How Do I Choose A Repair Shop? How Do I Know Who To Trust? These are two very important questions and, the answer is a little in depth.

 In the “old days” cars weren’t as sophisticated and complex as they are today.  In the “old days” cars weren’t expected to last more than one hundred thousand miles.  In the “old days” we were happy if the paint looked okay and the car still drove okay – the threshold of acceptable quality wasn’t all that high – for either car makers or repairers.  Here’s the really bad news – cars are exponentially more complex and require a much higher level of skill to repair than in “the old days”.  Trouble is – a dangerously high number of repair shops are repairing cars today exactly the same way that they did in the “old days”.  They have failed to invest in the training, tools and equipment that is absolutely required to properly and safely restore a modern wrecked car to its pre-accident condition.  Many shops, many insurers and, most customers are still happy if the paint sort of looks okay and the car sort of drives okay.  With the level of sophisticated design, hybrid materials and super alloys used to manufacture today’s automobile, the level of repair acceptability from the “old days” is gravely inadequate and potentially dangerous to the motoring public.

The tools and equipment required to properly repair a modern wrecked car can be very expensive.  The correct welder to properly weld the super alloy steel used in your domestic pick up truck or foreign sedan can cost more than $20k.  The “frame rack” that is capable of repairing a wrecked vehicle with the precision that the car was built to can cost $100k.  The shop that has made this type of investment in the repair quality of YOUR car, an investment into the SAFETY of YOUR car is NOT going to be the lowest bidder. 

There’s your first qualifier in how to select a shop – the lowest bidder is not necessarily the best value

The lowest bidder may not have completely accounted for all the damage.  The lowest bidder may not have SEEN all the damage.  With most “crashes”, an “estimate doesn’t really help you.  An estimate is often just a tool to get you in the door with a low ball price. 

Your insurance company will very likely have a list of “approved repairers” that they may recommend or even strong arm you to take your car to.  Insurance companies will tell you that their “approved repairers” have met their high standards of quality and that they will guarantee their work.

Some words of truth here – there are no ‘rigorous standards’ or ‘levels of excellence’ that a shop must demonstrate to become an “approved repairer” for an insurance company.  In fact, some insurers have, on their list of “approved repairers”, shops which are operating illegally in their states, shops which may not be registered in states that require registration, shops which may not be paying their workers compensation or other insurance and who may not be environmentally compliant.  About the only requirements that an insurance company asks of an “approved repairer” is to do exactly what we tell you, when we tell you and how much we tell you to charge for the work that you do.

Approved repairers” are “approved” because they have agreed to comply with a given insurance company’s claims handling standards in exchange for the promise of referred work – nothing more.  They aren’t “approved” because they’re the best in town.  This IS NOT to say that a shop which is on an “approved repairer” list for an insurance company isn’t a great shop – they may well be the best in town.  What’s important for you to know is that being on an insurer’s “approved” list IS NOT the sole criteria, nor is it the best criteria that you should use in choosing your repair shop.

More words of truth:  Insurance companies don’t fix cars, they don’t manufacture cars and they don’t manufacture parts.  That being the case – they can’t guarantee something that they don’t do or make.  On the occasion when an insurance company is made to enforce their “guarantee”, all they do is either make the “approved repairer” do it over or pay another “approved repairer” to fix the problem and then make the original “approved repairer” pay them back for the cost of the re-do.  Any shop that repairs your car, independently of the insurers “approved repairer” network, can and should offer the same guarantee. 

Manufacturers Guidelines and Industry Standards:      

 

Insurance companies will tout that they and their “approved repairers” will see to it that your wrecked car is fully repaired to “industry standard”.  Here’s the problem with that, “industry standard”, in this context, is clearly defined as whatever the insurance company says is okay to do to the car – in their perspective.  That’s simply not good enough.  An ethical repair shop will be knowledgeable in and closely adhere to the vehicle manufacturer’s recommendations on how to repair your wrecked car.  This makes the most sense because the car manufacturer designed and engineered the car, they know precisely what is necessary to properly repair the car after a wreck.  Even more important, they know what NOT to do in repairing their product.  An ethical repairer should be well enough informed to know whether or not your car requires a special procedure, special tool or special process to repair it to pre-accident condition and, that same repairer should be able to explain these processes to you as well as actually show you the tools and equipment that they have (or don’t have) on site to deal with the particular damage to your car.  Ask to be shown this equipment – ask for a tour of the shop.

 

Find a repair shop who considers YOU to be their customer and won’t compromise your interests or the quality of your repair to the cost cutting interests of your insurer.

 

If your insurance company is telling you that the shop you’ve chosen is a “problem shop” or something similar, that may very well be your best indicator of where to have your car fixed.  The shop may just be a “problem” in the eyes of the insurer because that shop puts the customer and a proper repair first – before the interests of an insurance company’s cost cutting efforts.  Many shops, which are “approved” by the insurance companies, consider the insurance company to be their primary customer and those shops may tend to lean toward their insurance company customer in order to protect their revenue stream after all, you are just ONE customer – the insurance company agreement means MANY customers.  The insurance company comes first – to “approved repairers”.  The repair shop that is not on the “approved” list is relying on the quality of their work and their ability to earn and keep your business to protect their revenue stream – that’s the kind of business you want to do business with.