Fortunately, most car owners rarely have to think about how to navigate the repair process in the event of an accident. So it’s understandable that drivers may not have all the facts on what to do when an incident does occur. We’re pleased to provide straight answers to frequently asked questions about auto body repair.
Yes, as the vehicle owner, you have the right to choose whichever body shop you prefer; your insurance company is required by law to notify you of this right. Also important to remember – your insurance cannot insist that you provide more than one estimate. When deciding which auto body shop to use, be sure to look for shops that offer a lifetime written warranty. Ultimately choose a shop that you feel comfortable doing business with; a shop that works for you, not the insurance company. Your vehicle, your choice.
Look for shops that take pride in their appearance by keeping their facility clean, up-to-date, and organized. Make sure the shop has modern technology in the form of frame racks with measuring systems, downdraft paint booths with smart cure baking cycles to cure the paint, and the proper welding equipment (MIG welders and Pro Spotters). Ask for a tour of the shop to verify these things as well as the shop’s certifications and license. Again, be sure they offer a lifetime written warranty.
Estimates may vary depending on the amount of time spent creating an estimate, the type of parts used (new factory, aftermarket and/or used) as well as the fact that some shops prefer to mask off trim items when painting while the higher quality shops will remove parts to ensure the vehicle has a factory look when completed. An estimate is actually the “blueprint” for repair, so it should be very specific as to what will be done to the car. Always ask the estimator to explain, in detail, what damage was done and how it will be repaired. This explanation should match your estimate.
Some shops have been advertising that they will waive the deductible if you select their shop. Be very careful, there are two potential problems with this practice.
First, although it is not prohibited by state law, waiving the deductible may be a violation of your contract agreement with your insurance company. Always check with your company before accepting any offers to waive your deductible. If a violation is detected, your insurance company may bill you for the deductible.
Second, companies that waive deductibles may be tempted to pad their bills, take shortcuts on repairs, and use inappropriate parts to make up the difference to recoup the lost income from waiving the deductible.
Your policy may include the option to use these parts. Your insurance company may tell you up front that if you want original manufacturer parts you will have to pay the difference. However, if these aftermarket parts are used and don’t meet factory specs for your car, your insurer is most likely obligated to pay for original parts, as most promise to return your car to as close as pre-loss condition as possible.
Begin by asking the shop for the following items: a current copy of the repair bill listing all parts (including type of part) installed and labor performed, a copy of their warranty and any specs sheets documenting the frame or wheel alignments if applicable.
Next, check all electronic accessories – pay attention to details such as making sure the doors, hood, and trunk open and close smoothly.
In daylight, check all freshly painted areas for good color match, in the shade check for any dust or imperfections in the new paint and check the door openings for any overspray. Be sure to check all moldings and body trim for overspray as well.
While driving home, listen for any unusual noises and test the handling. If you’re not satisfied, report it to the repair facility immediately. If you feel they’re not cooperating fully, bring your dissatisfactions to the attention of your insurance company or Better Business Bureau. You’re not in this alone.