Collision Repair After An Auto Accident
7 Things You Need To Know About Car Accident Repair Costs & Auto Body Repair Estimates
In nearly 15 years as an adjuster I have seen some doozies when it comes to collision repair.
As a short example, let me tell you this . . .
When I was an adjuster, I caught a body shop and a rental car company conspiring to defraud the insurance company.
What they did was this:
The rental company would file a claim for undercarriage damage, and we would inspect the vehicle, find the damages, write the estimate for the collision repair and pay the body shop for the repairs.
What I figured out is that instead of the damages happening like the rental company said (like a renter hit a curb, or hit some debris in the road), it was being caused by the body shop.
The shop would have their technician put the car on a lift and then he would get under it with a sledge hammer and damage the oil pan or some other component, then they would give the car back to the rental company and they would file the claim. We would pay the shop to replace the damaged component, but they would just go in and repair the component and pocket the money for the parts that we paid them. They sometimes made $400.00 or $500.00 on one scam by just faking invoices for parts that they had damaged to begin with. They would then repair the part or replace it with one they had lying around and pocket the insurance money.
Not all shops are crooks, but body shops, like any other business, are in business to make money. Most people are not experts on collision repair, and body shops know this. Taking your car to a body shop is sort of like going to the doctor or hiring an attorney. You kind of have to trust what the doctor or lawyer says because they are specially trained. It is the same for a body shop, you kind of have to trust what they tell you because they are specially trained.
If you’re cool with trusting a collision repair facility, then fine, go find another article to read. But if you are like me, you want to learn how to avoid having to trust a body shop (the concept could apply to doctors and lawyers, too).
Try to avoid using a shop if:
1. You were referred to the shop by an insurance company
- The shop has an agreement with the insurance company, and if you are able to get a copy of the agreement between the shop and the insurance company, you are impressive.
- The insurance company has a vested interest in making sure repairs are as cheap as possible.
- Questions that would normally be directed to the vehicle owner, like “should we fix this wiring while we’re at it?”, or “hey, did this happen in the accident?” will be directed to the insurance company and not the customer. The owner is left out of the loop.
2. The shop is dirty or unorganized
I know that sounds obvious, but a lot of people just overlook that aspect because they think repairing vehicle damages is a dirty job. It’s not, a good shop will be clean and organized. Dirty and unorganized implies to me that the shop is used to cutting corners to save money.
Dealing With The Shop
Okay, so the above two things are things to watch out for if you haven’t picked a shop.
What? You say your vehicle is already at a body repair shop that the insurance company referred you to?
Here are some things that you can do that will help you keep the shop honest:
1. Ask the shop manager to provide you with a copy of all the invoices for parts they had to purchase to fix your car, and then compare the parts list with the cost listed on the insurance company’s collision repair estimate.
2. Ask the shop for a written repair guarantee.
3. Ask the shop if they are a direct repair facility for more than one insurance company (just asking this will make them think twice about cutting a corner at your expense). If they are, ask them for the list.
4. Bluntly ask if they have used new Original Equipment Manufacturer Parts (OEM), used OEM parts, or aftermarket parts.
5. Ask the shop to explain “betterment” to you, just because you are curious. This is just to show them that you are reading up on the repair process.
If you picked a dirty and unorganized shop, well, that was silly :), but you could still use the 5 tips above to help keep them honest.
In conclusion, be curious. Force yourself into the loop. A customer who is actively asking questions and is curious about what is going on will help to keep the shop on their toes. If you still think the shop is not treating you right, get a professional involved to check out the repairs after they are complete and tell you if the repair is sufficient. A good shop should be able to repair your vehicle back to within the original factory specifications.