Car insurance comes in handy when you’re in an accident and your vehicle gets damaged or totaled. However, some car insurance policies don’t cover the full cost of car repairs after a crash. If you don’t carry collision or comprehensive coverage, or if your policy limits are too low, you might have to pay for part of the repairs out-of-pocket.
Auto repair data and statistics
The auto repair and maintenance industry is growing fast. Here are some statistics about the industry and the cost of car repairs in the U.S.
- In 2021, the global automotive repair and maintenance market reached a value of almost $750.8 billion. (ResearchAndMarkets.com)
- By 2026, the car repair and maintenance market is expected to reach a valuation of $1,237.5 billion. (ResearchAndMarkets.com)
- 34% of vehicle owners prefer to take their cars to the dealership for servicing, rather than a third-party auto body shop. (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 car repairs is between $500 and $600. (AAA)
- Drivers spend roughly 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 brand to service. (WePredict)
If you get into an accident or have another auto insurance claim, the cost of repairs could be significant. The table below includes some common car repair types and the average cost.
|$1,000 to $7,500
|$1,000 to $5,000
|$1,000 to $1,500 (per bag)
|$600 to $10,000
|$250 to $450
|$100 to $2,000
The importance of emergency savings
Car repairs can be incredibly expensive, even if you think the damage is minor. But because car 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 costs,” says Stefan Kleinekoort, a mechanic, and the 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 ensure 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 adequate savings. Only 43% of Americans say they would pay for a $1,000 emergency expense using their current savings. Another 25% of consumers say they would borrow the money using a credit card and pay it off over time, a record percentage since polling started in 2014.
— Bankrate’s 2023 annual emergency savings report
It’s also important to consider the other costs you might face after an accident. Here are some additional expenses you might have to pay (and might be hard-pressed to pay if you don’t have any emergency savings):
- Medical bills
- Alternate transportation, like a rental car
- Lost wages if you can’t work
- Higher car insurance premiums
How to pay for auto repairs that are not covered by insurance without savings
If you don’t have an emergency fund, or you don’t have enough money in your account to pay for car repairs, you have a few 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 in your account in as little as one business day.
- Set up a payment plan: Ask the mechanic working 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, rather than paying the entire cost upfront.
- Use a credit card: While it’s not the most ideal option, you can consider paying for the repairs using a credit card. Some cards even have 0% APR as a welcome offer when you open a new account. Just keep in mind that credit cards often have high interest rates, so if you can’t pay off the balance before the intro offer expires, it could end up costing 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 take this route, make 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 over time.
How gap insurance can help with out-of-pocket auto repair costs
If your car is leased or financed, gap 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 helpful if you have negative equity in your vehicle, it does not apply to vehicles that are fully paid off. Many car insurance companies offer gap insurance as an endorsement on your auto policy, or you can purchase it through your lender.
Frequently asked questions
There’s no specific amount of money you should have in your emergency savings account. However, many finance experts agree that you might want to have enough savings to cover three to six months of living expenses, which include car ownership costs, like gas, insurance, and maintenance.
If you get into an accident and the other driver was responsible, you should file a claim with your insurance company. An adjuster will investigate the claim and determine how much money you’re owed. In most cases, insurance claims adjusters work with the at-fault driver’s insurance company and negotiate your settlement, so there’s no need for you to be involved.
Many car repairs can be expensive, but some repair jobs are more costly than others. “The most expensive type of car repair is typically engine-related,” says Kleinekoort. “Replacing or repairing a damaged or worn engine can be extremely expensive due to the labor involved and the cost of parts.”