Whether you opened your door too quickly in a parking lot, backed into a telephone pole or became the victim of a hit and run, no one likes dealing with dents in their car. They're unsightly. They make you look like you don't take care of your vehicle, and if they're accompanied by scratches in the paint, they could open the door for rust damage.

Dents don't necessarily mean you need to make a costly trip to the body shop. Here are some ways to fix them yourself in the comfort of your home garage.

Identify the Dented Material

Depending on where the dent is on your car, the surface is going to be made of one of two different materials - plastic or aluminum. On older cars, you may also have some steel to contend with.

It's important to know what type of material you're working with, because you're not going to use the same techniques or tools for metal that you would for plastic. Knowing what's dented can save you a lot of time and trouble, and a lot of money you might otherwise waste on tools that don't work.

Collect Your Tools

You'll probably have at least one person tell you to hammer out the dent, but unless it's something you're experienced with, you'll probably want to leave the hammer for other tasks. Instead, take a look at the dent. How big it is, what type of material it's in and whether the paint is damaged will determine what type of tools you need.

For plastic bumpers and other similar parts, you might only need a plunger and some hot water. Plastic can be stiff, but splashing it with boiling water can loosen it up enough that you can manipulate it and get the dent to pop right out.

If you've got a dent in a metal door or quarter panel, you might need something with a bit more pulling power than your average household plunger. You can use anything from wooden dowels and hot glue to kits that are specifically designed to help you remove dents yourself. Even if you spend money on a dent removal kit, it's still going to be quite a bit cheaper than going to the shop.

If the dent also causes damage to the paint, you're going to need a few more supplies, like sandpaper, body filler and some paint that matches your car's current color. Don't skimp on your paint tools, especially if you're going to have to sand large portions of your car's exterior to repair the scratches. Investing in a paint sprayer can help save you a lot of money in the long run.

Be Patient

No matter what kind of dent you're repairing, remember one important golden rule - be patient. If you start pulling too hard or too fast, you could end up doing more damage that will guarantee a trip to the body shop. You can repair most dents in the comfort of your own garage, so if someone dings your daily driver, don't head to the body shop until you give it a try yourself.

Scott Huntington is a writer from central Pennsylvania. He enjoys working on his home and garden with his wife and 2 kids. Follow him on Twitter @SMHuntington