Will Your Insurance Cover Car Wash Damage?

March 28, 2024

Approximately 66% of Americans wash their сars once or twice a month, resulting in an average of 13 washes annually. The ongoing trend of on-demand car washes is generating interest and consumer preference for professional car wash services over self-service and home washes. However, the transition from DIY to DIFM (do-it-for-me) does not negate the importance of the usual and self-service car wash insurance.

Accidents can happen either due to the driver’s fault or the car wash owner’s negligence, and you might end up wondering, “What happens if my car is damaged in a car wash?”

This article will answer a number of questions, including:

  • Does insurance cover car wash damage?
  • Are automatic car washes liable for the damage?
  • Can a car wash damage your engine?
  • Will my insurance cover car wash damage?
  • Can you sue a car wash for damage?

We will also take a closer look at the cases when the car wash has to compensate for the damage, when your insurance company may do so, and when you may have to pay for repairs yourself.

When Are You at Risk of Getting Damage at the Car Wash?

Your car can be unexpectedly damaged at the car wash for various reasons. The most common reason is owners’ negligence or their desire to save money. For example, cheap, low-quality cleaning agents can damage the paint on the car, while abrasive ones can leave noticeable scratches.

Serious damage can occur if the car wash equipment is not regularly checked and maintained. For instance, a brush may detach and shatter the windshield, leaving dents on the doors, hood, or trunk. This mainly applies to automatic car washes.

When cleaning the car manually, the worker may not be adequately trained. The result is your car damaged in a car wash due to poor service.

Are Automatic Car Washes Liable for Damages?

The owner may be responsible for the damage if it was caused by:

  • Poorly maintained or faulty equipment
  • Lack of proper warnings or instructions on the premises
  • Negligence or insufficient training of employees
  • Concealing risks or information in the disclaimer

Can a Car Wash Damage Your Engine?

The answer is yes, but only if you leave it running. In that case, water and cleaning agents can penetrate deep into the engine, damaging the generator, starter, and other parts of the car. Therefore, one of the main requirements at car wash stations is to turn off the engine.

In addition to ignoring the requirement to turn off the engine before washing, drivers can also cause accidents in other ways. For instance, you may collide with the car wash wall. This mishap can occur when you accidentally shift from neutral during the car wash process. This also includes situations where you accidentally hit another car when entering or exiting the station.

Will My Insurance Cover Car Wash Damage?

It all depends on what type of auto insurance you have. To better understand the topic, we will consider what type of coverage will protect you from unnecessary financial expenses in different situations.

What Coverage You Need for Successful Car Wash Damage Claims

If you accidentally hit a wall at the car wash, three types of coverage can save you from unforeseen expenses:

  1. Liability insurance will cover car wash damage (small claims) and/or expenses if you hit someone else’s car.
  2. Collision insurance will compensate for damage caused to your car, either due to the car wash’s fault or the fault of another driver.
  3. Comprehensive coverage will cover repair expenses for your car and damage caused by you to another driver or the car wash.

If you cause the incident, you should immediately contact your insurance agent.

Car Wash Scratched My Car: What To Do

You need to call your insurance company. It is also recommended to immediately document the damage, meaning to take photos of the negligence of the owner or car wash employee.

Consider this scenario: you went to a car wash and followed all instructions. But during the wash, the equipment malfunctioned and caused scratches or broke your glass. Here, comprehensive insurance will be very useful. With it, you can file a car wash damage lawsuit with your insurance company.

If you do not have comprehensive insurance, you should file a claim directly against the car wash. In this case, you need to find out information about the liability insurance of the car wash’s customer service representative. If a car wash damages your car, be sure to gather and keep all documentation, such as receipts, invoices, photos of the damage, a waiver of liability if signed by you, and so on.

Does Signing a Waiver Mean I Can’t File Car Wash Damage Claims?

Quite often, car washes ask drivers to sign a waiver of liability. This document is necessary to release the servicing company from liability for any problems with your car that arise, not due to the car wash’s fault.

What To Do if Car Wash Damages Your Car

You can expect compensation if you can prove that the accident occurred due to negligence.

Let’s take a closer look at what happens if a car wash damages your car, but you have signed a waiver. There are several cases where this document does not protect the car wash owner from liability for the damage, and you can file car wash damage claims:

  • State legislation limits car wash owners’ ability to waive certain rights in certain situations. Therefore, the application of a liability waiver may be invalid from a legal standpoint, and you can confidently fill out a car wash damage claim form.
  • Violation of safety standards. The car wash is obliged to take all measures to eliminate any risks associated with its equipment. If this did not happen, it would be the reason for declaring the waiver of liability invalid. The owner may need insurance for the car wash business.
  • Vague wordings. If the document contains ambiguous or too general wordings, they may be interpreted as an attempt to release the car wash from liability in any situation. This circumstance will work in your favor and allow you to file a claim.

One of the most common damages are scratches. So, understanding what to do if car wash scratches a car is crucial to handle the issue in an efficient manner. Remember that a liability waiver does not always provide complete protection for the car wash owner from lawsuits, especially in the presence of legislative limitations, evidence of negligence, or improper document wording.

What Should You Do if You and the Car Wash Are Liable for the Damages?

When it comes to traffic accidents, some states use the concept of “comparative negligence”. This means that each party involved must compensate the other for the damages they caused. For example, if the total cost of the accident is estimated at $5,000 and it is determined that the parties involved are equally at fault (50/50), then each must pay $2,500.

This principle can be applied if the car wash scratched a car with faulty equipment. And you, in turn, did not follow the proper instructions.

Please note that in 12 states, there is a modified law of 50% comparative negligence.

50 rule of modified

Source: Forbes

According to the rule of modified comparative negligence, the party whose fault in the accident exceeds 50% pays for the entire damage. Therefore, you need to clarify how exactly your state’s legislation determines who should compensate for the damage if both parties are at fault in the incident.

Automatic Car Wash Damaged My Car: What Should I Do?

As soon as you notice that your car has scratches or dents after washing, don’t panic. You can resolve everything by taking a few actions:

  • Report the damage. Contact the car wash owner or contact their customer support to explain the situation. Then, fill out an incident report and demand a copy of it. Also, document your conversations with the staff.
  • Take photos of the scratches, dents, or paint chips. Before leaving the car wash, be sure to take several pictures. Capture the damage up close, from different angles and perspectives.
  • Call your insurance company. Report the incident to your insurance company and find out if you can sue a car wash for damage. This can be done under your comprehensive coverage or collision insurance.
  • Send a demand letter for compensation. Contact the car wash owner directly before filing a lawsuit against the car wash. For example, a letter demanding reimbursement for the repair costs may quickly resolve the issue, but only if the car wash acknowledges its fault and is willing to compensate for its negligence.
  • Consult with a lawyer. If you are sure that your car was damaged due to the negligence of a staff member (in the case of manual car washing) or equipment malfunction (in the case of automatic car washing), but the owner refuses to acknowledge it or cooperate, speak with a lawyer about preparing for litigation and your chances of winning.

By following these simple steps and remaining calm, you will thoroughly understand the situation and receive the compensation you deserve from the car wash.

Will My Insurance Cover Car Wash Damage: Final Advice

The key is to communicate with your insurance agent. If you don’t have an insurance agent who can provide detailed answers to your questions, such as “Is a car wash liable for damage?” there are plenty of insurance companies in the United States that you can turn to for assistance. Among the market leaders in auto insurance are GEICO, Progressive, State Farm, and Allstate. They offer various types of policies for any life situation.

However, the insurance policies are selected individually for each driver. After all, the premium amounts and the need for a particular policy depend on factors such as:

  • Age and driving experience
  • Driving history
  • Marital status
  • Place of residence
  • Car model and make
  • Year of manufacture

In most states, liability insurance is mandatory. However, comprehensive coverage or collision insurance, which can help you save money in the event of an accident at a car wash, is optional for car owners. It is worth noting that car washes themselves also use a car wash insurance program to protect themselves from unforeseen expenses.

We strongly recommend that you adhere to all instructions and regulations for automatic car washes. This will minimize the occurrence of accidents caused by your fault.

Frequently Asked Questions

Will I be able to sue a car wash if I sign a waiver?

Yes. You can initiate legal proceedings even if there is a signed waiver in several cases. This includes situations where the car wash violated safety rules or intentionally used faulty equipment.

The waiver document may not be considered if its terms are vague and incorrect. Similarly, a signed waiver of liability does not shield the car wash from claims if an employee intentionally damages your car during cleaning.

Are car washes liable for damage?

Car washes are responsible for training their employees, ensuring the equipment’s functionality, procuring quality cleaning agents, and providing clear instructions for car wash procedures.

If your car sustains damage due to the owner’s negligence in any of the above-listed aspects, they will be held accountable for the harm caused. Therefore, most service stations obtain car wash insurance to have funds available for compensation in case of unforeseen events.

Does insurance cover paint damage on cars?

Yes, if you have certain types of insurance. Collision coverage, which covers damage to the car’s paint layer due to an accident, may be useful to you at the car wash if you accidentally hit a wall yourself or another driver hits your car.

On the other hand, comprehensive insurance reimburses for damage if your car gets scratched due to a natural disaster, vandalism, and, of course, poor car washing practices.

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