It’s that time of year again. No, not the time of year when someone from the Publishers Clearing House shows up to your front door and presents you with a $10 million check. Instead, it’s the time of year when new potholes pop up on roads from coast to coast.

Yes, spring is when many of the potholes that mar American streets form. Snow and ice from the winter months melts and seeps into the pavement. When temperatures drop again, as they tend to early in the year, the water refreezes. As it does that, it expands, causing the concrete to crack.

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

How much? According to a new study from AAA, US 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 more than just pop one of your tires. It also can:

  • Damage your wheel rims
  • Ruin the engine or exhaust system
  • Screw up your car’s alignment
  • Destroy its shocks and struts

Or, as AAA’s John Nielsen put it in a release: “The problems range from tire punctures and bent wheels, to more expensive suspension damage.”

Potholes Impact Some People More (and More Often) Than Others

If you’re between 35 and 44, by the way, watch out. As part of its research, AAA found almost one-third of drivers within that age range have dealt with pothole damage in the last five years. (That’s the most of any age range.)

Also watch out if you’re of any age and one of these pavement cavities dings your auto. That’s because another surprising takeaway from AAA’s study is these incidents usually aren’t one-offs.

In other words, should a pothole dent your wheel rim – or worse – expect something similar to happen again down the road. Specifically, expect it to happen two more times within a five-year window.

Here’s How Much You Can Expect to Pay for Pothole Repairs

Hearing that this kind of damage costs US car owners $3 billion each year may be interesting, but it doesn’t mean much to individual drivers.

If that describes you and you’d like to know more about how much an unfortunately situated crater could hurt your bank account, check this out. According to AAA:

  • The average repair bill associated with one of these pothole mishaps is $306
  • In 64 percent of cases, the repair bill is $250 or less
  • For 30 percent of people, the related bill is between $250 and $1,000
  • Only 6 percent 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 more words of wisdom related to this situation, courtesy of AAA:

  • 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.