Have you ever come out of the grocery store to find a shopping cart parked smack dab on the side of your car? No matter how careful you are, you can't always protect your vehicle from the elements or careless shoppers. If you like to keep your vehicle in good condition, find out how to fix scratches on a car and discover how much to budget for repairs.
How to fix scratches on your car
Auto body repairs can be a costly and time-consuming headache, even for minor scratches. Depending on your car make and model, the color, and your location, prices can range from $3.00 for a quick DIY job to $7,500 for professional repairs and a new paint job.
The most significant factor in determining the best way to fix your car is the extent of the scrape. Your vehicle's body has multiple layers of finishes, so, contrary to what some might believe, it's not the size of the scratch but the depth of the damage.
A light scrape is much different from dents and severe body damage. A slight scratch could take an hour to fix yourself, but deep gouges could take professionals several days to repair. Start by analyzing which of the following paint defects you have:
- On the surface: The clear coat is a thin top layer that protects your paint. Light surface marks on the clear coating happen daily and can be caused by using cheap washing and drying sponges or cloths. These are the simplest type of scratches to fix.
- Into the paint: When a scratch penetrates the clear coat, then the paint is damaged. At this level, you can feel the divot with your fingernail, but it's not deep. Dings at this level are more noticeable and can be harder to fix than surface scratches.
- Deep into the primer: If the damage reaches a deeper level, repairs become more difficult because a multi-layer approach is required. Fixing these types of gouges yourself can be challenging and might need an expert touch to get a good result.
- Down to the metal: When damage is so severe you can see the metal, it's reached the deepest level. These scratches require immediate attention because once the metal is exposed, contaminants are introduced, leading to oxidation and rust.
Do-it-yourself scratch repairs
It doesn't take much to scratch paint on your car. Whether it's bug bodies, bird droppings, or dusty rags, abrasions are unavoidable, but repairs don’t need to cost a fortune if you do the work yourself. The best part of DIY methods is answering the question, “How much to fix a scratch on a car?” Not much, if you can use one of these tricks of the trade:
- Toothpaste: Whitening toothpaste acts as a lighter, softer form of sandpaper. A small dab can buff out slight abrasions when rubbed onto the smooth surface of your car. Indeed, this repair probably won't cost you a cent.
- Paint: Use auto paint for deeper paint level scratches. Hardware or auto parts stores carry general body paint. You can buy exact matches for your vehicle identification number (VIN) at your dealership for around $25 per ounce.
- Wax: Auto wax minimizes shallow marks and swirl or spider web scratches by filling them with a protective layer. This approach can work to remove surface scratches and to prevent future damage.
- Polishing: For oxidation, swirl marks, and surface scuffs, polishing can work wonders. Polish might be all your car needs to get rid of blemishes and bring out the paint finish's sheen and brilliance.
- Repair kits: Used for slight marks, you can find scratch repair kits at your local auto part store. Depending on the amount of damage and your skill level, a wide range of products are available, from corrective pens to fillers and sanders.
Professional auto body fixes
Sometimes minor scratches can be mended at home using products from your local auto parts store or with custom paint from the dealership, but when the divots are too deep, or your skill level is lacking, it might be time to call a professional. If you’re wondering, “How much to repair scratches on a car professionally?” Consider these expert options and costs:
- Dealership: For deep scrapes on newer cars, a local dealership should have the VIN paint needed to make repairs. You can purchase colors from them for DIY for around $50 to $300 for two ounces. At a dealer, the cost to remove a car scratch can range from $150 to $1000—double the amount for repairs to the hood or doors.
- Auto body shop: Most independent auto body shops should fix all scratch levels, offering various repair options for different damage degrees. The cost varies depending on where you live but should be less than dealerships. For the best price, get estimates from at least three places and check their online reviews.
- Mechanic: If you can't afford to take your car to a dealership or auto body shop, hiring a home mechanic might be a viable alternative to DIY repairs and a fraction of the cost of a repair shop. Search online or ask friends for recommendations and be sure to request references before hiring someone to do the work.
Does insurance cover scratches on a car?
Car insurance can save you a heap of money if you need autobody repairs, provided you carry a comprehensive policy. When it comes to fixing scratches, some things are covered, and some things aren't, but you'll need to pay your deductible. Here are some circumstances when comprehensive insurance might cover costs of scratch repairs:
- Natural disasters
- Water damage
- Falling objects
A comprehensive auto policy also covers damage caused by accidents, such as body scuffs from an accident with another vehicle or from trees, gravel, or mud along the road. In that case, you may be able to file a claim and get the insurance company to pay for repairs, minus your deductible.
The downside of filing a claim is that it can increase your premium. The insurance company might want to investigate any claims, so you may have to wait a while to get your car fixed.
Is it worth fixing scratches on a car?
If you look closely, just about every vehicle you see on the road has paint damage. While some scratches can wipe away easily, others require in-depth repairs that can get rather expensive. Contact a dealership to determine what level of repair is needed, and you might find a simple, cost-effective solution to fixing the scratches on your car. Or you could discover that it’s time for an upgrade.