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Beware of Body Shop Suggestions from Your Insurance Company

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If you drive long enough, it’s almost guaranteed that your car will eventually be damaged in some kind of accident, large or small. Whether it’s someone bumping into you in the parking lot, or a high-speed collision, repairing the damage can be expensive.

Modern cars are built to crumple when hit from certain angles. The crumpling absorbs a lot of force, keeping you safer in a crash. But it also means repairs from even a minor collision or accident may require several expensive new parts. 

Of course, that’s why we carry insurance. In exchange for a monthly, semi-annual, or annual premium, the insurance company agrees to cover the cost of repairs. However, be careful where you go for those repairs. It is in the insurance company’s interest to get the repairs done for as little money as possible. Sometimes that means sending you to a body shop that cuts corners just to get you back out on the road.

That’s what happened to Whitney Gains, and happens to thousands of unsuspecting drivers all over the country.

Cutting Corners for the Insurance Company

Whitney Gains did her research and bought a minivan for her growing family that would keep them safe. That’s why, when she got into an accident, she was quick to take her car in for repairs. She wanted to make sure her car was safe to drive. When she called her insurance company, they gave her the information of a local body shop that is on the insurance company’s preferred list.

But before she was ready to drive again, Whitney had David Montanaro of Southern Automotive Consultants Take a look. David is a specialist who is often called in after a repair to inspect the repairs and to calculate the vehicle’s diminished value. In the case of Whitney’s van, he saw problems. The body shop recommended by the insurance company was cutting corners. That means the car could not be guaranteed to crash correctly if it gets in another accident.

Who is the Customer?

When TrustDALE asked David about the problems with Whitney’s car, he told us that this is not an isolated case. He showed us over 50 binders full of paperwork on vehicles that were taken of the street following inadequate repairs. The repairs were done so poorly that correcting them would have been more expensive than the value of the car before the accident.

According to David, this shouldn’t be surprising. If you want to know who the body shop is working for, just follow the money. When you bring your car to an insurance company’s preferred shop, it’s the insurance company paying the bill. So body shops are more interested in pleasing the insurance than the driver. In fact, many body shops rely on referrals from insurance companies. If they can do the work for a lower price, they can count on getting more referrals for more business.

Even though an insurance company is motivated to spend as little as possible on your repairs, it is actually illegal for a company to tell you where to get your car fixed. They can make a referral to a preferred shop, but you are under no obligation to take it there.

How to Protect Yourself from Bad Repairs

  • Research insurance repair recommendations. Not all insurance recommended body shops are bad. If your insurance recommends a shop, do a little research. Look online at the Better Business Bureau and consumer review sites to check for complaints. Ask about aftermarket parts. Make sure that the body shop you go to does repairs to manufacturer specifications.
  • Be involved with decisions. You can never be forced to go to a particular body shop. If you don’t like the one that is recommended, ask for another recommendation or choose your own shop. Just know that if you pick your own shop, your insurance might not cover the full cost of the repairs. They will send out an appraiser (some insurance companies have an app), and they will cover their estimated cost for repairs.
  • Demand transparency. Ask questions and get answers. There’s nothing wrong with simply asking a body shop if they work to manufacturer specifications. Ask about aftermarket parts. Get plenty of detail about the repairs they are making. Asking direct questions isn’t a replacement for research and reviews, but you can learn a lot if you just ask.

To find a body shop that TrustDALE knows and trusts, try one of these TrustDALE certified body shops!