Dents, dings, cracks, bends. You’ve probably heard of these terms when friends, relatives, or co-workers describe damages to their cars, and hopefully, you haven’t had the need to use these words to describe what’s happened to your vehicle. However, it’s important to be well-acquainted with the different terms pertaining to car damage, not just for conversational purposes but for practical use such as when claiming car insurance, or when asking for repair quotations while picking for auto repair shops.

Dents vs Dings

You may have heard these two terms used interchangeably, but there are key differences between the two. A ding is impact damage to your car that’s generally about half-inch in diameter and is oftentimes caused when another car hits yours (causing a small indentation), which often occurs in parking lots. Although the damage is relatively small, it can be very noticeable and unsightly. A dent, on the other hand, refers to something bigger and requires much more bodywork. Dents can occur upon collision and oftentimes include paint damage as well. Depending on the size and extent of the damage, projectiles such hail or stones can produce dings, dents, and even scratches.

Scratches vs Scrapes

Scratches and scrapes can occur upon contact between your vehicle and any other hard surface. Scratches and scrapes are generally the same, but many car owners and mechanics define them differently. In general, scratches are seen as linear and are due to small contact (such as a bush’s thorn, or a person’s bag or keys scratching the paint), wherein scrapes occur with wide contact (such as scraping against a car or a parking lot pillar). Depending on the damage, a repair can range from buffing out the area to simply painting over the area.

Weather Damage

Weather damage can be due to snow, salt, and even sand, and they often do paint damage to your car (although one should not that extreme temperatures can affect other components of your car). Weather damage can be fixed by cleaning and waxing or may require an extensive paint job.


Heavy or harsh impacts such as collision can cause your vehicle to visibly crack and can affect almost any part of your car — the wheel, grille, bumpers, fenders, and mirrors. Oftentimes, cracks require replacement as they’re difficult or beyond restoration and mere buffing out.

Bent Frames

In the majority of collisions, the vehicle’s frame can be thoroughly bent and would need more than just body repairs, as internal working can be affected.

Car Damage by Severity

You’ve probably heard the terms “minor” or “severe” damage being thrown around when people talk about collisions, accidents, and other events that can cause damage to the car. To be able to properly describe how bad the damage is, here are how car damage is categorized by severity:

Minor Damage. Scratches, scrapes, dings, and cracked headlights or minor fractures in the windshield are considered as minor damage.

Moderate Damage. Moderate damage pertains to larger dents. Any damage from a collision or event wherein the airbags aren’t deployed are considered as moderate damage.

Severe Damage. Severe damage occurs in high-impact or high-speed collision where the body and frame are cracked and bent.


woman checking the car's machine

Knowing the different types of car damage and how to properly categorize their severity is essential in order to accurately describe the damage to your insurance company (when claiming insurance), the police (in case of accidents or collisions), or mechanic/auto shop (when your trusty Subaru requires a visit to a repair shop after sustaining some damage). Hopefully, you wouldn’t need this list in the near future, but if you do, it’s best to know the right terms to describe the car damage.

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