Do I Have to Repair My Car After an Insurance Claim Accident?

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If you are in a claimable accident that resulted in a payout, you should use that money to repair your vehicle (in most scenarios). Not using your
car insurance
payout for repairs could affect your continued coverage and might even lead to fraud charges.
  • Insurance companies will likely require you to complete
    vehicle repairs
    if they make a payout on an accident claim.
  • If you keep an insurance payout without completing repairs, your insurer may drop your policy and you could be accused of insurance fraud.
  • Whether you can repair the vehicle yourself or are required to take it to a shop often depends on whether you have a
    car loan
    on the vehicle.
  • Reporting an accident may not be necessary for minor, single-car incidents.

How not repairing your car after a claimable accident could impact your insurance coverage

If you want to continue your
collision coverage
, you’ll have to get your vehicle repaired.
Your insurance company will likely to refuse to cover a vehicle that’s already damaged since it will be more vulnerable to additional damage should you get into another accident.
If you choose not to repair your vehicle, you will likely have to drop
physical damage coverage
from your insurance policy.
To ensure that your coverage isn’t reduced, you’ll need to prove you got the damage repaired:
  • If you choose to get your vehicle fixed at a body shop, the claim check or repair bill might be made out to you and the shop to ensure you don’t simply pocket the check. 
  • If you opt to do the repair work yourself, you’ll probably be able to submit photos and receipts for replacement parts as your proof of repair.
Key Takeaway: Not repairing your car after a claimable accident could result in your insurance company dropping your physical damage coverage.

Can you keep insurance claim money?

Technically, you could claim an accident and pocket the insurance check instead of paying for repairs. And while it might be tempting to do so (especially for minor damage), it’s not a good idea.
Remember: If your insurance company didn’t think the cost of repairs was worth it, they wouldn’t have given you the money in the first place. Even minor damage could decrease the value of your car and make it less safe to drive.
In certain situations, you might be able to keep the money without fixing the damage, but check with your claims adjuster before doing so to make sure you’re not committing
insurance fraud
Key Takeaway: Technically, you might be able to get away with pocketing your insurance money, but it’s not recommended.

How to repair your vehicle after an accident

If you own your car outright, you might be able to repair the car yourself after an accident. Check with your insurance company beforehand to make sure that doing your own repairs won’t void your coverage.
If you have a lien on your car, things are a bit more complicated. Your lender will likely require you to get your car repaired at a reputable shop so that there’s no risk of further damage to the vehicle.

How to repair a financed vehicle

If you’re still making payments on your
car loan
, your lender might want to ensure that the vehicle is repaired properly after an accident. In these cases, you’ll usually be required to get a repair estimate so all payouts can go directly toward auto body repairs rather than into your own pocket.
Your insurance company should provide you with a list of approved repair shops.

Keeping a car that was declared a total loss

If you have a
totaled car
but you want to keep it on the road, you’ll have to fix any major safety issues (such as frame and/or structural damage) before you can get it insured again.
Some states have additional criteria you need to meet to keep a total loss car, so check with your local DMV to see if there’s anything else you’ll have to do.

You may not need to claim a minor single-car accident

Some drivers choose not to report an accident in order to avoid an increase in their premiums.
If you’ve been in a single-car accident (who hasn’t backed into their waste bins on garbage day, right?), it might not be worth reporting. If you have the time and money, you should be able to handle a minor repair on your own. 
If another vehicle was involved, you’ll probably be required to claim that accident.
MORE: Should I report a car accident to my insurance company?
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It depends on your state. There is a time limit between when you file your claim and when you must make the repairs, so check with your local DMV.
If you own your vehicle outright, you might be able to keep the cash—but it’s strongly recommended that you use it to pay for the repair.
Your insurance company will likely want to get the claim settled within 30 days of you filing it. But they have little to do with the actual repair of your vehicle, which is done by the repair shop. The timeline will ultimately depend on which auto repair shop you choose.
Probably not. Insurance companies are required to repair your car if it’s above a certain threshold of damage.
By Jaclyn Victor
Expert Insurance Writer
Reviewed by Kathleen Flear.
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