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Car insurance: Is claiming always a good idea?

Picture the scene. You’re pulling out from the supermarket car park when you realise you’ve knocked into the car next to you. There’s no damage to their car, and just a scrape to yours. The question is, should you tell your insurer?

A close up of the front of a white car with some damage to the wheel arch

Making a car insurance claim: pros and cons

Pros

  • If the damage to your car is substantial, it could be cheaper to claim on your car insurance than paying for the repairs yourself.

  • You get peace of mind knowing someone’s dealing with the issue on your behalf.

  • If the car is written off, any potential payout could help toward the cost of a new car.

  • You might be eligible for a courtesy car while yours is being fixed.

Cons

  • If the claim is counted as a ‘fault’ claim, you could lose some or all of your no-claims bonus.

  • Your compulsory and voluntary excess might be deducted from any payout you get.

  • The more expensive the claim, the higher your insurance costs could rise in future.

What’s the difference between fault and non-fault claims?

A fault claim doesn’t necessarily mean that you’re to blame for an accident. All it means is that your insurance company pays out for any costs associated with the claim.

This could be because you’ve accepted liability for the accident, or because they’ve been unable to find the other party.

A non-fault claim is the opposite. This is where the other insurance company pays for the cost of your claim, or your insurance company is able to recoup their costs.

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Will my car insurance go up if I don't make a claim?

It could. Your insurer won’t be trying to re-coup the amount they’ve paid out to fix your car, because you haven’t claimed. But it's likely that they'll be looking at your risk profile.

Every little bump and scrape you have builds up your driving profile, which is stored on a motor insurance database.

That profile is your level of risk, as your insurance company sees you. The higher risk you are, the more expensive your insurance costs could be. Always be transparent and honest with  your insurer.

Should I report minor accidents to my insurer?

You don’t have to claim, but your insurance company will need to know about all accidents you have in your car.

Fault or non-fault, big bump or minor scrape, you’ve had an accident. And that puts you in a higher risk category.

There are other things to consider here, too.

Let’s say you have a bump, a small one, and don’t tell your insurer. Then six months later, you have a bigger bump and need to claim.

When a mechanic inspects your car, they could find damage from other bumps you might have had.

If they do, and they feel that you haven’t told them about the accidents, it could invalidate your car insurance. That'd leave you with no cover to repair your car.

Or, they could go back and add the other bump onto your policy. Then ask you to pay the premium you would have had if you’d told them about the bump in the first instance.

If you have an accident and don’t tell your insurer, there’s a chance the other party might let their own insurer know.

In that case, their insurance company might let yours know too. It’s much better if you’re the one who tells them.

If you're involved in an accident with an uninsured driver or a multi-car accident it might get a bit more complicated. But in both cases you should report it to your insurer.

Is it worth claiming on my car insurance for a dent?

Pros

  • Repair costs might be cheaper than trying to fix it yourself

  • Repairs are usually guaranteed when using an approved repairer

 

Don’t forget that your insurance costs could go up whether or not you claim since you still need to report the accident.

Cons

  • Making a claim could impact your no-claims bonus

  • The repair costs could be lower than your excess, making claiming ultimately pointless

  • Claiming could impact your insurance costs more so than just telling the insurance company about the accident

 

How long does a claim stay on your car insurance record?

When you get a quote with us, we’ll ask you about any claims or incidents you’ve had in the last five years. Most insurance companies have similar requirements.

This is for all accidents you’ve been involved in, regardless of whether you made a claim. We’ll ask you:

  • The type of incident it was e.g. accident, theft, flood, fire

  • Whether or not the claim was settled

  • Whether anyone was injured

  • Whether it was a single-vehicle incident

  • Who was at fault

  • The date of the incident

  • The total claim cost. If you didn’t make a claim, you can put in £0

 

How long do I have to report an accident to my car insurance company?

Insurers usually set out a timeframe for when you're supposed to notify them of any accidents. It could be 24, 48 or 72 hours, for example.

You should check the terms and conditions in your policy documents to find the timeframe.

If you’re not making a claim, be clear when you call them to tell them that this is for information only and you’re not making a claim.

How to I make a car insurance claim?

If you just want to let them know about the bump, you can tell them:

  • At renewal. If the bump happened when your policy is renewing, call the renewals number in your documents and tell them about it.

  • Mid-policy. If you’re mid-policy, call the claims team and tell them you've had a bump. But tell them that it's for information only as you're not claiming.

If you want to claim:

  • At renewal. Call the claims number to tell them about the accident. You'll need to give the renewals department a call too so you can get a new renewal price with the accident.
  • Mid-policy. Call the claims team. They’ll make a note of it on the system so it’s up-to-date and accurate.

For more information, check out our guide on how to claim on your car insurance.

How long does a car insurance claim take to settle?

This all depends on how complex the claim is. If a third-party has hit your car in the rear, for example, and has admitted fault, your insurance company could settle the claim in a matter of weeks.

But if anyone is injured, or if nobody accepts liability for the accident, the claim could stretch out into months or even longer before you see a payout.