Maintaining car insurance coverage is one task, but filing a claim and handling the cost of repairs from an at-fault accident is another. But what happens if you can’t pay your car insurance deductible?
Read on to learn about car insurance deductibles and how you can build your policy to fit your needs and budget, even after getting into an accident.
When you’re ready to shop, check out our review of the best car insurance companies to decide which provider best fits the need of your vehicle. We suggest getting several quotes to find the best rates and deductibles. Enter your zip code to get started or call our team at (844) 246-8209.
In this article:
- What Is A Car Insurance Deductible?
- How Do Car Insurance Deductibles Work?
- What Happens If You Can’t Pay Your Deductible?
- Will Deductibles Affect Your Premium?
- How Can You Avoid Paying Deductibles?
- Our Recommendations For Car Insurance
What Is A Car Insurance Deductible?
A car insurance deductible is the cost you pay out of pocket before your insurance company pays the remainder of the claim. Let’s say you file a claim that results in a $2,000 expense. If you have a $500 deductible, you must pay that amount before the insurer covers the remaining $1,500.
However, if you have a $500 deductible but your car repair costs are only $400, that means you’ll have to pay the full amount of repairs without the auto insurance company’s help. Insurers will not be responsible for expenses that do not exceed your deductible.
At the start of your car insurance policy, you get to choose your deductible. This can range from zero to thousands of dollars. However, the most common car insurance deductibles are $250, $500, and $1,000. You can find your deductible amount on your insurance policy’s declaration page.
So what happens if you can’t pay your car insurance deductible? Drivers with low income or insufficient funds to cover deductible amounts may be able to work out a plan for paying the mechanic. Most insurers are willing to work with you and will even offer payment plans for reliable policyholders.
How Do Car Insurance Deductibles Work?
When you start an auto insurance policy, you get to choose the coverage amounts. Your insurance premium and car insurance deductible will teeter depending on the amounts you choose. Increasing your out-of-pocket deductible will lower your monthly insurance premium.
You can choose your deductible amount for each type of insurance coverage you add to your policy, and each should be handled differently:
- Liability insurance: Covers the cost of damages done to another person’s property or injuries they may sustain from an accident. This coverage does not use a deductible, as it’s required for drivers in most states around the country.
- Comprehensive car insurance: Protects your car against damage from things other than a collision, like fire, theft, vandalism, severe weather, and animals. Because it tends to have lower premiums, you could get away with choosing a low deductible.
- Collision coverage: Pays for damages to your vehicle that were the result of a collision with another car. It can often cost more than comprehensive coverage, so you may want to choose a large $1,000 deductible to help save money on monthly costs.
Personal injury protection and uninsured/underinsured motorist coverage may also have deductibles. Talk with an insurance agent to learn how to choose your deductible and car insurance premium rates for these coverages based on your state’s rates.
What Happens If You Can’t Pay Your Deductible?
When paying out an insurance claim, your insurer will often write you a check for the amount it’s responsible for covering. If you are unable to pay the remainder of your costs for the deductible, you may have some options. Below are some steps you can take if you can't afford to pay your deductible:
- Discuss a payment plan with your repair shop: It could be worthwhile to talk to your mechanic about payment options after an accident. You might be able to negotiate with the mechanic to waive your deductible or for a payment plan.
- Take your car to a different repair shop: If you decide to take your auto insurance check to another repair shop, it could mean cheaper repairs.
- Continue to use your car until you can afford your deductible: Many drivers choose use their car (if it’s still operable) until they can come up with the deductible amount. Waiting to file a claim is not uncommon, but it is advised to submit a claim as quickly as possible.
- Take out a personal loan: When a car insurance repair is urgent, taking out a loan might be the best option. It will likely get you, your vehicle, and other parties involved back on the road sooner.
- Consider supplemental options: You can choose to use a credit card or ask family or friends for assistance to pay your car insurance deductible, but we recommend seeking advice from an expert before making any upfront financial decisions.
Don't fret if you can't pay your car insurance deductible after an accident right away. Knowing when to adjust your deductible and when to shop around for a new car insurance company with affordable rates is the safest way to avoid high expenses in the future.
Can You Make Payments On A Car Insurance Deductible?
Some mechanics will work with you and allow a monthly payment plan to handle your deductible. This may mean that you’ll pay more over time, but it’s helpful for saving money on a lump sum all at one time.
If you simply do not have the funds for the full repairs, try starting with the most important or necessary repairs, then work on the rest over time as you have the funds to cover them.
How Long Do You Have To Pay Your Insurance Deductible?
The amount of time you have to pay your deductible depends on the repair shop you choose. If you can’t pay your car insurance deductible, you can often work out a deal with your insurance company or the mechanic to handle your costs and get your car back on the road.
Will Deductibles Affect Your Premium?
Before you choose your deductible, take the time to fully understand how basic car insurance works. Getting the full picture can help you become more confident on the road.
Your car insurance deductible is how you share the responsibility to cover losses with your insurance company. That means that if you choose a lower deductible, you will ended up paying a higher premium every month.
A higher deductible may seem beneficial because it costs a lot less up front or for monthly payments. However, you must remember you’ll be required to pay a larger portion of your insurance claims if an accident occurs.
You should choose a high deductible if you wish to pay lower monthly premiums and if you can afford that rate in the case of an accident. Select a low deductible if you can’t afford a high one or if you live in a busy metropolitan area where you’re more likely to get into an accident.
Talk to your auto insurance agent to discuss your deductible options. They’ll take a close look at your situation and walk you through choosing the best premium and deductible for your budget.
Can I Lower My Deductible Before Making A Claim?
It’s important to take some time to think about your auto insurance deductible before making a commitment. You will not be able to change your deductible amount right before filing a claim.
Choosing your deductible amount is usually decided at the beginning of your policy and can’t be changed until that policy expires. Also, because the deductible amount varies based on your premium and vice versa, you can’t make this switch halfway through a policy.
How Can You Avoid Paying Deductibles?
What happens if you can’t pay your car insurance deductible? If you’re at fault in an accident, there’s not much you can do.
At-fault drivers must pay the car insurance deductible to cover the damage caused by the incident. Mechanics are legally allowed to keep your car until its repair costs are taken care of. It also may be illegal for them to waive the deductible for you and overcharge the car insurance company.
Insurance companies may also take the deductible from your claim before paying out your benefits. For instance, if the cost to repair is $2,000 and you have a $500 deductible, your insurance provider may only write you a check for $1,500 or pay the mechanic their part of the expenses directly. This forces you to cover your deductible.
How Can I Get Out Of Paying My Deductible?
If you are not at fault in an accident and another driver hits you, you may not have to pay your deductible. The at-fault driver’s liability coverage should cover the cost of damages.
It’s not ideal to try to get out of paying a car insurance deductible. Instead, try to start a small savings account that can hold emergency funds to handle things like a car accident.
Many car insurance companies, like Nationwide, have a vanishing or disappearing deductible program. With these programs, your deductible will decrease each year you go without getting into an accident and filing an insurance claim. It’s a great benefit if you ever get into an accident.
Our Take On Car Insurance Deductibles
Searching for car insurance doesn’t have to be difficult. Just make sure to get quotes from multiple providers, so you can compare rates.
#1 Geico Insurance: Best Overall
Geico is one of the largest insurers in the nation with a strong financial backing and the goal to save drivers the most amount of money. It offers competitive car insurance rates for its six standard insurance coverage options. You can also add more coverage like rideshare insurance, accident forgiveness, and roadside assistance.
Ask one of Geico’s agents about its many discounts like safe driving, safety features installed in your car and bundling multiple policies. In our review, Geico earned a 4.5-star rating overall.
Read more in our full review of Geico insurance.
#2 Progressive Insurance: Best For High-Risk Drivers
Progressive auto insurance is also available nationwide and is a great option for high-risk drivers. The insurer has full coverage options, plus add-ons like roadside assistance, gap insurance, and rideshare coverage.
There are many available discounts, including those for safety features on your car, going paperless, and paying your premium in full. Progressive has an easy quote process, which allows you to compare other auto insurance companies right on its website. Progressive received 4.5 stars in our in-depth review.
Read more in our full review of Progressive insurance.
#3 USAA Insurance: Best For Military
USAA auto insurance is known for its exclusive coverage for military members and their families. The company provides standard coverage, plus extra coverage like rental reimbursement and accident forgiveness.
USAA has great rates that are already highly discounted, but drivers can also unlock discounts like a good student discount, defensive driving discount, and new vehicle discount. USAA came out on top in our industry review as the only provider to earn a 5.0-star rating.
Read more in our full review of USAA insurance.
In an effort to provide accurate and unbiased information to consumers, our expert review team collects data from dozens of auto insurance providers to formulate rankings of the best insurers. Companies receive a score in each of the following categories, as well as an overall weighted score out of 5.0 stars.
- Industry Standing: Insurers with strong financial ratings and customer-first business practices receive the highest scores in this category.
- Availability: We consider availability by state as well as exclusions for specific groups of drivers.
- Coverage: This rating is based on types of insurance available, maximum coverage limits, and add-on policies.
- Cost and Discounts: Our research team reviews sample quotes for a variety of drivers in every state. Companies with lower prices and many car insurance discount opportunities receive the best scores.
- Customer Service: We comb through customer reviews and consumer feedback studies from experts like J.D. Power.
- Technology: Auto insurers with mobile apps, advanced online services and telematics are more likely to meet consumer needs.
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