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DIY Repairs to Keep Your Car Insurance Rates Low
After you’ve shopped and scoured for the best discounts, the lowest rates, and the most cost-effective coverage you can find, what else can you do to save money on your insurance premiums? The simple answer harkens back to an old adage: An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure. In this case, you’ll need to lower your chances of making a claim by preventing and minimizing accident damage, and avoid opening a claim with your insurer if you can fix the damage without spending much more than your deductible.
What else can you do to save money on your insurance premiums? The simple answer harkens back to an old adage: An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure
Here are a handful of ways to prevent damage and minimize your costs if your car should suffer a scratch or dent.
Bumper and Door Protection – BumpShox.com and DoorShox.com sell products for protecting your car’s bumpers and doors from parking mishaps. They don’t advertise to improve safety in traffic collisions, but it will likely keep your bumper and the rest of your car in better shape for city parking and tightly-packed parking lots. Plenty of other brands sell similar products online and at local auto parts stores, as well.
Dash Cameras – Some insurance companies offer a discount (especially for teenage drivers) for having a dashboard-mounted camera watching the road, and you’ll have a record of any collision events in case you need it to prove your innocence later. Some cameras have variable recording settings and inertia sensors that are triggered when a car is involved in a collision – they’ll be “rolling” all the time, but it will only capture and save the minutes before and after the collision event, so you don’t have to worry about clearing your camera’s memory card after every trip to the grocery store. Keep in mind to stow the camera in your glove compartment when not in use so nobody breaks in and steals your GoPro in the middle of the night!
Check Other Cars When You Park – When pulling into a particularly tight parking space, whether at the mall or on the street, check the cars next to you. If you’re unsure whether they’ll have enough room to open their doors and exit the space without bumping you, it might be a good time to pick another spot. A few minutes of walking from a farther space could mean a few hundred dollars saved in terms of an unexpected (and easily avoidable) car repair.
At the very least, use your phone to snap a few photos of their vehicle and license plate. Be sure to get a photo showing your car AND the other car, WITH BOTH license plates shown, to illustrate the scene and prove both vehicles were there at the same time. If you return to your car later and find a bright red scrape along its back side, you’ll know which bright red car (and license plate) to report to the police for a hit-and-run. No need to do this every time you park — just when you suspect an imminent fender bender.
A few minutes of walking from a farther space could mean a few hundred dollars saved in terms of an unexpected (and easily avoidable) car repair
Keep Your Car Clean – Both car thieves and inattentive parallel parkers will show your car more respect if it’s clean and well-kept – they’ll expect you to notice any problems and report them quickly. Whereas a dirty or cluttered car indicates someone who might not notice a problem right away. Other drivers may not care much about bumping your car’s back side if it’s riddled with chips and dents, but if it’s clean and scratch-free, you can expect drivers to pay more attention and avoid unnecessary impacts.
Perform Your Own Repairs – With a few basic skills and a disregard for conventional aesthetic beauty, you can keep your car on the road and in one piece without spending a fortune on car repairs.
- Buff It Out: Most scratches can be removed with a soft chamois and some buffing compound, but for more intense scratches, it’s best to buy a powered polishing wheel for working large areas. If you’re an intrepid DIY-er, follow these guides to restore your car’s finish to its original shine.
- Touch Up Paint: For minor scratches and chips, you can apply your own touch up paint to the affected area to both improve your car’s appearance and protect from rust or additional paint flaking, or rust and corrosion. Some useful guides are available online to show you the step-by-step process, and you can purchase touch up paint from your car’s manufacturer, local body shops, auto parts stores, or you can use nail polish if you can’t find a matching color elsewhere. In order to prevent rust from developing and spreading, make sure to apply touch up paint to the body of the car immediately following any paint damage. Bumpers on most vehicles are made of plastic, so you shouldn’t have to worry about your bumpers rusting any time soon.
- Zip Ties: Whether holding together a floppy bumper or a sagging headlamp, they can be used to stitch together most plastic car parts. Follow the steps in this online guide to do a basic zip-tie bumper repair, and use the same methodology for a loose headlamp, tail light, or other parts. Keep in mind, drilling into your automobile can damage expensive parts, devalue your car, or introduce rust or corrosion when drilling into metal panels. Avoid interfering with mechanical parts, and keep zip ties away from heat sources near the engine or exhaust. Make sure you’re obeying any traffic safety regulations in your state, and check with a local mechanic or auto repair professional to ensure your parts are attached securely and safely.
- Suction Cup Dent Removers: Great for anything bigger than a cantaloupe, not as great for anything smaller. Most auto parts stores sell some variant of these, and they’re easily found online.
A few basic skills and a disregard for conventional aesthetic beauty, you can keep your car on the road and in one piece without spending a fortune on car repairs
Know When to Make a Claim – Keep in mind which types of claims will raise your rates and which claims won’t affect them. In most cases, no-fault accidents like vandalism (typically claimed using comprehensive coverage) or hit-and-run (typically claimed using uninsured motorist coverage) claims will not raise your rates; however, if you only carry collision coverage, you can expect your rates to increase if you file a claim under collision, even if you were the victim. If you have comprehensive coverage for vandalism, it makes sense to file a claim with your insurer if your car is vandalized, since filing a claim with this coverage shouldn’t affect your rates. As always, consult with your insurer to ask what the outcome will be before deciding to file.
If you only carry collision coverage, you can expect your rates to increase if you file a claim under collision, even if you were the victim
Keep An Emergency Repair Savings Fund – In the event you cause an accident and your car needs some work that’s just beyond what your DIY spirit can muster, it’s best to pay out of pocket if the cost of repairs isn’t much more than your deductible. Over the long run, the potential increase in your insurance premium will likely equal or exceed your immediate out of pocket expense to fix most damage around $1,000 or $1,500. If you can pay a few or several hundred dollars out of pocket for your own car’s repairs, we suggest you do so. Check out our guide to choosing a body shop for more input on this subject.