From fender-benders and simple dents to full-blown crashes, it's important to follow the right steps when repairing your vehicle in order to save money and ensure that a good job has been done. The following are the most important points to remember:
This will typically be taken care of by your insurer (or the insurer paying for the repair-work). Insurance companies have on-the-road estimation staffers who inspect vehicles post-accident and estimate the cost of crash repairs. If the vehicle is still in driving condition, the insurer may direct you to an estimator close to you.
However, it's wise to also have an independent estimator assess your vehicle and give you their own estimate. That way, you have something to compare with the insurer's estimate, just to make sure that the insurer isn't in cahoots with the repairer to do substandard work for less.
Selecting the auto-body shop
Depending on your insurance terms, you should be able to choose your own repairer. This is something you want to check out before taking on a policy. If you are bound to use a certain bodyshop, you have no choice on the matter presently. However, renegotiate these terms at the point of renewal so that you have discretion to choose a repairer you can trust.
Insurance companies usually have Direct Referral Program (DRP) contracts with certain auto bodyshops. In these contracts, the insurer gets price breaks in exchange for referring a lot of business to the bodyshop. There's nothing wrong with a DRP arrangement if the repairer has control over the work to be done on the vehicle. However, you should be wary where the insurer has the final say on the work to be done.
Because renegotiation won't help you if you've already had an accident under your current policy, be proactive throughout the repair process. Don't just assume the insurance company has your best interests at heart. Follow keenly to ensure that your car is restored properly – know your policy inside and out, and be prepared to negotiate and renegotiate until you get what you want.
Handling used repair parts
In the ideal setting, you want the repairer to use Original Equipment Manufacturer (OEM) parts, but this hardly ever happens, since reconditioned, used and non-OEM parts are cheaper.
If you're using the other party's insurer, bear in mind that they have an obligation to restore your vehicle to its previous condition prior to the crash. That means that you can use reconditioned or used OEM parts that are in good condition, since yours were used prior to the crash. However, do not accept non-OEM parts, since they may be inferior and can pose a safety risk to you and your passengers.
If using your own insurance, find out whether your crash repair policy dictates that you have like kind and quality (LKQ) parts. This means that you should get OEM replacement parts – or at the least used/reconditioned OEM parts. If they refuse, you should argue that non-OEM parts cannot be LKQ. If they insist on using them, your best bet may be to offer to foot the difference in cost. It is, after all, your car, and you want to ensure it is in the best condition for driving.
For more information about crash repairs, contact a local auto shop.