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Should You File a Small Auto Insurance Claim?

You could pay more in extra premiums than you receive from your insurer for the claim.

I'm debating whether to file a claim with my auto insurer for a $1,000 repair to a damaged bumper. I have a $100 collision deductible. Will filing a claim increase my premium?E.E., Plainsboro, N.J.

It might. You could lose a claims-free discount, or your insurer could add an accident surcharge that boosts your premiums for several years. The specifics vary depending on your insurer, your state and your policy, but you could end up paying more in extra premiums than you receive from your insurance company for the claim.

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The average surcharge for one at-fault accident in New Jersey is 32%, according to Insure.com, which posts average rate increases by state. Some insurers in New Jersey forgive the first accident, or they assess a surcharge only for claims that exceed a certain level, such as $500 or $750. Surcharges can last three to five years.

The bigger risk comes if you have a second at-fault accident in two or three years, which could boost your rate by 77% to nearly 350%, says Insure.com's Michelle Megna.

You can avoid this dilemma in the future by increasing your collision deductible, which can trim your premiums and deter you from filing small claims. "A $100 collision deductible is too low," says Christopher Boggs, of the Independent Insurance Agents & Brokers of America.

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