Most car insurance companies have partnerships with local repair shops, so when Wilson’s insurer recommended a body shop to him, he didn’t think twice about bringing his car to their direct shop. In Wilson’s case, it made sense to have his car repaired by his insurer’s direct body shop. After all, his vehicle had only sustained minor damage, i.e., some dents and scratches on the front bumper and one broken headlight.
For more serious damage, however, you may have to take your car to your own preferred body shop and ask your auto insurance company to send the estimator there. While this may occasionally result in a longer assessment process, quality and safety should always be your first priority.
Many people are apprehensive about the quality of repair (also craftsmanship and auto parts) of their insurer’s direct body shop. In most cases, you can expect decent work because these repair centers have been subjected to the rigorous training and stringent facility requirements that insurance companies typically demand.
Because auto insurance companies negotiate for lower labor and part costs, some even forego estimates so the repairs can be completed more quickly. Of course, this only works for minor or cosmetic repairs.
By law, your vehicle insurance company can’t force you to use one of their direct body shops, nonetheless, some insurers will resort to dubious practices to convince customers to use them. After all, they want the lion’s share of their claim to go to their designated repair shops.
Direct insurance agents may tell you that using other body shops that are not part of their roster might spell longer claims process time, and further add that there might be a delay in the adjuster’s ability to assess the damage. Some even go further by saying that your insurer might not provide a warranty for the repairs, which of course is erroneous since reputable body shops always provide some type of warranty regardless of who will pay the cost.
If you have valid reasons for not using your insurer’s direct body shop (i.e., the damage requires an extensive repair or you simply trust your preferred shop more), don’t be intimidated. Furthermore, bear in mind that reputable shops are also familiar with the claims process, which makes it easy to do estimates and start the repairs sooner.
If you decide to proceed with your own body shop, don’t accept delays. Should the adjuster fail to show up within a week to complete the estimate, appeal to higher levels in the company, and if you still remain unheeded, you can file a complaint with your state’s insurance department.
If your insurer offers significantly less than the shop’s estimate, you may pay the gap with your own money, take your car to one of their direct body shops, or dispute the offer, which can be a lengthy process. In fact, taking this third route means you have to shell out the money first and then wait for the arbitration’s decision to seek reimbursement; however, it may be worth the trouble if the cost of repair is something that will put a dent in your finances.