Thanks to Kiplinger’s Personal Finance via MSN Money, here are 7 things your auto-body shop won’t tell you. In fact, I could have used this article a few month ago when my car was in for repairs after an accident.
1. That fender bender will be a major expense. If the accident is your fault and you have the typical $500 deductible for a collision, kiss your money goodbye…
2. Approved shops are beholden to tightfisted insurers. Auto insurers contract with providers to repair vehicles for a pre-negotiated rate (think of it as managed care for sick cars). And your car could be the victim of cost cutting…
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3. Not all replacement parts are created equal. Original-equipment manufacturer (OEM) parts are designed to match precisely and may be safer. But insurers prefer that shops use generic or salvage replacement parts because they’re cheaper…
4. The due date is most likely fiction. Mechanics routinely blame missed deadlines on delays in parts delivery. The truth is that many of them take on more business than they can handle…
5. A rented car will cost you. Renting a car for three weeks could cost $1,000 or more. Even if you have optional rental-car insurance (which costs $1 or $2 a month), your daily reimbursement may be limited to the cost of a compact car.
6. Your car needs a shop that speaks its language. Many European cars use aluminum and ultrahard steel that require special equipment to repair… Shops should be certified by the manufacturer to do the work, meaning they must have specialized training and equipment — and charge higher rates.
7. The insurer’s warranty isn’t all it’s cracked up to be. Insurers sometimes dangle warranties on the parts (for as long as you own the vehicle) to entice you to go to shops in their network. But the body shop’s guarantee is the one that’s important.
Here are some of my thoughts and experience with this advice, first-hand.
1. I knew that if I were in any accident, there would be no getting around paying the full deductible. Any body work is sure to cost more than the $500 deductible. The article cites the cost of replacing a fender on two very different cars: A Buick might cost about $1,000 and a Mercedes up to $1,350. When any semi-serious damage required replacing the fender, there’s no way you can get by paying just part of the deductible.
2. My car insurance company (Liberty Mutual) makes it incredible easy to get back on the road after an accident. They took care of the financial aspect, while basically all I had to do was drop off the car and pick it up. Before doing so, the company provided me with a list of partnered repair facilities. Although I have a Honda, they recommended a repair shop “attached” to a Ford dealership.
They did the work, and on my first inspection, the work looked good. Months later, I could tell that the work was less than perfect. The plastic at the base of the side windows became slightly unglued, for instance.
3. According to the police report, the accident was my fault. The article suggests that insisting on OEM parts if the accident is not one’s fault, but that didn’t apply to me. The shop replaced the two driver’s side door panels, which were salvaged and painted to match my car. With such a cosmetic repair, I have no problem with salvaged parts. There are no dents, and the paint job was good enough.
4. I completely expected the repairs would take longer than the shop originally indicated, so I wasn’t too upset when they delivered almost a week after they promised. The insurance company was paying for my compact rental car. Although it was a little uncomfortable, I survived.
5. Speaking of the rental car, when I picked it up I asked to see if they had something nicer than the Saturn Ion. I might have been willing to pay for the difference.
6. If the work I needed to have done on my Honda Civic extended into some of the more technical parts, I would have felt more comfortable with a Honda dealer.
7. The insurance company and the shop both provided a lifetime guarantee. I am not completely confident in these lifetime guarantees. If I bring the car back to the shop for covered follow-up work, I get the feeling they would “find something” that’s not covered.
I’m glad my car is on the road, approaching 70,000 miles, and giving me no problems whatsoever. I’m looking forward to another 130,000 more.
Updated October 15, 2015 and originally published May 2, 2007.