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Getting Your Car Repaired

Unfortunately, it happen to the best of us. One day you are traveling your usual route, listening to music, looking forward to getting home after work, or just out for a leisurely cruise when suddenly, you find yourself involved in an accident. As a driver, you learn a lot about what to do in the immediate aftermath of an accident, but most drivers’ education programs stop there. However, there is still a lot of work to be done after you’re involved in a fender bender, most notably in getting your vehicle repaired. Here, we’ll discuss how to make sure repairs go as smoothly as possible, and more importantly, how to ensure that they are done properly.

After the Accident

Once you are sure everyone at an accident scene has received proper care, it’s time to turn your attention to the care of your vehicle. First, get a claim started with your insurance company. If you are unsure of how to do this, read our helpful article about filing a claim. The next challenge you face will be getting your vehicle to the proper repair facility. If your car needs to be towed, tow truck drivers responding to the accident — in most circumstances — are required to take your vehicle where you want it to go.

With that being said, you may encounter some more aggressive towers who will try to insist that your vehicle go to “their” shop, but while the shop they work for may be perfectly capable of performing the repairs, remember that it’s your car and you have the ultimate power to decide where you want it to go. If your vehicle is safe to drive after a minor accident, then you can usually get an estimate performed on your own time within the next few days.

Once your vehicle arrives at the repair shop, you will be greeted by service advisors. You advisor will be your point of contact for the entire duration of the repair. Next, the shop will begin to thoroughly evaluate your car to produce an estimate of what is needed to repair your vehicle. Your insurance company will also send out an adjuster to create their own estimate for repairs. Make sure to have both parties go over their collective estimates with you as thoroughly as possible because in some cases, reading the estimates is about as easy as deciphering Egyptian hieroglyphics with a Cracker Jack decoder ring. In addition, while your insurance company may recommend a certain shop to complete the repairs or insist that you follow their adjuster’s estimate, the Insurance Information Institute (III) points out that you should not feel pressured to oblige you insurance company.

With the estimates written, it’s almost time for repairs to start. In most cases, the repair shops’ estimate will charge more for parts, repair times, and miscellaneous supplies when compared to the insurance estimate. If your car is at a reputable shop, the two parties can usually reach an agreement without getting you involved. But in some cases, your insurance provider may outright refuse to pay the shop what they are asking. In this case, you will have two options: split the difference out of your own pocket, or take on your insurance company.

The Repair Process

When it comes time for the shop to begin repairs, you will want to find out if your insurance provider or repair shop is planning on using OEM, or generic parts. For a part to be considered OEM, it must be produced by, or specifically for, the manufacturer of your vehicle. Essentially, an OEM piece is an exact replica of what originally came on the vehicle. However, some insurance companies will produce an estimate using non-OEM parts, especially with an older model vehicle. These are most commonly used in place of “crash parts.” This refers to body pieces only, such as hoods, fenders, door skins, and trunk lids.

Non-OEM pieces are significantly less expensive compared to OEM, which is why they are favored in certain instances. According to the III, generic crash parts are often used more than generic mechanical parts because they have no safety impact on the vehicle. If generic parts are going to be used, the information should be disclosed and made very clear. While the quality is supposed to be similar to that of an OEM, in some cases, they simply aren’t. If you do decide to go ahead with the use of a non-OEM part, make sure the part will have some kind of warranty.

Once the work is under way, you may want to pay a visit to the shop where your vehicle is being repaired to check in on the vehicle. If you are unable to do so, be absolutely sure to go over the final repair invoice and actual repairs with your advisor before handing over your insurance check and driving off. The advisor should gladly oblige if they are confident in their work. Here are some things to look for:

  • If body work was done, or a body panel was replaced, take a look down the side of the vehicle. Start by standing close to the front or rear wheel, kneeling down, and look down the side of the car, to make sure everything looks as good as new. The paint should have a mirror-like finish, and you should not be able to spot any waves or imperfections underneath the paint that can result from poor body work.
  • If a panel was replaced, make sure there are no unusual gaps where the panel meets another, and make sure that it is straight.
  • If there was damage to only one side of the car, you can use the other side as a reference point for how the repairs should look. If it was done correctly, you should not be able to notice a difference.
  • If a mechanical item was replaced, such as a suspension piece, ask the shop to raise the car on a lift so you can see for yourself that the repairs were done as promised. New parts will be easy to spot since they will have no signs of road grime or wear, and will have a recognizable stamp or logo from the manufacture, particularly if it is an OEM piece.