Collision Repair Education

Guide to Collision Repair Estimates

Following a car accident, the idea of finding the right collision repair shop can seem intimidating and overwhelming. Hopefully it’s a process that you don’t have much experience with (unless you work in the collision repair industry).

Remember that you have the right to select your collision repair shop and nobody, even your insurance company, can force you to use a specific shop. It can help to get a few estimates from different repair shops so you can find the right one for you. The following steps can help you with collision repair estimates.

Research and Ask Questions

Don’t be afraid to ask questions when you’re speaking with representatives at the repair shops you’re considering. One sign of a great repair shop is one that is willing to explain what they do and what you’re paying them for. An estimate might take some time to create, but should include a breakdown of repairs, including the costs for parts and labor.

Consider more than the Total Cost

Remember that parts, labor, and overhead costs can vary from shop to shop. Higher costs do not necessarily mean better repairs or better parts. If you’re looking at shops in the same area and you find one that is a lot higher or lower than the others, ask why. Sometimes, different shops use different kinds of repair parts, and the parts you choose to use can affect the cost just as much as the shop’s location or labor charges.

Shops should always use the OEM repair guidelines, be willing to answer your questions, and have a record of good reviews.

Trust the Experts

While the Internet is a useful tool and it can help you find advice to get a great collision repair estimate, it is not an estimating tool. Every make and model has a specific set of repair procedures created by the manufacturer, and only by following these procedures can an estimate or repair be done correctly. Access to these procedures isn’t free online, so you’ll need to take your car to a repair shop and have it examined by a professional. If possible, take it to more than one so you have something to compare your estimate to.

While your insurance company may have an estimator, they too need to look at your vehicle in order to correctly estimate the cost of repairs. It’s not a process that can be done remotely.

Steps in the Collision Repair Process

If you haven’t been in an accident before, the process, from collision to paid and repaired vehicle, can seem confusing. We’ve put together a simple list to help un-complicate the process for you.

The Accident

At the accident, make sure you do the following:

  • Take photos of the scene, preferably before any of the vehicles have moved. If possible, you should clear the road soon after.
  • Make sure everyone is okay. Call an ambulance.
  • Exchange contact and insurance information with the other driver. This includes name, address, phone number, email address, insurance name and policy, etc.
  • Contact the police. Get witness contact information and statements – the police may do this.
  •  Give your insurance company an unbiased account of what happened.

Towing

If your car is badly damaged, it may not be drivable after the accident. If you need a tow, it saves time and money to already have a repair shop selected. Remember – you don’t have to go to the shop your insurance company suggests! They are obligated to work with any repair shop of your choosing.

Estimates

An estimate will give you an approximate cost for repairs to your vehicle. Your insurance company may decide that your car is totaled if the cost of repairs is more than the value of the vehicle. An estimate shouldn’t take long, and you shouldn’t need an appointment.

Repair Appointment

Once you, the repair shop, and the insurance company have agreed on repairs, you can schedule a repair appointment at the shop of your choosing. You’ll have to sign a form to authorize the repairs, and you may owe your insurance company a deductible depending on your policy.
The cost of repairs will depend on the insurance policy you have. Damages caused in the accident should be covered by a collision policy. If you’re in a state that assigns fault and the accident was your fault, you will need collision coverage to cover the cost of your vehicle and not just the other vehicle. If the accident wasn’t your fault, the other party’s insurance company should pay for your repairs. If their insurance doesn’t cover enough, or if the other party doesn’t have coverage, you’ll need to pay out of pocket or have an uninsured/underinsured motorist package included in your policy. Check with your insurance company if you aren’t sure. Your insurance policy may also cover a rental car during repairs, but it depends on the policy you have.

Car Pick-Up

Don’t be afraid to ask questions about your repair. When you pick up your car, it should be in the same condition it was in prior to the accident.

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