Question: I recently hit a fire hydrant. My back bumper has a large dent in it. Can I use my insurance to cover the cost of replacing the bumper? If so, what do I claim it as? And I don’t think the hydrant was damaged, but if it was could someone come after me for that?

Answer: If you only have liability coverage, you’re out of luck with fixing your car. If you have collision insurance, it will cover your back bumper — but only if the cost of repairs is more than your deductible amount.  

Use your car insurance for the big things and take care of smaller repairs yourself. So, even if the repair costs are just a bit more than your deductible, pay out of pocket instead of filing an auto insurance claim. This will keep a claim from going on your record and affecting your future car insurance rates. 

It’s possible that one small accident claim like this won’t result in you receiving a surcharge, but you don’t know what the future holds. You could be in another accident next month and have to use your collision coverage again. Two accidents in such a short period of time would almost certainly result in a surcharge at renewal time.

Drivers with multiple accidents (two or more within a three-year period) appear to auto insurance providers to pose more of a risk, and thus insurers file their rates with the state in a way that allows these types of drivers to be charged more to be insured. Keeping accidents and claims to a minimum will help you obtain lower auto insurance rates.

As for the fire hydrant, if it were damaged, the city or local jurisdiction could charge you for damages to the fire hydrant.

Luckily, you didn’t hit the hydrant so hard as to cause it to topple or lose water. Many water authorities will charge a driver for the water and the hydrant, which could quickly add up to thousands of dollars. 

Your property damage liability coverage will pay, up to your limits, for damages you do to other people’s property. So, if the hydrant was damaged and you receive a letter requesting compensation, you should contact your auto insurance company so that your property damage liability will cover it.

If this incident with the fire hydrant affects your car insurance rates, remember to comparison shop and make certain you’re getting the best premium possible. Even with an accident or violation on your record, it’s worth shopping around — it could save you hundreds of dollars.

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Executive Editor

Laura is an award-winning editor with experience in content and communications covering auto insurance and personal finance. She has written for several media outlets, including the USA Today Network. She most recently worked in the public sector for the Nevada Department of Transportation.