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Should You Use an Auto Repair Shop Recommended by Your Insurance Company?
After a car accident, finding reliable replacement parts is a must. Your insurer will probably recommend a mechanic for the repairs — but it’s not always the best choice.
The recommended repair shop has an existing business relationship with the insurer. Your insurer usually has ongoing accounts with these shops, so the repair shop’s allegiance is to the insurer, not you.
Due to this business relationship, the repair could be incentivized to repair your car with cheaper parts to save the insurer money. We’ll walk through the pitfalls to avoid when looking into repairs from an insurer-recommended mechanic.
The benefits of using a repair shop recommended by your insurance company
Using an insurer-recommended repair shop definitely has advantages. Insurance providers make sure they use reputable shops, so the shop the insurer sends you to should have a lifetime warranty that guarantees the work they do on your car.
However, most reliable repair shops should offer a lifetime warranty with their repairs. So if you decide to find your own repair shop, you should still contract a business that guarantees their work. Another benefit of using an insurer-recommended repair shop is the speed and ease of the service. Because the insurer already has a relationship with the repair shop, the process shouldn’t take as long as it would with a repair shop that you choose.
If you decide to go with your own repair shop, expect the claims process with the insurer to be more “hands-on.” You’ll probably have to follow up with the insurer a few times during the process.
Tips for choosing the right auto repair shop
If you decide to find your own auto shop, here are steps you can take to improve your chances of having your car repaired properly:
Get recommendations. Ask friends and family members if they can recommend a repair shop that has done good work for them.
Do your homework. Armitage suggests using online consumer-review websites such as Yelp to see what other consumers have to say about the repair shops you’re considering. Another good source of information is your local Better Business Bureau. If you encounter a lot of complaints, consider going elsewhere.
Get several estimates. You won’t be certain of the full scope of the work that needs to be done unless you get repair estimates from several repair shops. The idea is to make sure that you don’t take your car back on the highway until it’s completely repaired and safe to drive.
Check for cleanliness. The nonprofit National Institute for Automotive Service Excellence recommends finding a tidy, well-organized shop with modern equipment. This may seem unimportant, but the institute holds that it reflects the level of the shop’s professionalism.
Always follow your instincts. It’s important to find an auto repair shop that you trust. If you aren’t comfortable with a shop for any reason, don’t use it. If someone is disrespectful or uncommunicative when you’re seeking an estimate, don’t count on them to repair your car and stand behind the work. There’s usually another repair shop just down the road.
What part of my auto insurance covers the auto shop cost?
Not all insurance policies will pay for the repairs to your car after an accident. When you sign up for a new policy, you get to choose which coverages are included. Whether or not your insurer covers your car’s repairs after an accident will depend on which coverages you decide on for your policy. Most states only require drivers to have liability coverage, which is also commonly known as minimum coverage, because it’s the minimum amount of coverage that states require. If you get in an accident, the liability coverage might pay for the repairs to the other driver’s car, but it will not pay for your own car’s repairs.
If you want your insurance to pay for your own car’s repairs after an accident, you’ll need collision or comprehensive coverage. Together, these coverages are generally called “full coverage,” because they cover the repair expense to your car in most instances. Comprehensive coverage pays for damages to your car after an accident with another car or an obstacle like a tree or a guardrail. Generally, your car needs to be in use for this coverage to kick in. Comprehensive coverage pays for damages to your car for other instances besides a collision, such as theft or natural disasters.
If you decide to include both comprehensive and collision coverage in your insurance policy, you will be covered in most emergencies. But there are usually some exceptions, so make sure to read the fine print when signing up for a new policy.
Updated September 1, 2020 – Updated editorial advice.