How to Claim for Pothole Damage

Ellie Dyer-Brown, 1 month ago

5 min read

  • Car ownership
  • How to
Close up of a pothole

FixMyCar explains how to make a successful claim for pothole damage.

Potholes are a serious problem in the UK, causing thousands of pounds of damage to cars each year. One impact from a deep pothole could be enough to knock your steering out of alignment or harm your tyres. Making an insurance claim is rarely worth it, but you might be able to get money back from your local council. This guide explains how.

Contents

What are potholes, and what causes them?

What damage do potholes do to your car?

The impact of potholes

Can I claim for damage caused by potholes?

Who is responsible for potholes on the road?

Will the council pay for pothole damage?

How to report potholes

How to claim for pothole damage

How long will claiming for pothole damage take?

What to do if your claim is unsuccessful

Tips for preventing pothole damage


In a nutshell: You can claim for pothole damage by contacting the local council or organisation responsible for maintaining the road where the damage happened. You'll need to provide as much information as possible, including the road's name and location and any photographs or sketches you have of the pothole.


What are potholes, and what causes them?

Potholes are large holes or noticeable depressions on the surface of a road. They are usually caused by water under the asphalt and busy traffic. One of the main reasons the UK has a pothole problem is our cold, wet weather.

A pothole in a road

Potholes start life as tiny cracks that happen when the asphalt expands due to the water beneath it freezing or heat from the friction of traffic. Cracks create weak spots in the road, and when it freezes in winter, any water that has collected in the crack will expand, worsening it.

As traffic passes over the weak spot, the road surface is broken down even further, eventually creating a pothole big enough to damage your car.


What damage do potholes do to your car?

Potholes can damage your vehicle in numerous ways, including its:

  • Wheels - misalignment, bends, chips and cracks

  • Tyres - sidewall bulges, punctures and tread separation

  • Suspension - broken, bent and misaligned components

This guide explains how to diagnose common suspension problems.

What is the most common pothole damage?

Issues with the tyres and wheels are the most common forms of pothole damage.


The impact of potholes

Here are some statistics to help illustrate the impact of potholes:

  • The Royal Society for the Prevention of Accidents (ROSPA) says that the road environment, including the condition of the road surface, is a factor in roughly 12% of accidents.

  • On average, there are around six potholes per mile on council-controlled roads in England and Wales as of 2023.

  • The RAC attended 7,904 breakdowns in the first quarter of 2024 due to bad road surfaces, an increase of 53% compared to the last months of 2023.

Pothole with warning cone

How much does it cost to fix pothole damage?

Below is a table of common pothole repairs and how much they cost on average.

Repair typeAverage price
Suspension£127.37
Tyre fitting£75.07
Shock absorber replacement£432.76
Wheel alignment£44.26
Puncture repair£22.50

Can I claim for damage caused by potholes?

You can claim for pothole damage by contacting the organisation responsible for maintaining the road. We’ll explain the process in detail later in this guide. 

You’ll need to make a note of the road where the damage happened and the date and time it occurred. What3words is a handy tool for sharing the precise location of the pothole.


Who is responsible for potholes on the road? 

The responsibility lies with the organisation in charge of maintaining the road. In some cases, this could be your local council. On a motorway, it’s more likely to be National Highways. For most roads in the UK, you can report a pothole to determine which council is responsible.


Will the council pay for pothole damage?

Many roads are managed by local councils, who may be liable to pay for pothole damage. When claiming from a council, you should provide as many details as possible, along with evidence such as invoices from repairs and photographs of the pothole.


How to report potholes

If drivers don’t report potholes, they will only get worse and grow in number until the likelihood of cars sustaining damage from them is high. That’s why, if you have a few minutes to spare, you should always submit a report when encountering a new pothole, especially if it’s on a road you use regularly.

You can report potholes on the Government website. However, it’s also worth contacting the organisation responsible for maintaining the road to let them know it needs repairing.


How to claim for pothole damage 

If you’ve hit a pothole and think it’s damaged your car, here’s what to do.

1. Check for damage

Not all pothole damage is obvious, so inspecting your car is essential.

  • Pull over somewhere safe.

  • Look for visible damage to the tyres and wheels.

  • Pay attention to unusual vibrations while driving.

  • Check whether your steering pulls to one side or feels off-centre.

When you’ve determined the extent of the damage, contact a mechanic to get your car checked and arrange a repair. Ignoring issues with the steering or suspension can be dangerous and costly.

A flat rear car tyre

2. Make notes

You'll need some information to back up your claim whether you decide to claim from the council or your insurance. 

  • Return to the road where the damage happened and take photographs of the pothole if it's safe. If not, draw a sketch.

  • Include a familiar object in the photo, like a shoe, to give a sense of scale.

  • Write down the pothole's location, including the road and town name and its position on the road.

  • Get contact information from anyone who saw the incident happen.

3. Report the pothole

Follow the advice in the section above about how to report a pothole.

4. Book a car repair

Technician carrying out a car wheel alignment.

If your car needs repairing due to pothole damage, it’s best to get quotes from several mechanics first to find the best deal. Keep copies of all quotes, invoices and receipts.

FixMyCar provides an easy way to compare garages based on price and reviews.

5. Make your claim

You might be able to claim compensation from the council responsible for managing the road where your car sustained pothole damage.

  • Write to the relevant council.

  • Include all the information you collected in steps two and four.

A local authority can’t be held responsible for a pothole they didn’t know about. If you claim for damage caused by an unknown pothole, you’re unlikely to be successful.

Councils are responsible for repairing large potholes that they are aware of and keeping the roads safe. You must prove they have failed to do these things when you claim.


How do you make a successful pothole claim?

The trick to a successful claim is to include as much information as possible, preferably with evidence. You should send photographs, sketches, invoices and receipts to the relevant authority to back up your claim.

Top tip: Ask the garage repairing your car if they will provide a quote confirming that a pothole caused the damage.


How long will claiming for pothole damage take?

There is no set timeframe in which a pothole claim must be resolved, so it’s difficult to say how long a claim will take accurately. However, pothole cases can sometimes take months to be resolved.


What to do if your claim is unsuccessful

If you're unsatisfied with the response or your claim is rejected, you still have options: negotiate or appeal. 

If the council offers an amount of compensation that you feel isn't enough, you can try negotiating, although you won't be able to get money back for lost income or travel expenses.

The best way to appeal a rejected claim is to use a freedom of information (FOI) request to support your argument about how the council's negligence led to the damage to your car. 

Close up of someone using a phone with blue toy car in front

If your appeal is rejected, the next step would be to take it to a small claims court. However, this process is time-consuming and may not achieve your desired outcome.

A final option to consider is claiming on your insurance for the remainder of the repair cost. You'll need to pay the excess before you get any money back, and making a claim will likely impact your no-claims discount, so you should approach this route cautiously.

Learn more about car insurance and how to get it cheaper.


Tips for preventing pothole damage

These tips will help you minimise the damage caused by potholes.

Check your tyre pressure

Maintaining the correct tyre pressure will help you control your car and reduce the chances of getting a blowout when you hit a pothole.

Checking tyre pressure

Be observant

Look ahead for any potholes to give yourself the best chance of avoiding them. Always check your surroundings before manoeuvring to avoid a pothole.

Watch your speed

Potholes cause more damage the faster you hit them, so stick to the speed limit to protect your car. Check out our guide to speed limits in the UK.

Keep two hands on the wheel

Deep potholes could make you lose control of your vehicle. Keep both hands on the steering wheel to minimise this risk. 

Replace worn tyres

Old tyres are more likely to be damaged or punctured when driving over potholes. Find out how long tyres last and how to make them last longer.

Fitting Tyre

Keep a safe distance

Leave at least a two-second gap between you and the car in front, giving yourself plenty of time to spot and avoid hazards. Your stopping distance is much longer in wet and icy conditions - find out more here.

Report potholes

Local authorities can’t fix potholes that they don’t know about. Reporting them could lead to a road repair, preventing future damage to your car.


Looking for affordable car repairs or maintenance? FixMyCar can help you find the right garage at the right price.

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Written by Ellie

Ellie Author Pic

Ellie is FixMyCar’s Content Writer. She has a BA in English literature from Durham University, a master’s degree in creative writing, and three years of experience writing in the automotive industry. She currently drives a Suzuki Swift.

Find Ellie on LinkedIn.