Choosing an Auto Body Shop that Works for You and Your Insurance

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If you’ve been in an accident, it’s important to know that auto body shops have your best interests in mind – and the same goes for doctors. Unfortunately, some body shops and doctors – the ones that tend to favor insurance companies – will routinely downplay claims, minimize auto repair costs, use cheap parts, or even neglect to fully treat ailments. These practices can devalue your vehicle or prevent you from a full recovery following an injury.

Auto Insurance Questions Pocket Sized

Print this out and bring it with you as you investigate possible body shops and doctors. Click to enlarge.

To the left is a quick guide to establishing whether a doctor or auto body shop is truly independent, or if they’re really in the back pocket of the insurer. Protect you and your wallet by printing out TSD’s, “How to Sniff Good and Bad Service Providers.”

Auto Damage Claims

This section provides some basic principles on what to look for when choosing a auto body shop, as well as tips on how to be an active participant in your car’s repair to ensure that it comes out looking great and costing you no more than your deductible.

  • Research Before You Repair
    Angieslist.com, Yelp.com and Google reviews are useful sources to get a sense of a shop’s quality based on customer reviews, but take the online reviews with a grain of salt. You’ll want to pay attention to well-written, thought-out reviews – not nasty one-liners, since even the best businesses can end up with an unhappy customer from time to time. You may also be able to find discussion forums specific to your vehicle’s make and model where forum members can recommend good shops in your local area.
  • some body shops and doctors – the ones that tend to favor insurance companies – will routinely downplay claims, minimize auto repair costs, use cheap parts, or even neglect to fully treat ailments…Sniff out good and bad service providers

  • Choose a Shop with a Warranty
    Some auto body shops offer their own independent warranties on their repairs for fit, finish, functionality, and overall quality. Request to see their warranty and ask some questions about it before agreeing to do business with a given shop and make sure it doesn’t have a time limit. A good shop will offer a lifetime warranty.
  • Keep Your Existing Manufacturer Warranties Intact
    Ask your chosen auto body shop if any mechanical repairs will void or alter any existing warranties you may have on your new or recently purchased car. Factory warranties on engines and accessories may be compromised if your car needs mechanical repairs following a collision, so be sure your car’s factory warranty isn’t being compromised with aftermarket or used parts, or repairs that otherwise aren’t manufacturer-approved.

    If your insurer is trying to “mandate” aftermarket or used parts that will void your factory warranty, demand that the insurer give you a written warranty identical to your factory warranty. Nine times out of ten they’ll simply pay for original parts, instead of giving you the runaround.

    pay attention to well-written, thought-out reviews – not nasty one-liners, since even the best businesses can end up with an unhappy customer from time to time

  • Get More than One Estimate
    According to Edmunds.com’s tips for car maintenance and choosing a body shop, it’s best to get estimates from several different shops. After your first estimate, show their estimate to the second shop and the third shop, and ask how they compare with the first shop’s quote. You might find that one or the other is skipping over a lot of important items. Don’t simply compare the final estimated cost, since one shop may be quoting for an entirely different method of repair than the other. You’ll want a shop that is both thorough and friendly.
  • Be Picky – and Let Them Know It
    Make it clear to your auto body shop that you want all brand-new, factory-original parts used in your car’s repair. In some states, the law allows for used or aftermarket parts to be applied, but if they don’t fit properly or if they don’t match quite right, you have the right to demand new replacement parts that will restore your vehicle to its original condition. Let the shop know that you’re picky and expect high quality work. If you leave them with the opposite impression, your car might end up with some ill-fitted panels after the work is done, leaving your car devalued and in poor cosmetic condition.
  • Go to a Shop Specializing In Your Car’s Brand
    Choosing a shop is like choosing a restaurant – you wouldn’t order Mandarin chicken at an Italian restaurant, so don’t try to get your Volkswagen fixed at a Honda specialist’s shop. It might work out fine for a basic repair, but it’s best to go to a shop that knows your car inside and out. Different car brands have a lot of nuances, so it’s best to go with experienced technicians.
  • If your insurer is trying to “mandate” aftermarket or used parts that will void your factory warranty, demand that the insurer give you a written warranty identical to your factory warranty

  • Get It In Writing
    When your insurance adjuster or auto body shop representative promises to “pay for everything,” “restore your car to its pre-accident condition,” or “completely cover the rental car,” make sure you get these types of commitments in writing. Even after a phone conversation, send an email to your adjuster or auto body shop to officialize the agreement or promises made and ask them to respond to clarify that everything is accurate. You’ll thank yourself later if you happen to lodge a complaint with their manager in order to get the service you were promised.
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