Does Your Car Insurance Cover Pothole Damage?


With winter on the way, along with White Christmases, ski trips and snowball fights, we can also look forward to more potholes cropping up. Winter weather takes a heavy toll on America’s crumbling roads. The New York DOT estimates it fills as many as 5,000 a day and in Illinois, pothole repair is a year-round exercise in futility.  All it takes is one little crack in the asphalt where water can collect, freeze, expand and push the pavement up and out. Repeated over time, that tiny crack turns into a gaping road hazard. But those hazardous holes aren’t limited to snow country. As any Southern California driver can tell you, pot holes happen everywhere.  Over just two weekends in 2011, Operation Pothole filled 350,000 potholes in Los Angeles!

In addition to your tax-payer dollars devoted to road repair, potholes can hit your personal pocketbook, too. The annual repair cost for the average driver per vehicle due to potholes and bad pavement is estimated at $402, according to The Road Information Program (Feb. 2011). And for many drivers, that’s a pure out-of-pocket cost because standard car insurance typically doesn’t cover pothole damage.  For that, you need to carry collision, an optional coverage.

Auto collision insurance covers damages when your car collides with an inanimate object like a fence post or a pothole. If you have collision coverage, check your policy’s exclusions and limitations. Many car
collision policies exclude replacing your tires if they’re damaged. You could add tire damage as an endorsement, but the extra premium might not be worth the trouble. Most collision policies have $250 to $1,000 deductible – way more than the cost to replace a tire.

Of course, colliding with a pothole frequently damages much more than tires, especially if you hit it at a relatively high speed. In that case, you could be looking at costly repairs to wheels, suspension and
undercarriage. Collision insurance will cover those repairs, up to the limits of your policy, minus the deductible. However, most collision coverage charges premiums based on factory specs. If you’ve added fancy custom rims or an expensive after-market suspension system, you’ll need to disclose that to your
insurer. Expect to pay a higher premium for that,  or to make up the difference for a higher grade replacement part out of your own pocket.

Should you get collision insurance? If the bank or credit union still owns the lien on your car, you probably have no choice. The lender will require it. But if you hold the pink slip, you need to make the decision
based on the value of your particular vehicle against the cost of annual collision insurance premiums and the deductible you want. The higher the deductible you’re willing to shoulder, the lower your collision premium. And watch out for those potholes.

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