We all know the sound. That vicious clunk, clunk your car makes whenever it hits a pothole.

Potholes form during temperature changes. First, snow and ice melt and seep into the pavement. Then, when the temperature drops again, the water refreezes and expands, cracking the road and opening up a pothole.

That’s obviously a big deal for anyone who owns and drives a vehicle. After all, even a seemingly small pothole can produce a surprisingly costly amount of damage.

How much? According to a study from AAA, U.S. drivers spent $15 billion to repair pothole damage over the last five years. That’s right; potholes cost us $3 billion per year!

How potholes hurt your car

How can a hole in the road cause so much financial drama? Consider that a pothole can do everything from damage your tires to ruin your suspension:

  • Pop your tire
  • Damage your wheel rims
  • Ruin the engine or exhaust system
  • Throw off your alignment
  • Destroy you car’s shocks and struts

Potholes impact some people more (and more often) than others

Watch out if you’re between the ages of 35 and 44. Recent research indicates potholes may be out to get you. Drivers in this age range reported more pothole damage than any other age group, with almost one-third of drivers saying they’ve dealt with pothole damage in the last years.

Potholes also seem to strike twice — or more accurately, thrice. According to AAA, once your car has been damaged by a pothole, it’s likely to happen at least two more times in a five year span.

Here’s how much you can expect to pay for pothole repairs

There’s good news and bad news when it comes to pothole damage. The bad news is that it’s going to cost you hundreds of dollars. The good news is that according to AAA, it probably won’t cost you much more than that.

  • The average repair bill associated with one of these pothole mishaps is $306
  • In 64% of cases, the repair bill is $250 or less
  • For 30% of people, the related bill is between $250 and $1,000
  • Only 6% of incidents result in a bill that’s over $1,000

Of course, how much you pay to repair pothole damage depends on the make and model of your vehicle as well as a number of other factors. (Just replacing a tire can cost you anywhere from $100 to $500 or more, depending on the vehicle you drive.)

Car insurance and pothole issues

Insurance plays an important role here too. That’s because having the right kind and right amount of car insurance keeps you from having to hand over a lot of your hard-earned cash when it comes time to pay for these repairs.

What’s the right kind of auto insurance in this instance? Collision coverage.

When most people think of collision coverage, they think about protecting themselves if their car gets into an accident. Usually that means hitting another car or another car hitting yours. Collision coverage also steps in, though, if you damage your vehicle by hitting a guardrail, lamp post or — you guessed it — a pothole.

Something to keep in mind here: what you pay for collision coverage depends on your deductible. Go with a higher deductible (what you pay out of pocket if you file a claim), and your rate or premium will be lower. Go with a lower deductible, and your rate will be higher. If you want to learn more about collision and other forms of auto insurance, read our “Car Insurance Basics” article. Check out our article about deductibles too.

A few pieces of pothole advice

Finally, here are some ways you can protect your car from potholes:

  • To minimize pothole damage to your vehicle, make sure your tires are properly inflated.
  • Make sure your tread grooves are deep enough too. If they’re not, buy new tires.
  • If avoiding a pothole isn’t possible, slow down, keep your foot off the brake pedal, and try to straighten the steering wheel before impact.