Paying for car repairs not covered by insurance

Car insurance is useful when you are in an accident and your car is damaged or destroyed. However, some car insurance policies do not cover the full cost of repairing the car after an accident. If you don’t have collision or comprehensive coverage, or if your policy limits are too low, you may have to pay for some of the repairs out of pocket.

Car repair data and statistics

The auto repair and maintenance industry is growing rapidly. Here are some statistics on the US auto repair industry and costs

  • In 2021, the global automotive repair and maintenance market will reach a value of almost $750.8 billion. (
  • By 2026, the automotive repair and maintenance market is expected to reach a valuation of $1,237.5 billion. (
  • 34% of vehicle owners prefer to take their cars to a car dealership for service over a third-party garage. (Cox Automotive)
  • Electric vehicles are twice as expensive to repair as gas-powered cars. (WePredict)
  • 75% of premium car brands have repair costs that are more expensive than the industry average. (WePredict)
  • The average cost of a car repair is between $500 and $600. (AAA)
  • Drivers spend approximately 9.55¢ per mile on repairs, maintenance and tires each year. (AAA)
  • Honda is the cheapest non-premium car brand to service and Acura is the cheapest premium car brand to service. (WePredict)

If you are in an accident or have another auto insurance claim, the cost of repairs can be significant. The table below includes some common types of auto repair and the average cost.

Engine change $1,000 to $7,500
Suspension damage $1000 to $5000
Airbag replacement $1000 to $1500 (per bag)
Frame damage $600 to $10,000
Windshield replacement $250 to $450
Armor repair $100 to $2000

The importance of emergency savings

Car repairs can be incredibly expensive, even if you think the damage is minor. But since auto insurance may not cover the full cost of repairs, it’s important to have an emergency savings account.

“As a vehicle owner, it’s not enough to just budget for regular maintenance and upkeep,” says Stefan Kleinekort, a mechanic and founder of The Driver Advisor, a blog that covers car maintenance. “Having a separate fund to save money for emergency repairs is a great way to make sure you can handle any unexpected repair costs and keep your car running smoothly.”

Despite the importance of an emergency fund, many drivers don’t have enough savings. Only 43% of Americans say they would pay for a $1,000 emergency expense using their current savings. Another 25% of consumers said they would borrow the money with a credit card and pay it back over time, a record percentage since the survey began in 2014.

— Bankrate’s 2023 Annual Emergency Savings Report

It’s also important to consider the other costs you may face after an accident. Here are some additional costs you may have to pay (and may be difficult to pay if you don’t have emergency savings):

  • Medical bills
  • Alternative transportation, such as a rental car
  • Lost wages if you can’t work
  • Higher car insurance premiums

How to pay for auto repairs not covered by insurance without savings

If you don’t have an emergency fund or don’t have enough money in your account to pay for a car repair, you have several options:

  • Get a personal loan: Personal loans can be a good solution if you need to finance an expensive car repair. If you have good credit, it’s often easy to qualify for a personal loan, and many lenders will deposit the funds into your account in as little as one business day.
  • Set up a payment plan: Ask the mechanic who works on your vehicle if you can set up a payment plan with their shop. A payment plan allows you to pay off the repair bill in small increments over time instead of paying the full price up front.
  • Use a credit card: Although not the most ideal option, you can consider paying for the repair with a credit card. Some cards even have 0% APR as a welcome offer when you open a new account. Just be aware that credit cards often have high interest rates, so if you can’t pay off the balance before the introductory offer expires, it could cost you more.
  • Ask friends or family members: See if a friend or family member is willing to lend you money to pay for your car repairs. If you borrow this way, be sure to let the lender know when you can pay them back, and consider setting up a payment plan if you need to pay them back later.

How negligence insurance can help with your out-of-pocket auto repair costs

If your car is leased or financed, breakdown insurance can help you avoid some out-of-pocket repair costs.

According to Kleinekoort, “Gap insurance bridges the gap between the amount of money you owe on your lease or loan and the amount your insurance company will pay out if the car is damaged or destroyed. It covers the difference if your insurance payout is less than what you owe on the vehicle.

While gap insurance can be useful if you have negative equity in your vehicle, it does not apply to vehicles that are fully paid off. Many auto insurance companies offer lapse insurance as an endorsement on your auto policy, or you can purchase it through your lender.

Frequently Asked Questions

    • There is no specific amount of money you should have in your emergency savings account. However, many financial experts agree that you may want to have enough savings to cover three to six months of living expenses, which include car ownership costs such as gas, insurance and maintenance.
    • If you are involved in an accident and the other driver is responsible, you should file a claim with your insurance company. An adjuster will investigate the claim and determine how much money you owe. In most cases, insurance claims adjusters work with the at-fault driver’s insurance company and negotiate your settlement, so you don’t need to be involved.
    • Many car repairs can be expensive, but some repairs are more expensive than others. “The most expensive type of auto repair is usually related to the engine,” says Kleincourt. “Replacing or repairing a damaged or worn engine can be extremely expensive due to the labor involved and the cost of the parts.”

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