What to Do When Someone Scratches Your Car

Image shows a car with scratches on it. Text reads: "Scratches covered by comprehensive coverage: your car was keyed in an act of vandalism; a tree branch fell on your vehicle; a shopping cart pushed by the wind collides with your car"

Image by Katie Kerpel © The Balance 2020

There’s nothing worse than hearing the ear-splitting sound of something scraping down the side of your car—or worse than coming back from a shopping trip or short period of leaving your car unattended and seeing that it is all scratched up. Car scratches are not all handled the same when it comes to car insurance; a lot of variables come into play. What kind of car insurance claim are you looking at if you have a scratch in your vehicle?

Key Takeaways

  • Comprehensive insurance covers scratches caused by situations such as vandalism, a falling tree branch, or a runaway shopping cart.
  • Collision insurance covers scratches related to driving, such as scraping a mailbox while pulling into a driveway, as well as situations that involve someone else's car.
  • You'll have to contact your insurance company if you don't know what caused the scratch.
  • You may be better off fixing minor scratches on your own if the damages are less than your deductible.

How Your Vehicle Got Scratched Makes a Difference

The actual cause of the scratch makes a huge difference when it comes to whether your car insurance carrier is going to pay to repair the damages. Scratches caused by different factors are covered by different types of coverage—and for some types of damage, if you don’t have a certain type of coverage, you’re just plain out of luck.

Knowing what caused the damage is the first step to getting an insurance claim filed.

Scratches Covered by Comprehensive Coverage

If you have a scratch caused by a comprehensive coverage factor, you need comprehensive listed on the damaged vehicle in order for your insurance company to pay for repairing the damage. 

  • Your car was keyed in an act of vandalism.
  • A tree branch fell on your vehicle.
  • A shopping cart pushed by the wind collided with your car.

Most likely, you will have a deductible on your comprehensive coverage, and you must cover the amount of the deductible before insurance coverage kicks in and covers the costs of having your vehicle repaired.

A vandalized car insurance claim usually requires a police report.

Example: John's truck was horribly scratched all along the driver's side of the vehicle. The vehicle had clearly been intentionally scratched based on the irregular markings and the severity of the scratches. John files a police report. He then files a claim with his insurance carrier because he had comprehensive coverage listed on his truck. His deductible is $100. John is responsible for paying his $100 deductible, and his car insurance policy will cover the remaining cost of repairing the damage.

Scratches Covered by Collision Coverage

Collision coverage is required for a scratch when the scratch occurs from hitting another object. It is easy to misjudge the distance from an inanimate object when you are in a tight-squeeze situation. Sometimes a scratch is just unavoidable. A collision-related scratch is usually going to come with a deductible. Whether or not you must pay it depends on several factors, including who is at fault in causing the damage, and the type of policy coverage you have with your insurer.

The following are examples of events that could be covered by your insurance policy.

  • Barely scraping by an inanimate object, such as a mailbox or pole
  • Car door hitting your car in a parking lot
  • Sideswiping another vehicle
  • Scratches from a car wash
  • Scraping tree branches while driving

Example: Driving down the highway, a vehicle merges into John's lane and sideswipes the passenger side of his vehicle. John is able to maintain control of his vehicle, and they both pull over into the nearest gas station. John gets the insurance information from the at-fault driver and is able to file a claim against the at-fault driver's insurance policy. Twelve states, including Michigan, have no-fault auto insurance laws.

If You Don't Know How Your Car Got Scratched

Not knowing how your vehicle was scratched could be a problem. You can still file the claim and discuss the situation with the claim adjuster. Claim adjusters see so much damage that they may have a good idea of what caused the damage, just by looking at the scratches.

Severe scratches are often caused by a collision. It will be up to the claim adjuster how to proceed. Considering doing the repair on your own? Check out Popular Mechanics' 10 Car Scratch Repair Tips.

While it's ultimately a personal choice, seek the help of a licensed insurance agent who can guide you as to whether you are looking at a worthwhile claim for your given situation.

Scratches can range in severity and cost to repair. Get estimates from a body shop to determine how much repairs will cost. Keep your deductible in mind when deciding whether the scratch warrants a car insurance claim.

Sometimes you are better off repairing the damage and not filing a claim at all.