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Claiming for pothole damage on car insurance

Potholes are the bane of every driver’s life. Not only are they a road safety hazard, but they could also cause significant damage to your car if you hit one. ​​The question is, can you claim for pothole-related damage? If so, how do you go about it? Let’s find out.

Potholes are the bane of every driver’s life. Not only are they a road safety hazard, but they could also cause significant damage to your car if you hit one. ​​The question is, can you claim for pothole-related damage? If so, how do you go about it? Let’s find out.

Written by
Rory Reid
Car and technology expert
Last Updated
15 JANUARY 2024
5 min read
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Why is car damage from potholes such a problem in the UK?

The cold, wet weather we have in the UK is the main reason we have so many potholes. Hitting a pothole could damage your car and impact on vehicle safety if the damage isn’t repaired properly. 

What causes potholes? 

Roads form tiny cracks from wear and tear. When water enters these cracks, it freezes and expands during cold weather, causing the cracks to widen. When the water melts, potholes and craters are created in the road surface as cars drive over them.

It’s not surprising that potholes are so common in the UK and are particularly bad during or immediately after winter. 

How big is the pothole problem?

According to the Annual Local Authority Road Maintenance (ALARM) survey:

  • A pothole is fixed every 22 seconds in England
  • The total cost for 2022/23 was £93.7 million for 1.4 million potholes
  • This works out at an overall average of £66.53 to fill one pothole.

However, it’s a vicious circle – as one gets fixed, another seems to develop.

There’s now a huge backlog in repairs – it’s estimated by local authorities that it would take them 11 years and £14.02 billon to repair all their potholes.

Did you know?

Roads in poor overall condition total one in every nine miles (11%) of the local road network in England and Wales. These are roads likely to require maintenance in the next 12 months and add up to around 22,600 miles or almost the entire way around the world.

Source: Annual Local Authority Road Maintenance (ALARM) survey 2022/23

Can I claim for pothole damage to my car?

Yes, as long as you can prove that the damage to your car was caused by a pothole, you can make a claim for compensation. 

  • If you have comprehensive car insurance, you can claim on your policy
  • Or you can claim for pothole damage from the council or authority responsible for maintaining the road where the pothole was.

Making pothole claims on your car insurance

If you claim on your car insurance, just be aware that it might affect your no-claims bonus and could lead to a more expensive premium the following year. You’ll also have to pay an excess – the amount of money you’ll have to contribute towards a claim.  

You might decide that going down the insurance route isn’t cost-effective. In this case, claiming for pothole damage from the authority responsible for the road may be a better option.

How can I make a claim for pothole damage from the council or road authority?

You’ll first have to work out who’s responsible for repairing the road. This can vary according to where the damage happened and what kind of road it is.

If you’re in England: 

If you’re in Scotland or Wales: 

If you’re in Northern Ireland: 

Next, to give yourself the best possible chance of making a successful pothole claim, follow these steps: 

  • Gather evidence to support your pothole claim. Jot down the name of the road and the location of the pothole. Safely take photos of the pothole and measure its width and depth. Make a note of the date and time of day when you hit the pothole and the details of the damage to your car, with supporting evidence. Get the contact details of anyone who saw what happened. 
  • Report the pothole to the relevant council/authority. You can do this on the GOV.UK website.
  • Get repair quotes. Keep all quotes as well as any receipts for repairs. Ask the mechanic for his professional opinion. If he believes the damage was caused by a pothole, ask him to state that in writing.
  • Submit your claim. You can usually get a claim form from the relevant authority. Fill in all the details, including evidence of the pothole, a  description of the incident and receipts for the repair work. 

How will I know if my pothole claim is successful?

The council or authority will let you know the result of your claim for pothole damage. They may accept the claim and cover the full cost or a portion of the repairs, or they might reject the claim entirely.

Did you know?

Local authorities in England and Wales paid out £11.6 million in successful road user compensation claims. They received an average of 234 claims in 2022/23 with 72% of the total relating specifically to potholes.  

What can I do if the council rejects my claim?

If your car has been badly damaged and you feel your claim has been rejected unfairly, it might be worth taking your case further.

First, make a Freedom of Information request to check the inspection record of the road that damaged your vehicle. If it wasn’t checked as regularly as it should have been or wasn’t repaired quickly, you may have evidence of negligence and can make a full claim.

If you’re still not happy with the outcome, you could approach a small claims court. Only do this as a last resort, though, as you’ll have to pay legal expenses if you lose the case. 

Will I be covered if the pothole is on private land?

If the road owner has public liability insurance, you could claim on this. Otherwise, you may have to claim on your own car insurance.  

You’ll still need to prove where the damage happened and that the pothole caused it, so gather as much evidence as you can and contact your insurance provider.

How can I prevent pothole damage?

The easiest way to prevent pothole damage to your car is to drive carefully:

  • Leave a bigger gap between you and the vehicle in front – this gives you a better chance of spotting a pothole. 

  • Watch what other drivers are doing – drivers familiar with the road might be slowing down or driving round potholes. 

  • Drive to the road condition within the speed limit – the faster you’re driving when you hit a pothole, the more extensive the damage will be. 

  • Be very wary of puddles – huge potholes often masquerade as modest puddles of water. 

  • Keep a steady grip on your steering wheel – the jolt caused by hitting a pothole could cause you to lose control of the car

  • Keep your tyres in tip-top condition – quality tyres that have been properly inflated will provide good protection.

Frequently asked questions

What damage can potholes do to my car?

​​​Wheel and tyre damage from potholes is common – particularly tyre sidewalls and wheel rims. Not to mention potential steering alignment, suspension and bodywork issues, too. Potholes could also affect catalytic converters, which can be very expensive to repair.​​

It’s important to have breakdown cover in case a pothole stops you in your tracks. In the most severe cases, a pothole could cause you to lose control of your vehicle and crash.

How can I tell if my car has been damaged by a pothole?

If you’ve recently hit a pothole and notice a loss of pressure, puncture or a bulge in your tyre, the impact may have caused it. Thinner tyres are more prone to pothole damage. 

If your wheel has become bent, cracked or otherwise warped, again this might be a sign of pothole damage. Another sign of damage is your suspension suddenly becoming noisier than it was. 

Will I still receive ​​pothole compensation if the pothole wasn’t reported?

​​​A local council or road authority may reject your claim on the grounds that the pothole hadn’t been reported or picked up by an earlier inspection, leaving them unaware of the problem.​​

You can still claim on your car insurance as a fault of your own car, but only if you have comprehensive cover. If you have third party or third-party, fire and theft insurance, you’re unable to submit a fault claim on your own car.

However, this will probably only be worthwhile if your claim is larger than your excess and you’re prepared to lose your no-claims bonus. 

How long do I have to claim for pothole damage on my car insurance?

You should tell your insurance provider about any pothole damage as soon as possible. ​​If your claim with the local authority takes a long time or is refused, your provider will already have a record of the damage. This will then make it easier to claim through them instead.

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Rory Reid - car and technology expert

Rory Reid is a car and technology expert. He serves as the main presenter on Auto Trader’s YouTube channel and was previously a host on BBC Top Gear and its sister show Extra Gear. He is also a presenter on Fifth Gear. Previously, he hosted Sky TV’s Gadget Geeks, CNET’s Car Tech channel, BBC Radio 5 Live’s Saturday Edition and on the YouTube channel Fast, Furious & Funny.

Learn more about Rory

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