After a car accident, drivers should try to get at least 3 repair estimates. One of these estimates should come from a repair shop with a stellar record. Drivers who only get a single estimate will not know if the shop they chose is asking for too much or for so little that they cannot do a good job.
How many car repair estimates should I get after a car accident?
Drivers who have been in an auto accident and suffered property damage to their vehicle should get at least 3 car repair estimates. These estimates should be in writing. They should also be itemized and include both the labor costs and the parts that would be used. One of the estimates should come from a high-end repair shop with a reputation for quality work.
Once drivers get multiple estimates, they should do a line-by-line comparison to see which shop will provide the best service for the cost. They can also use the estimates to determine an average cost, which can be used to gauge the quality of their car insurance company’s payout, subject to the deductible and collision coverage limitations.
Getting multiple estimates allows drivers to make an informed decision about repairing their vehicle. If they only get one estimate, drivers have no way of knowing whether the costs are above or below what they should expect.
If the single estimate is too low, the body shop will likely cut corners. They may use incorrect or second-hand parts. There may still be signs of the collision that sent the vehicle to the collision shop, in the first place. If the single estimate is too high, the quality of repair should be better. However, the driver may end up overpaying for what they get or what they want. In either case, the driver who only gets the one estimate will not know what to expect.
By getting multiple repair estimates, car owners can see what different shops would charge. They can then compare and contrast the estimates and make a better decision about where to go. They can also use the itemized estimates to establish an average cost for every entry. Adding the average cost for each entry will give the driver an average cost for the job. This gives the driver an idea of what their insurer should pay out to repair their vehicle. This can help the driver spot lowball settlement offers to fix his or her property damage.
Getting an estimate from a high-end collision repair shop is important in this process. Drivers can use this estimate as an example of the repair work needed.
Is the lowest estimate the best?
Not always. In some cases, the lowest estimate is actually the worst option. Vehicle owners may spend the least for these repairs at first, but the results may be so bad that owners have to bring their car to another shop to fix them.
This is especially true if one of the estimates is substantially lower than the others, or if the itemized estimate is missing an entire line. It may be a sign that the mechanic that made the estimate missed an important part of the job. It may also mean that the shop is cutting costs in ways that will impact the quality of the work.
Should I go to a repair shop recommended by my insurance company?
Many auto insurance companies will have a list of recommended collision repair shops. These referrals may be legitimate and may lead drivers to reputable businesses. However, they may also be for direct repair facilities that let the insurer cut its expenses and maximize its profits. If the referral is to a direct repair program, or DRP, the driver might not get the quality repair that he or she was hoping to receive.
Direct repair facilities are auto body shops that partner with auto insurance companies. The insurance company refers its customers to the shop. The shop then does the repairs at a discount to keep the high volume coming in. The insurer then pockets the savings and pays out less to the driver for the repairs. The insurer also exercises some control over the DRP. They may incentivize or even require the repairs to be done within a certain number of days. They may push mechanics in the shop to use aftermarket or refurbished car parts.
Taking a damaged vehicle to an insurance company’s DRP has pros and cons. On the one hand, the repairs will likely get done more quickly, as the shop may have a deadline to hit and penalties to face if they fail. On the other hand, the shop will be less concerned with providing a quality repair job. For the driver, the lower price is neither good nor bad. The insurance company will be the one saving nearly all of the money.
What should I do if the insurance company is taking too long?
If the insurance provider is delaying the repair process, car owners can bring their vehicle to their shop of choice, pay out of their own pocket, and then demand reimbursement. This often happens if the insurance adjuster has not inspected the vehicle damage in a reasonable amount of time, often within a week.
Vehicle owners who choose to do this should be careful, though. Selecting a collision repair shop that provided a high estimate may lead to the insurer refusing to pay for the full cost of repairs. The insurer may only agree to reimburse for the average amount or even for the lowest estimate that the driver received. If the difference is large, drivers may want to consider filing a personal injury claim to enforce the terms of their insurance policy.
There is a downside to this tactic if the driver’s insurance company is paying for transportation, like a rental car, in the meantime. Once the vehicle repairs have been made and the driver has his or her own vehicle back, the insurance company loses its financial motivation to finish the repair process quickly. They may delay in reimbursing the driver.