Rip-Off #1 - The Estimate Game
Many believe the first step in having their vehicle repaired is visiting a number of shops to obtain the lowest estimate.
Untrue. No law or moral standard says you must have your vehicle repaired at the "cheapest" place.
Would you select a surgeon based on price? Of course not! ... You would choose a surgeon based on their skill, service, knowledge, and reputation. The same is true when it comes to auto collision repair. Low estimates often leave off important operations necessary to properly restore your vehicle to pre-accident condition.
A few insurance claims offices or agents will attempt to influence your decision when selecting a repair shop. They often try to refer you to a shop of their choice -- one "preferred" by them.
Many Insurance companies with "referral" or "preferred shop" programs have approached repair shops and, in exchange for discounts, use of non-original parts and other cost-cutting techniques, promise to send repair work to the particpating shop to be on the insurer's "list."
Many have contracts in place with these repair shops. The problem? The repair shops participating in these programs are, in essence, working for the insurance company -- not you, the vehicle owner.
If you choose a shop that doesn't "participate" in these programs, you'll likely be told (by the insurance company) that your selected shop is not on their "approved list" or that they may not be able to as "efficiently handle" your claim due to your selection of shop.
Don't be intimated by these intimidating steering tactics!
Be aware of your rights. Contrary to what you may be told -- it's your car and YOU choose who repairs it.
The Insurance Company is Responsible for Selecting the Shop to Repair Your
Insurance agents and adjusters have no authority in telling you where to
have your vehicle repaired. It is YOUR investment and YOUR
responsibility to select a competent collision repair facility to properly
restore your vehicle to pre-loss condition.
False. In an effort to influence your decision process, some insurance companies use this "preferred shop" technique (under a number of interesting names). By them doing so, many uninformed consumers end up at repair shops who have agreed to repair the vehicle using procedures and imitation parts dictated by the referring insurance company.
You are NOT required to visit these shops. Doing so could put you at a disadvantage in settling your claim and receiving a high-quality repair to your vehicle!
Misconception #3:You Must Obtain Multiple Estimates
False. There is no law requiring you to get more than one estimate. This is often the reason one ends up with substandard repair work. You see, buying auto collision repair isnt like buying a sweeper. Its easy to compare features among sweepers, but difficult to compare levels of quality when it comes to auto collision repair. A repair can look good after the paint finish is applied, but it's the underlying repair that determines the longevity of the repair.
With multiple estimates in hand, the insurance company will likely pay for the repair based on the lowest estimate.
The lowest estimate is often the most incomplete estimate. Here's an example:
writes an estimate including a number of operations necessary to properly
restore your vehicle. These operations could include a wheel alignment check,
corrosion protection (rustproofing), aiming of the head lamps, paint blend
prepares an estimate and overlooks the above mentioned operations from their
The insurance company pays for the repair based on Shop B's estimate. The vehicle owner mistakenly assumes they have done so because Shop B is "cheaper" than Shop A. Because of these omitted operations, the vehicle is returned to the owner with mismatched paint, could exhibit premature tire wear, or begin to rust.
Who loses? The vehicle owner.
All Repair Shops Are Basically the Same
Not true. There are substantial differences among repair shops. Some have made considerably large investments in equipment and training. Many have not. Always do your homework when selecting a repair repair facility. Ask friends for recommendations.
Some vehicle owners assume the dealer must do the repairs to maintain their vehicle manufacturers warranty. This is also untrue. The manufacturer warrants only the parts used in the repair process. This warranty is in effect with independent repairers as well.
independent repair shops specialize in collision repair only, where dealers
must also focus attention on selling new and used cars, servicing trade-ins,
operating parts departments, etc. Independent facilities use the same,
manufacturer-warranted parts as the dealer. If you have any questions about the
parts warranty, just ask.
Mistake #1: Failure to Select a Qualified Repair Shop
Don't rely on your
insurance company to make this selection for you. You must do your homework .
Select a repair facility that will represent YOUR best interests by repairing
your vehicle to pre-accident condition and provide you with a written warranty
on the repair.
Estimates are seldom written "apples-to-apples." If a few necessary labor operations are excluded from an estimate, one could assume the shop is "cheaper" than an estimate prepared with these operations included.
Truth is, the
consumer doesn't receive these necessary operations during the restoration
companies insist you have your vehicle repaired by a shop on their "preferred"
shop list. You are not required to do so. Instead, like any purchase, choose a
repair facility based upon reputation, quality and workmanship guarantee.
Always remember: It's YOUR car. It's YOUR choice.
From the selection of the repair facility to securing payment from the insurance company, you are ultimately responsible for the proper and safe repair of your vehicle.