What To Do When Someone Scratches Your Car

When to report scratches to your car insurance company or the police

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"

The Balance / Katie Kerpel

There’s nothing worse than hearing the ear-splitting sound of something scraping down the side of your car—or worse, coming back to your parked car and finding 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. How your car was scratched also impacts whether you need to report the incident to the police.

Learn what kind of car insurance claim are you looking at if you have a scratch on your vehicle and whether your should report scratches to your insurance.

Key Takeaways

  • Comprehensive insurance covers scratches caused by vandalism, falling tree branches, or a runaway shopping cart.
  • Collision insurance covers scratches from driving, such as scraping a mailbox or being sideswiped by another vehicle.
  • 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.
  • You do not need a police report to file an insurance claim unless your car was vandalized, but it can be helpful to have one.

Should I Worry About Scratches On My Car?

In some cases, scratches are merely cosmetic damage to your car. If you have very light scratches from a tree branch or from your car brushing up against a wall, they won't cause a problem with how your car functions.

Deeper scratches are more of a problem. They will likely need some kind of repair if you don't want them to rust. And if you suspect that the scratches were caused by vandalism, then you should take them seriously. Vandalism is a crime, and it is rarely an isolated incident.

Should I Call the Police If Someone Scratches My Car?

It can be helpful to have an incident report from the police if:

  • There was another vehicle involved in the collision.
  • Your parked car was significantly damaged, and you don't know what happened.
  • You suspect your car was scratched as an act of vandalism.
  • You plan to file an insurance claim for the damages.

If you aren't in danger, call the non-emergency number for the local police. Many police departments will also allow you to file an incident report yourself using an online form.

If your car was damaged while parked in a lot or garage, or on a busy street, there may be security cameras around that caught the incident. You may be able to ask to see the footage if the damage was significant or the police suspect vandalism.

Are Scratches Covered By Car Insurance?

Insurance will often cover scratches, but you may decide you don't want to file an insurance claim. If there was no chance that you were injured, and the cost of repairing the scratches is less than your deductible, it may make more sense to handle any repairs out of pocket.

If you do want to file an insurance claim, the cause of the scratch makes a difference when it comes to whether your car insurance carrier will cover the damages. Scratches caused by different factors are covered by different types of coverage. If you don't have the right type of insurance for the cause of the scratch, you’re just plain out of luck.

Some types of scratches are covered by comprehensive coverage, while others are covered by collision coverage. Knowing what caused the damage is the first step to filing an insurance claim.

Scratches Covered by Comprehensive Coverage

Comprehensive coverage is for damage that isn't caused by a collision or your car rolling. The types of scratches covered by comprehensive auto insurance are usually:

  • An act of vandalism, such as having your car keyed
  • A branch falling on your car
  • A shopping cart pushed by the wind colliding with your car

If you want your insurance to cover these types of damages, you need to have comprehensive coverage for the damaged vehicle. If you don't, your insurance company won't pay for repairing the damage. 

In most cases, you will have a deductible on your comprehensive coverage. You must cover the amount of the deductible before insurance coverage kicks in. Insurance will kick in and cover the cost of repairs over the amount of your deductible.

A car insurance claim for vandalism usually requires a police report.

For example, say you return to your parked car and find that it has deep scratches all along the driver's side. It was clearly intentionally scratched based on the irregular markings and the severity of the scratches. If you have comprehensive coverage, you would need to file a police report, then a claim with your insurance carrier.

If repairs cost $1,000 and your deductible is $100, you will be responsible for paying only $100. Your car insurance policy will cover the remaining $900.

Scratches Covered by Collision Coverage

Collision coverage is for damage to your car that is caused by hitting another object. This could be another car. It might also be an inanimate object such as a parking garage wall or a mailbox.

A collision-related scratch is usually going to come with a deductible. Whether or not you must pay that deductible depends on several factors. These include who is at fault for causing the damage and the type of policy coverage you have with your insurer.

The types of scratches that could be covered by your collision coverage include:

  • Scraping 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

For example, you might be driving on a highway when another vehicle merges into your lane and sideswipes the passenger side of your vehicle. You and the other driver would both need to pull over and exchange insurance information. You could then be able to file a claim against the at-fault driver's insurance policy.

Some 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.

If you do file a claim, it will be up to the adjuster to decide how to proceed.

Will My Insurance Go Up If My Car Was Scratched?

Whether your car insurance will go up will depend on your insurance company and your previous driving record. Some insurers will only raise your rates if you were the at-fault driver in a collision. Others will increase the cost of your insurance if you file any sort of claim, especially if you have filed many insurance claims in the past or have a poor driving record.

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, as well as the risk of your monthly premiums increasing, 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.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

What should I do if I was in my car when it was scratched?

If you're in your car when it was hit, you should get the other driver's insurance information immediately and file a claim, even if you feel fine afterward. Some types of injuries, such as whiplash, may not show up for a while, but they can still require expensive medical care down the road. You may also need to file an incident report with the police.

How much will it cost to fix a scratch on my car?

The cost of repairs will depend on what part of your car was scratched and how deep the scratches are. You can call around to multiple auto body shops to get quotes. If another driver scratched your car, you could even ask them to cover the cost of repairs out of pocket so neither of you has to file a police report.

What should I do if my rental car gets scratched?

If you are driving a rental car and it gets scratched, you will need to file some kind of report. Depending on where your rental car insurance comes from, this likely will be with either your own car insurance company or with the rental company. Be sure to take pictures of the scratches so you do not end up paying for damage to the rental car that isn't your responsibility.

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