The CRISPR-Cas9 system provides a versatile toolkit for genome engineering that can introduce various DNA lesions at specific genomic locations. However, a better understanding of the nature of these lesions and the repair pathways engaged is critical to realizing the full potential of this technology. Here we characterize the different lesions arising from each Cas9 variant and the resulting repair pathway engagement. We demonstrate that the presence and polarity of the overhang structure is a critical determinant of double-strand break repair pathway choice. Similarly, single nicks deriving from different Cas9 variants differentially activate repair: D10A but not N863A-induced nicks are repaired by homologous recombination. Finally, we demonstrate that homologous recombination is required for repairing lesions using double-stranded, but not single-stranded DNA as a template. This detailed characterization of repair pathway choice in response to CRISPR-Cas9 enables a more deterministic approach for designing research and therapeutic genome engineering strategies.