car insurance. how does it work?
February 15, 2011 12:24 PM   Subscribe

How and where do I get my car repaired? (or, please explain to me how car insurance works)

So. I got in a fender-bender, called insurance, all above board and no funny stuff. I just got the estimate for repairs (provided by an outside agency) which is $1300! So now what do I do? I really want a high quality repair as I plan to have this car forever. What are the advantages to going to the dealer as opposed to Joe's Body Shop et cetera? Is the insurance estimate usually generous enough to cover repairs at a pricey place? If not the dealer, where should I go? (this is in central MA)
posted by genmonster to Travel & Transportation (8 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
Who was at fault, and do you have a police report?
posted by Brocktoon at 12:29 PM on February 15, 2011

So wait was the estimate for repairs from an insurance adjuster or from a repair shop?

Generally you have the right to get your car repaired at any shop you want. The trick is that if your repair is outrageously expensive compared to an adjusters estimate then you have to battle the insurance agency to get your claim paid in full. Run any estimates by your insurance company before having work done to insure you are going to get paid.

Where to do is up to you. I usually have found my places on Yelp with pretty good success. Note that depending on your insurance they may have "certified" shops. These are shops they work with where they assume the rate is fair and they will pay the shop directly. Its sometimes easier (but generally not required) to get the fix done at these shops.
posted by bitdamaged at 12:43 PM on February 15, 2011

Just one thing to consider -- most dealers don't handle the kind of body work, repainting, etc. that needs to be done after an accident. What you probably want to do, however, is ensure that whoever does the work uses official "factory" parts, meaning the exact same parts your dealer would use. Usually that kind of thing is written somewhere on the estimate.
posted by BlahLaLa at 1:14 PM on February 15, 2011

Response by poster: just to clarify, it was for sure my fault, I called the police but they didn't do anything. The estimate is from a professional appraisal firm that my insurance company wanted me to go to.
posted by genmonster at 1:32 PM on February 15, 2011

When someone banged my wife's car, I called the insurance company. They told me to have their certified adjuster look at it. Their adjuster happened to work out of a particular body shop, so I took it there.

The adjuster told me that looked like about a $X repair. The body shop he was based out of had some sort of deal with the insurance company where they agreed to do the job for $X, whatever X was, in return for the obvious advantage of having the adjuster right there.

I preferred another body shop, so it was on me to take the car to the other shop and get an estimate. I telephoned the adjuster with that shop's estimate, which turned out to be a little more, but not really out of line. The insurance company ok'd it and I got it repaired at my preferred shop without having to pay.

I assume if my preferred shop's estimate was way higher, the insurance company would still pay $X, and I'd have to pay the rest out of pocket.
posted by ctmf at 2:02 PM on February 15, 2011

Best answer: Car repair from insurance in a nutshell (in a perfect world)
  • Damage happens to your car that you think should be covered by insurance and file a claim with insurance company.
  • Insurance company investigates claim and decides agrees it is a covered claim.
  • Insurance company tells you to take car to awesome auto body shop Foo Brothers.
  • Foo Brothers sends an estimate to you and the insurance company.
  • Insurance company calls you and says the estimate is fine and that you will owe your deductible to Foo Brothers and that Foo Brothers will bill the insurance company directly for the rest.
  • You stop by Foo Brothers to sign an estimate stating the total charge, what they will bill the insurance company, and what you will owe (which will match your deductible).
  • A week or so later, you get your car back in as good of or better condition than it was in before the accident.
  • 1-5 months later when your insurance is up for renewal, you consider raising your deductible a step or two to offset the otherwise new higher premium you have.
Unfortunately we don't live in a perfect world. Insurance companies are not always actually looking out for you. Auto shops aren't always entirely honest. So there are inevitably complications to the above description.

If at all possible, do not agree to a set dollar amount with the insurance company. What you want is to be made whole again. For you that it is to restore your care to the condition it was in before the incident. If part way through the repair, they find more work to do that is a result of the accident, you don't want to be on the hook for that.

In general (at least in civilized states) you can't be required to get the work done at a specific shop. A good insurance company will send you to good shops because they are looking out for their customers. But make sure their recommendations line up with recommendations from friends and yelp and such.

I don't think any dealerships really do any real amount of body work. Many dealerships do happen to have joint ownership of an auto-body shop. Those auto-body shops will generally be toward the high end of price. Independent shops will almost certainly be cheaper, quality may be less consistent.

Never leave confused. If you don't understand part of the estimate from the auto body shop, ask more questions. If they are not interested in helping you understand, consider going elsewhere.

Consider taking your car to your regular mechanic (you do have a regular mechanic you trust, right?) for it's next oil change a little early after the body work and ask him to give a second look at the work that was done. You can probably also bring him photos and the estimate and ask if it seems reasonable.

Your insurance company should have people that helpfully walk you through this process. They should be able to answer pretty much any question you throw at them related to this matter. This incident might leave you feeling as if your insurance company was not on your side. If that is the case, perhaps you should look elsewhere for insurance. For something as important as insurance, price alone might not be the best way to choose.
posted by fief at 2:02 PM on February 15, 2011 [4 favorites]

On the topic of finding a good body shop to get your car repaired:

Whenever I have had an accident/fender-bender over the years I would follow these steps:

1) call the local dealer for my make of car and find out where they get their showroom cars repaired. That's the place where I want my car to be repaired as well. Often the places they use are also equipped to do certified mechanical work.
2) negotiate with the insurance person in charge of my claim to have my car repaired at that place

In my particular case I've had Mercury car insurance for many years and they've never turned down my requests to have a car repaired at a specific place. Even when a slight bump to the front left corner of my A4 resulted in $13k worth of work to put it back to factory spec for every bit affected by the incident. Of course your insurances rates will go up but that'll happen anways...
posted by Hairy Lobster at 2:50 PM on February 15, 2011

Just one thing to consider -- most dealers don't handle the kind of body work, repainting, etc. that needs to be done after an accident.

The main problem is that body panels are generally cheap to replace but the new parts don't come painted, just primed. Painting is both expensive and beyond the facilities of most auto repair places that aren't body shops.
posted by smackfu at 8:10 AM on February 16, 2011

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