident can lead to an increased premium. Your insurer considers many factors before adjusting your rate, and there are actually plenty of good reasons your premium could stay the same after a fender bender.
When you consider the risks involved in not reporting a fender bender (particularly the potential for hefty out-of-pocket expenses), it pays to play it safe and count on your insurance for the post-accident financial protection you're paying for.
How do I handle a fender bender?
If your bumper hits another car, evaluate the damage and call the police to the scene as soon as you can. Check for any injuries before getting as much info as you can from the other driver. The more info the merrier, but at least try to get the driver's:
- Phone number
- Insurance company
- Insurance policy number
- License plate number
And after any accident, try to take some photographs of any signs of damage on both cars. If you have a smartphone, use our mobile site or download our app to easily document the damage. You can send the pictures directly to a claims representative.
If you're an Esurance policyholder and have questions regarding a fender-bender claim, give us a call at 1-800-ESURANCE (1-800-378-7262) anytime.
How a claim works
See how the entire post-accident process plays out for Esurance customers, from initial report to final repairs.
The dangers of over- and under-riding bumpers (PDF)
Read the official report from the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety.
A solution for mismatched bumpers?
The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety shows how lowering SUV bumpers a few inches can reduce crash damage.