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When you’re involved in a collision in your vehicle, it’s important to find out the extent of the damage to make sure it’s still safe to drive. Extensive automotive damage isn’t always visible since it can occur beneath the hood or to the frame. If you only have cosmetic damage to the vehicle, you may wonder exactly what this means and what it will cost to have it repaired. Learn more about cosmetic damage, how much it could cost to fix, and how it compares to other types of car damage.

What Does Cosmetic Damage Mean on a Car?

car with broken windowImage via Flickr by Tim Dorr

Cosmetic damage refers to any automotive damage that doesn’t impede the vehicle’s operational performance. The damage is visible, impacting the way the car looks but not the way it drives. In general, cosmetic damage is easier and less expensive to fix than more extensive damage, although it ultimately depends on the type of vehicle you drive and the work needed to repair it.

Some examples of cosmetic damage to a vehicle include a scratched or dented bumper, a chipped windshield, scratches in the paint, or dings and chips on the vehicle’s exterior. While these may impact the overall look of your vehicle, you don’t need to make any repairs immediately. One exception is a cracked windshield, which can impair your vision.

The cost of a repair may require you to put off the service until you can save up for it. However, your auto insurance policy may cover the work. For those in the Chicago, Illinois, area, American Auto Insurance policies often include coverage for cosmetic damage, although the coverage limits depend on how the accident occurred. The main types of coverage under an auto insurance policy include:

  • Bodily injury liability.
  • Property damage liability.
  • Uninsured motorist coverage.
  • Medical payments.
  • Comprehensive coverage.
  • Collision coverage.

You can also add options like rental reimbursement or emergency roadside assistance. The way the damage was sustained to your vehicle will determine which type of coverage will pay for the repairs. Comprehensive coverage includes damage that isn’t the result of a collision, such as theft or damage from a fire or flood. Collision coverage includes damage sustained in an accident, whether it was with another vehicle or any other object. Check your policy or contact your insurance representative to file a claim before you take it into a shop.

How Much Does it Cost to Fix Dents and Scratches?

The cost to repair cosmetic damage depends on several factors. These include the make and model of your vehicle and the extent of the damage. If you drive a high-end model or an imported vehicle, the cost for repairs is usually higher because the parts are more expensive. A chipped windshield can cost as little as $50 to repair, while a broken windshield may be up to $900 to replace. Newer vehicles with high-end safety features often include sensors and other components that make them more expensive.

Scratches and chips in your vehicle’s paint job aren’t too expensive to repair, but they are certainly frustrating. Paint damage often comes from other drivers bumping their vehicle doors into the side of your car or objects hitting the exterior. You may even end up with more significant damage caused by vandalism or an errant shopping cart in a parking lot. The depth of the scratches and chips will determine the cost of repair. You might be able to touch up minor scratches with a paint pen, while more extensive damage could cost up to $1,000 or more.

Many vehicle manufacturers have shifted from exposed metal bumpers to plastic bumper covers, which help to improve aerodynamics, boost the fuel economy, and reduce the weight of cars. However, those plastic covers dent easily, so even a minor collision can lead to visible damage. Some vehicles have bumpers with built-in grille elements, headlight washers, or sensors for the safety equipment, so those are more expensive to replace. Slight bumper damage may cost only a few hundred dollars to repair, while more extensive damage can be in the range of $1,500.

You may be able to fix some dents and dings on your door with the paintless door repair process, although it depends on how deep the damage goes. As long as the paint isn’t missing or cracked, and the back of the panel is accessible, this type of repair may be a quick and cost-effective fix. A minor ding or dent usually costs about $150 for repair, although more extensive work costs more as it may require sanding, repainting, and other tasks.

Types of Car Damage

In addition to cosmetic damage, other types of vehicle damage exist and can impact your ability to safely drive your car. Most auto body shops and insurance providers categorize vehicle damage as minor, moderate, or severe.

  • Minor: Cosmetic damage often falls under the minor category and may include scratches, dings, and scrapes. Minor damage could also include a small dent in the hood or bumper or minimal damage to the headlights or front fascia. If you can still drive your car without major concerns, it likely only has minor damage.
  • Moderate: Moderate damage to a vehicle often includes larger dents on the exterior, such as in the doors, hood, or fenders. When the airbags deploy or you cannot open the doors due to the amount of damage sustained, it’s usually moderate. This damage can also impact the way your car drives.
  • Severe: Typically, severe damage includes significant damage sustained to the frame and/or axles.  A rollover accident would be considered severe, as would an accident that causes major damage to the full side of the car.

After an accident, it’s important to know what steps to take to protect yourself and your vehicle. You should always consult with your insurance representative to inform them and start the claims process. At American Auto Insurance, we have team members available to provide assistance and roadside service if you have been in a collision.