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The right choice will vary from one situation to the next, so you should carefully evaluate your choices. Contact an insurer over a little bit of vandalism (like if your car gets keyed or the emblem pried off), and you could end up paying $1,000 or more in elevated premiums for damage you could’ve fixed by paying just $100 to a body shop. If you don’t file a claim after an accident, you could end up on the hook for thousands in unexpected repairs from frame damage or worse.

Let’s take a quick look at a few of the situations when you should file … and when not to file an auto insurance claim.

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If you get into a one-car accident, insurance claims can often be a bad idea. It ultimately depends on the math of your policy, the levels of your deductibles, and what you can expect to get paid for the 

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damage. If your deductible is higher ($1,000 or more) and you back into one family car with another, you’re probably best leaving insurance out of the matter and just handling the costs on your own.

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If you hit a fixed object, if you have potential health issues, or if you get into an accident that looks more expensive than you’ll be able to comfortably handle out-of-pocket, you should definitely contact insurance. The key is to think of your policy as emergency relief, not “hitting a curb” insurance since any minor repairs have the potential to drive your monthly insurance premiums up regardless of how minor the damage might have been. Collision repair costs can range from low to very high depending on how exactly the collision happened.

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There’s no cut-and-dry answer to this question, unfortunately. Whether your rates go up after filing a claim depends on a variety of factors, from the severity of the specific incident to your personal driving history, whether you’re at fault and even the details of your policy. Sometimes a simple fender-bender can send your rates through the roof, other times your car can be totaled and you won’t be asked to pay a dime more (because you weren’t at fault).

The best rule of thumb is to err on the side of contacting insurance. Sure, you might get stuck paying slightly higher rates if you contact them when it wasn’t necessary, but that’s better than risking being stuck with a massive repair bill after you underestimated the damage to your vehicle at the scene of the accident. You'll have to decide if it's worth fixing your car after an accident.

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Claim on My Car InsuranceOnce again, the answer to this question varies depending on the individual situation. If you’ve been in an accident where you were at fault, you’re supposed to contact your insurer first to notify them of the incident and find out which steps to take next. If another party was at fault, they’re supposed to contact their insurer first, but it’s usually a good idea to follow up and find out the next steps.

You’ll often be asked to bring your car into an insurance adjuster or local body shop to get an estimate for the repairs (including parts & labor), then report that back to your insurer. In some cases, if the cost of repairs exceeds or comes close to the value of your vehicle, your car could be “totaled,” and your insurer will cut you a check for the replacement value of your car.

When that happens, your insurer will typically take possession of the vehicle, unless you’re allowed to opt for “owner retention,” and secure a salvage title for your old vehicle. In those cases, the salvage value of your car will be deducted from your payout amount, and the vehicle will be released to you for sale.

If you’re stuck with a damaged, junk or totaled car and wondering how much it’s worth, you can use the advanced online pricing tool here at CarBrain to get a guaranteed, no-obligation quote in just 90 seconds! Click HERE to get started!

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