Can I choose any body shop to repair my car?
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UPDATED: Mar 13, 2020
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After an auto accident occurs, most people’s first priority is getting the vehicle repaired to the condition it was in prior to the loss. Insurance companies play a vital role in this by providing the settlement payments, but ultimately it is a body shop, not the insurer, that will complete the repairs on the vehicle. Choosing a good body shop is a key step to ensuring that the vehicle is repaired properly and quickly.
Some people have body shops that they are familiar with and work with for other repairs. Others, however, are not familiar with body shops and may need assistance in choosing one. Your insurance company may be able to provide you with some suggestions for shops. Depending on the company, they may be partnered with certain body shops. Although you are free to choose any shop that you’d like, getting your repairs completed through a preferred repair shop has a few benefits that are worth considering.
What is a Preferred Repair Shop?
Some body shops partner with insurance companies to provide repairs for claims-related damage. In some cases, this can be an independently-owned body shop that does contract work for insurance companies. Other body shops may actually be owned by the insurance company, such as Sterling owned by the Allstate Corporation.
Every month, a repair shop will have a certain number of slots that they reserve to repair insurance-related claims. They bill the insurance company directly, so there is no check issued to the insured. They may also have the ability to approve damage and begin repairs immediately without waiting on an adjuster to do an estimate first.
Not all body shops that work with insurance companies are preferred repair option shops. Just because the shop of your choice works with insurance does not mean that it is actually contracted with the insurance company; it may simply mean that they don’t mind doing repairs for insurance claims. The easiest way to find out if a body shop is on the preferred shop list is by contacting the insurance company and asking.
Do I have to use a repair shop my insurance company suggests?
Once your vehicle is inspected, the agent will provide you with an estimate for repairs and a settlement check that you can take to the shop of your choice. They may have some suggestions for you at the time. If any of the shops they refer you to are part of a repair network, they will need to tell you their relationship to the shop at the time of the referral.
It is illegal for any insurance company to require customers to have repairs done at any particular repair shop. Once you receive the settlement money for your repairs, you can go to the shop of your choice. If the shop that you choose cannot complete the repairs for the amount on the adjuster’s estimate, the shop can submit a supplement request. The insurance company does not need to honor this request, however, and if they believe that the figures suggested by the repair shop are extravagant, they will deny the request and the insured must pay the remainder out of pocket.
There are a few reasons why choosing a preferred repair shop may be advantageous depending on your situation. First, the insurance company provides a guarantee on the repairs. This means that if you are dissatisfied with the repairs for any reason, you can contact the insurance company and have the situation resolved. This is not true of body shops that you choose yourself; if you are not satisfied with the work done by a shop you chose yourself, you must work out the situation with the shop directly.
Another reason you may wish to choose a preferred repair shop is time. If the shop can start on the repairs immediately rather than waiting on an adjuster to approve them, the claim can be settled quickly. If you choose to take your vehicle to a body shop outside of the insurance company’s network, you will need to have your vehicle inspected prior to repairs.
Choosing a preferred repair shop isn’t always the best choice, and it may not be available in all situations. Some insurance companies do not have preferred shops, and others do not service all states. Nevertheless, if you are offered a preferred repair shop option when filing your claim, it’s worth considering especially if you do not have a body shop you are already comfortable with. The speed of claim handling and the convenience of a lifetime guarantee make this a very appealing option for people who need their vehicles repaired and back on the road after an accident.