If the insurance pays for damage, the premium for the driver increases. Therefore, it is often financially better to bear the costs yourself. FOCUS Online calculates in which cases it is really worthwhile.

A damaged fender or scratches on your own car – car insurance pays for such damage. Liability covers damage you cause to other people’s vehicles, comprehensive insurance takes care of your own repairs if you were to blame.

But this convenience has a disadvantage: as soon as the policy steps in, the insured person loses part of his no-claims bonus – and the contributions rise. For example, HUK Coburg downgrades the driver in their basic tariff from the highest no-claims class (SF) 35 by 15 levels to 20 after damage in motor vehicle liability insurance. This increases the contribution rate from 20 percent to 29 percent.

If you were previously in SF 10, you will be transferred to SF 1 after just one fault-related accident. Instead of a 39 percent contribution rate, you then pay 69 percent – based on your annual contribution, this is a price increase of 76 percent.

Because of such discount losses, the costs for your car policy increase significantly in the following year. And until you have reached your old level again, you sometimes have to be on the road for more than a decade without having an accident.

Many motorists therefore ask themselves: Up to what limit should I rather bear the costs myself? And at what level of damage does it make financial sense to let the insurance company pay? Because the insurance company is not forced to pay. Normally, the costs are initially borne by the insurance company. With many providers, however, drivers have six months or until the end of the year to bear the costs themselves. To do this, they must transfer the money to the insurance company. Anyone who comes to an agreement with the insurance company at an early stage can, of course, also bear the workshop costs themselves.

The consumer portal Verivox has calculated two example cases for FOCUS Online on the basis of three insurance companies.

Case 1: A driver has reached the low SF 25 and pays 150 euros per year for his liability insurance and 200 euros for comprehensive insurance in the basic tariff (Note: With fully comprehensive insurance, the no-claims class – unlike with partially comprehensive policies – also reduces the Contribution).

After an accident, his insurance downgrades him from SF 25 to SF 4. Because a short time later his car is also broken into, he moves from the SF 25 back to the SF 6 with fully comprehensive insurance.

Due to the downgrades, the driver will then have to pay an additional 531 euros for liability and 472 euros for fully comprehensive insurance for ten years. After 20 years, it is already 787 euros (liability) and 728 euros (fully comprehensive) compared to the original contribution. Assuming the driver is still driving, it would be worth paying the fee yourself if it is below these amounts.

The additional burden is even greater if the no-claims bonus is not that high and the premium is more expensive.

Case 2: The driver has only reached SF 7 and pays 400 euros per year for liability and 450 euros for fully comprehensive insurance in the basic tariff. After each case of damage, both insurance companies downgrade it from SF 7 to SF 1. In the first ten years after the accident, he therefore has to pay 1,015 euros more for liability and 682 euros more for fully comprehensive insurance. After 20 years, the difference to the respective old tariff is even 1405 euros in liability) and 1031 euros in comprehensive insurance.

Rule of thumb 1: The longer the car-insured person drives the car after the accident, the greater his contribution burden. “Only when he has reached the most favorable no-claims category does he pay exactly the same price as a driver who has not been downgraded,” explains Wolfgang Schütz, Managing Director of the Verivox insurance comparison. For older insured persons, it is therefore more worthwhile to let the insurance company pay for the damage.

Rule of thumb 2: It is usually worthwhile for all drivers to pay for liability and fully comprehensive damage up to around 1500 euros themselves. “That applies to a medium no-claims bonus and contributions totaling around 500 euros a year,” says Schütz. If the discount is lower or the SF is below 15, self-regulation is worthwhile even in the case of larger claims.

Anyone who has caused damage can ask their insurer for an exact extrapolation. “Pay attention to how far it extends into the future,” recommends Schütz. “In most cases, more than 15 or 20 years is not realistic.” Alternatively, you can also use the downgrading calculator from Stiftung Warentest.

Some insurance companies offer a good service and automatically inform their customers when self-payment is worthwhile. Then the customer can pay the bill out of his own pocket and the insurance changes nothing. Other insurers only suggest this up to a damage of 1000 euros or 1500 euros.

Basically, you have three options to avoid getting a lower SF after an insured event: