Finding a Repair Shop
1. Choosing a reputable shop to repair your vehicle is the most important factor in avoiding another catastrophe during your collision experience. The future value and safety of your vehicle is at stake and you, the consumer, may not be able to detect repairs that do not meet the standard of pre-loss condition. The following guidelines will help prevent possible problems in the future.
2. Referrals from friends and/or family can be very helpful during your decision making process. They can steer you in the right direction.
3. By asking the 10 Questions, you can decrease your chances of having a bad collision repair experience.
4. Today’s vehicles have been designed using the latest technology. If your vehicle is not repaired properly, it may not be as safe or as efficient. Be sure that the body shop has technicians that have been properly trained and have met certification requirements. Training Certificates should be posted on the lobby walls of the repair facility of choice. Look for:
I-CAR or ASE certified body technicians
A minimum of at least one welding certified technician
I-CAR or ASE certified service advisors
5. The collision repair shop of choice should have professional staff that are courteous, but more important, knowledgeable about the entire repair process. The staff should be able to answer your questions, provide you with an accurate estimate of costs to repair your vehicle, and offer in writing a warranty on the repairs made to your vehicle. Obtain written assurance that the body shop will not begin repairs until they have negotiated a price that they will stand behind and that guarantees a pre-loss condition repair.
6. A reputable shop will provide an estimated date for completion of the repairs, but please remember proper repairs may take longer than expected for various reasons. The shop should let you know in advance that they will keep you informed during the repair process and notify you immediately of any changes that may cause delays.
7. Let the shop know that you understand that the law prohibits auto body shops from using aftermarket replacement parts without your permission and that you cannot be charged the difference unless those parts are the same or better than the factory OEM Parts. (FYI: Over 95% of the aftermarket parts we have tried have been found to be inferior.) (The exception to this is if the parts that are being replaced have been previously damaged or rusted. You may owe the difference if your vehicle is being returned to better than pre-loss condition. Remember the insurance company only owes for pre-loss condition, nothing less, nothing more.)
8. The reputable shop will have the following minimum equipment requirements:
A dedicated frame bench for pulling and squaring your vehicle.
A computerized frame measuring system with a before and after printout to show you that the frame or unibody was pulled and straightened correctly.
A heated downdraft booth with the ability to bake your vehicle to 140 degrees plus.
A mig welder.
A/C Recovery equipment to insure that no Freon is released into the ozone.
9. Before signing any papers be sure that the body shop will provide a detailed final repair invoice (not the insurance or shop estimate) when the job has been completed. This invoice should include an itemized list of all parts used, all labor procedures, and any sublet and materials. Ask that parts invoices from the parts suppliers be included. (Remember, only new car dealerships can sell factory OEM parts.)
10. If your airbags were deployed during the accident, have the shop provide a written statement that the replacement airbags will be new OEM and that a parts invoice will be provided.
DO I NEED THREE ESTIMATES?
No. Your only obligation is to choose the shop of your choice and inform the insurance company where the vehicle is going.
WILL MY VEHICLE BE THE SAME?
Reputable shops have the equipment and training to restore your vehicle to pre-loss condition within industry standards that are set by the local market. Experts can always find indications of a repair. This doesn’t mean it was not repaired properly, but only that due to not having the same equipment that the manufacturers have, shops cannot exactly duplicate the manufacturer’s work. Your vehicle will still be cosmetically and structurally equal to its pre-accident condition.
IF YOUR VEHICLE IS TOTALED
The insurance company responsible for your claim must pay for the cost of an equal replacement vehicle or provide you with a replacement vehicle. It is their choice.
The insurance company may offer you a dollar amount for your vehicle (less your deductible, if you have one). If you do not feel this is an adequate amount, you will need to substantiate your claim for a higher dollar amount with independent written evidence showing the worth of a similar vehicle (year, model, mileage, condition and options) in the same market area. The market area may be local or regional depending upon the number of vehicles for sale in the area.
Remember, upon extension of their offer to you, the insurance company has fulfilled its obligation and can at that time stop payment for rental car expenses. If your vehicle is totaled, visit the library and/or your local dealerships and clip ads from the paper to substantiate your claim of what you believe your vehicle is worth.
WHAT IF AN INSURANCE COMPANY REFUSES TO WORK WITH THE SHOP OF YOUR CHOICE?
By law, an insurance company cannot refuse your request and must negotiate with the shop of your choice. It is in both parties’ best interest to get your vehicle repaired and back to you as quickly as possible, without charging you extra. The Insurance Commissioner does not tolerate delaying the repair through unlawful practices. If you have a problem such as this, feel free to give me a call and I will personally assist you.
CAN THE INSURANCE COMPANY REQUIRE YOU TO GO THROUGH THEIR DRIVE-IN CENTER FOR AN ESTIMATE?
No. You can drop the vehicle off at the shop of your choice and the shop will schedule an insurance adjuster to come out. If you do go through the drive-in, accept the estimate and the check they give you. It will not be considered full and final payment. The insurance company realizes the repair shop may call with additional damage costs.
WHO PAYS THE TOW BILL
The insurance company responsible for paying for your repairs is also responsible for paying the tow bill to the shop of your choice. If the insurance company selected a shop and you prefer to go elsewhere, they are still obligated to pay for the additional tow.
WHEN IS ALTERNATIVE TRANSPORTATION PROVIDED?
If you are an insured, check with your insurance provider. Generally speaking, if your vehicle is legal to drive, scheduling to have your vehicle repaired will insure that you will not incur any of the costs.
If you are a third party claimant and your vehicle is legal to drive, scheduling your vehicle for repairs will insure that you will not incur any rental charges.
If your vehicle may be ticketed for any reason, or if your vehicle is unsafe to drive due to the accident, you are entitled to a replacement vehicle immediately upon being issued a claim number. A reputable shop will be able to facilitate all the above to minimize any inconvenience to you.
You are responsible for insurance coverage you purchased from the rental company.
There are three types of Diminished Value that a vehicle may incur after an accident.
Inherent Diminished Value: Value of the vehicle is automatically lowered because the vehicle has been in an accident. Regardless of the quality of repairs, consumers and dealers will not pay as much for your vehicle. The insurance company owes you for the difference in the value of your vehicle pre-accident to post-accident.
Repair Related Diminished Value: Diminished Value as a result of poor repairs that did not restore your vehicle to pre-loss condition, even though the insurance company paid for the cost of proper repairs. The repair shop owes for the cost of re-performing repairs to your vehicle. Any reputable shop will have a lifetime warranty that will cover any poor repairs.
Insurance Related Diminished Value: Value diminished due to the insurance company refusing to pay for the proper procedures, parts and materials to restore your vehicle to pre-loss condition. The insurance company owes for the cost of repairs to bring the vehicle up to pre-loss condition.
WHAT TO DO WHEN YOU PICK UP YOUR REPAIRED VEHICLE
When picking up your vehicle after repairs have been completed, do this simple 10-step checklist and the chances of poor repairs will be minimized.
This list was created based on the assumption that the recommendations in selecting a reputable shop were followed. Certified welders, proper equipment and trained employees should be expected in those establishments that answered YES to the previous ten questions and were willing to put it all in writing.
Do not accept delivery of your vehicle without an itemized final bill. The shop is required by law to provide you an itemized repair invoice detailing what was actually done (not just an estimate of repairs). Included in the itemized statement will be codes designating the type of parts used. Verify that those parts are OEM factory parts and are indicated on the statement or in the warranty. Also included will be the total repair cost along with a record of payments received. A written copy of their lifetime warranty should also be expected.
Schedule a “walk around” with the shop’s service advisor and have him point out each item on the final bill showing the OEM factory parts and explain the various procedures performed. The engine compartment should be opened and/or the trunk compartment with the carpet pulled back to show any hidden repairs. Look at all the gaps of the repaired or replaced panels. They should be level and even. Walk to the other side of the vehicle to compare.
Stand back. Does the paint match? Are there any dirt particles or swirl marks in the painted area? Is the texture even?
Look at the repaired panels listed on the final repair invoice. Are the panels straight and smooth? Are the lines that run the length of the vehicle straight?
Look for sand scratches and/or “islands,” circles around the repaired area that show up a week to 30 days after the vehicle was painted. This will occur if the panel was improperly prepared or primed.
Look at the exterior trim. All the trim should have been removed prior to painting. Look for tape marks and/or signs of paint around the edges of the trim and windows. (Note: If the vehicle’s trim has been taped off prior to this accident, your insurance is not obligated to pay for removal of these items.)
If your vehicle had frame or suspension damage, get a copy of the alignment and a printout of the electronic frame measurement for your records. Ask for an explanation of the numbers before and after.
Look under the vehicle in the area of the repairs for rust coating.
Look inside the vehicle’s trunk and/or engine compartment for proper seam sealing that matches the factory seam sealing, on the opposite side. Have the bolt heads been touched up? Are all the screws and bolts in each area that attach a component to the vehicle the same color and style? These are all telltale signs of attention to detail in a quality repair.
If the repair bill was large (over $4,000) or involved an alignment or framework, ask to take the vehicle for a test drive before paying. Any reputable shop will be happy to oblige.
GLOSSARY OF TERMS