With streets sizzling under the summer sun, drivers should be mindful that warmer temperatures also mean potholes.
There are nearly 56 million potholes in the U.S., according to estimates from the Harpers Index Road Information Program — that’s eight potholes per mile of paved road. We’ve all seen drivers dodging potholes, but often there’s no way to avoid them and cars pay the price. So, what should you do if a big pothole damages your car? There’s no one-size-fits-all answer, but below is some information to help you navigate the situation.
Does car insurance cover pothole damage? The good news — yes, your auto insurance does cover pothole damage — as long as you have collision coverage. Potholes typically damage not only tires and wheels, but also suspension systems, exhaust systems and even the body of the car, so repair costs can vary from a couple hundred dollars to more than a thousand.
“Pothole damage can put a big hole in your wallet,” says Jon Bloom, vice president, personal auto, Erie Insurance. “It’s not always clear whether you should file a claim and that’s where your agent comes in. They’ll help you decide the next steps. For example, is the cost lower than the deductible? Will filing a claim affect your premium? Your agent is your trusted source to weigh the pros and cons.”
Will the city or municipality pay to fix pothole damage? Many, but not all, cities and towns let you file a pothole claim if your car sustains damage from a pothole on a city roadway. The process varies, so check with your city’s road department to see if it accepts claims. Keep in mind there’s no guarantee you’ll receive payment for damages, and they can have a cap. Plus, getting reimbursed can be a lengthy process.
Regardless of how you recoup damages, always make sure to document everything. Take a photo of the pothole, note the date and time of the incident, and get estimates from at least two mechanics. And, there’s always the option of paying out of pocket if the costs are minimal.
Additionally, there are simple steps you can take to prevent major damage. The best advice is to stay alert to avoid hitting potholes in the first place. You should also keep your tires inflated to the proper air pressure. And, if you have to drive over a pothole, slow down, release the brakes and straighten the steering wheel.