What Is Frame Damage On a Car?

Frame damage is a serious problem that is difficult to repair and can leave your car unsafe to drive. Read this article about car frame damage to learn what it is, how much it costs to repair, and more.
Written by Jacoba Bood
Reviewed by Kathleen Flear
A car’s frame helps hold the car together, and frame damage can leave a car vulnerable to handling issues and accidents.
Frame damage can be very expensive to repair, so if you don’t want to get stuck paying out of pocket
after an accident
, you will want to make sure you have enough
car insurance
to cover the cost.
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What is frame damage?

Every car is built on a structural foundation called a frame, and damage to this frame can leave your car unsafe to drive. A car’s frame is designed to help the car hold together in an accident, so frame damage could leave you at risk.
A car’s frame could be damaged by an accident, alterations or repairs, or external events, like storms. If your frame is damaged, your car might still drive reasonably well, but it will lack the structural support you need in a collision.
Key Takeaway Frame damage is a serious problem that will compromise the structural integrity of your car.

Frame damage repair costs

How much does frame damage cost to repair? It depends—but it could be costly. Even minor frame damage to a component like a side panel could end up costing anywhere between $600 to $1000, and that’s without

Bent frame repairs

If your frame is bent, your car will require significant repairs that could easily cost upwards of $10,000.
The bent component will need to be cut off, replaced, and welded back on, resulting in a hefty repair bill. If you don’t have
collision insurance
, you could end up paying to repair a bent frame out of pocket after an at-fault accident.
If you don’t want to get stuck footing the cost of frame damage after an accident,
can help you find the coverage that you need to help cover the often hefty expenses associated with frame damage.
External events like severe storms can also cause frame damage, so you might want to consider upgrading to a
comprehensive insurance
policy if you live in a high-risk area.

What are the different types of car frames?

Although most car frames are unique to the make and model, they will usually fall into one of two categories listed below.

Unibody frames

In a unibody frame, the frame is not separate from the overall structure of the car itself. Basically, the frame and the body of the vehicle are the same thing.
Unibody frames are composed of numerous sections and parts that help maintain the structural integrity of the car.
Unibody frame damage often translates to a bent frame as well as serious problems, like handling difficulties. After frame repairs, a unibody car is likely to be more vulnerable to damage and will likely lose some of its value as a result.

Ladder frames

Ladder frames are an older design style that is often used in modern truck frames.
A ladder frame is composed of two symmetrical rail bars that are connected by multiple crossbars. The drivetrain components, like the engine and transmission, are mounted directly onto the frame and the body of the car sits on top.
MORE: How do I know what my insurance will cover if I'm in an accident?
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Will frame damage make my car unsafe?

Frame damage may or may not make a car unsafe to drive, but it could easily compromise the structural integrity in a collision.
Once a frame is bent back into place, it will never be as strong as it was before, so frame damage will almost always reduce the safety of the car as a whole.

What if my car is in a collision?

A car with frame damage will have less integrity in a collision—making serious damage or injuries more likely. Even worse, the cost of repairing frame damage can be staggering if you don’t have enough insurance to cover you after an accident.
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Will frame damage have a negative effect on my car’s value?

It might, depending on how the damage was documented. If the repairs were recorded on your Vehicle Identification Number (VIN), you would almost certainly see your car’s value decrease as a result.
Even if your frame damage flies under the radar, your vehicle is unlikely to meet the same safety standards it did before the damage occurred.
If you live in a diminished value state, you may be able to make a
diminished value claim
for frame damage that resulted from an accident where you weren’t at fault.
Key Takeaway Frame damage will almost always have a negative effect on the value of your vehicle.

How to find the best insurance for frame damage

Purchasing a collision insurance policy is one of the best ways to protect yourself from frame damage expenses after an accident.
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Can a car with frame damage be fixed?

A car with frame damage can be repaired, but it will almost always be left weaker where there was damage. A bent frame is just like a bent tin can. You can mold or weld it back, but it will never be as strong as it was before.

Should you buy a car that has frame damage?

Generally speaking, you should avoid buying cars with frame damage.
There is really no way to tell just how strong a frame will be after it is repaired, and unless you are experienced with cars or using cars for parts, it probably won’t be worth the safety risk.
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