What to do when the car wash damages your car

December 17, 2014

Even at the best car washes, sometimes your car can get scratched or damaged. Here’s what you need to know.

What to do when the car wash damages your car

Dent or ding—accidents happen

Whether it’s a small scratch or larger dent or ding, damage to your car is the last thing you want to have to deal with when you zip in for a quick wash. It can be frustrating and time-consuming, and there could be questions about who is accountable. Was the equipment to blame, or did your car have that little scratch before and you just never noticed it?

Even at the most reputable car washes, sometimes accidents can happen. Here are a few precautions to take before you take your car through a car wash.

Check your car before you go into the car wash and after

This is the best way to be certain that any damage was caused by the car wash equipment and didn’t happen before you arrived.

Ask about their damage policy before you go in

Some car washes will have signs that clearly state that they’re not responsible for damage, but you can still ask the owner about it. If the damage is caused by negligence or malfunctioning equipment, there’s a better chance the car wash will be held accountable.

Report any damage to the car wash owner immediately

Don’t drive off the lot and return later, as it will be harder to prove the damage was caused by the car wash. If you report it right away, the operator will likely be able to see that it’s a fresh scratch or dent and determine how it might have happened.

Accept the risk of having your car wash

If you’re really nervous about your car being damaged in a car wash – even if the risk is minimal – your best bet is not to go to one. You’re better off doing it yourself either at home in your driveway or at a self-serve car wash bay where you’re in complete control.

If necessary, file a complaint

If you're certain the damage was caused by the car wash, you may be asked to fill out an incident/damage report form or write a complaint on your own. Be sure to keep copies for your records.

  • Depending on the car wash's insurance policy, you may be required to get repair estimates before a claim can be processed, and it could take some time before a decision is made as to whether or not they will cover the damage.
  • If your claim is denied and the damage was significant enough for you to pursue action, try contacting the insurance company or consider hiring an attorney.
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