3 Tips For Getting a Repair Estimate After a Car Accident
Nobody leaves their home looking to get into a car accident. All it takes is a mix of unfortunate timing, wrong decisions, or even inclement weather or bad road conditions for a car accident to happen.
We understand that car accidents are scary, as are the damage and expense. Nobody wants to get ripped off by overpriced repairs or poor service. Knowing how to get an accurate repair estimate is key to securing your car repairs for a fair and reasonable price. Here are some tips for getting a repair estimate after a car accident.
Choose a Reliable Auto Body Shop
Many areas are replete with auto body shops that can provide the repairs you need at reasonable prices. Finding them is the first step toward getting your car back on the road.
Research and Consider Multiple Auto Body Shops
The quickest way to develop a shortlist of reputable auto body shops is to check with your insurance company for a list of shops they work with. Recommended body shops typically provide exceptional service to stay on good terms with insurance companies, who, in turn, bring them more clients.
Here are some criteria you can use as a basis in determining which auto body shops you’ll want to include in your shortlist:
- Certified Technicians - Certified technicians possess the training needed to perform repairs with precision and use tools to their best effect. I-CAR and ASE certifications are the two main qualifications to look for.
- Detailed Estimates - Detailed estimates outline the costs involved with your repair and give transparency on where your money is being used.
- Warranties - Repair warranties are written statements made by the auto repair shop to stand by its repair service and to cover the cost of additional repairs or replacements are required. Warranties give clients an extra layer of protection and peace of mind. Remember to always get repair warranties in writing, as these become legally binding documents that the repair shop will have to honor.
- Accident Resources - Car repairs can be more expensive than necessary if you don’t arm yourself with good information. It’s why finding consumer advice from the FTC is crucial in preparing yourself.
- Rental Car Program - Your car may likely be out of service during repairs. If it’s your only vehicle, you may need to look into a car rental program to maintain your mobility while your car is in the shop for repairs.
Get the Best Estimate
Once you start interacting with an auto shop of your choosing, ask clear and direct questions and describe your car’s damage in detail. Most shops will be more than happy to give you an estimate before committing to repairs.
Here are some tips on getting the best estimate.
Check Online Reviews and Contact the Shop with Questions
Online reviews are essential because they save time and effort instead of bringing your car to every shortlisted shop.
Online reviews will help you gauge the quality of service of a shop. They yield information about the overall experience of dealing with a particular shop. Contact the shop and ask questions related to your repair and services.
Reach Out to Multiple Shops
It’s best to reach out to multiple shops to compare the quality of your interactions with each and the repair estimates they give you. By asking the right questions, you can identify any inconsistencies in their assessment, allowing you to determine if they are trustworthy.
Some things to ask are:
- Base price + cost of labor
- Turnaround time
- Business payment arrangement (cash or card)
- Ask if they have an insurance deductible
Beware: The Cheapest Estimate is Not Always the Best Service
While it may be tempting to go with the auto repair shop with the cheapest estimate, it’s important to remember that cheap doesn’t always translate to good service. The point of getting estimates from multiple shops is to come up with a price range for your repairs.
Once you receive car repair estimates from your shops of choice, it’s up to you to make sense of the information written on these documents.
Different Terms for Estimates
- Damage Report - Documented details of discovered damage after inspection.
- Damage Estimate - The estimated total amount required to return your vehicle to pre-collision condition.
- Auto Estimate - A written document that details the work order needed to return your vehicle to pre-collision condition.
Agreement and Contract Between the Repair Shop and the Customer
Before any repair can proceed, the repair shop and customer must fulfill a repair service agreement or contract. This is a legally-binding document that represents an agreement between the repair shop and the customer that:
- The repair shop (service provider) shall perform repairs according to the auto estimate.
- The customer shall pay the repair shop for repairs rendered.
A repair service agreement is essential because it protects the service provider and client by making the terms stipulated enforceable by law. This also means that failing to comply with repair service agreement terms can yield legal repercussions for the non-compliant party.
Explanation of Estimations and Why They Are Subject to Change
Many misunderstandings can stem from not knowing the difference between a repair estimate and a repair quote (or as defined in the repair service agreement).
An estimate is used as a ballpark figure when the actual damage to a vehicle is unknown. However, estimates are subject to change because the mechanic may uncover hidden or latent defects during the inspection.
However, once a repair quote is given (or an amount is agreed upon via a repair service contract), the customer has every right to hold the auto repair shop to the agreed-upon prices, no matter what happens after the quotation.
In some jurisdictions, like Washington State, the facility cannot charge customers for more than 10% of the estimated costs without your approval.
Factors That Can Influence the Final Invoice Amount
The factors influencing the final invoice amount mainly depend on discovering hidden defects that need to be addressed. The repair and replacement of certain parts and the labor required for disassembly and installment are all factored into the final invoice amount.
Some damage types, like [Using anchor text “car frame damage,“ please insert internal link to soon-to-be-published Shop Talk article: Collision Repair - Car Frame Damage 101], can also drive repair costs up because they often mean that the structural integrity of your vehicle may be compromised.
The Estimation Process: What to Expect
The estimation process is a fairly straightforward process that involves the following steps:
- Make an Appointment with the Chosen Shop or Submit Photos Through a Virtual Experience
- Thorough Examination and Assessment of the Damage
- Receive a Written Estimate Based on Work Description, Cost Breakdown, and Approval Statement
Car insurance is a financial instrument that helps ease the financial burden after a car accident. In this instance, your car insurance (depending on policy coverage) may cover the cost of repairs. Some policies also cover bodily injuries, legal damages, and other fees related to the accident.
Car insurance is incredibly helpful because it mitigates the financial impact of an accident and its related costs. Here are vital steps to take in dealing with your insurer.
Contact Your Insurance Provider After an Accident
Contacting your insurer right after an accident isn’t just the quickest and easiest way to get started toward repairing your vehicle. It’s also part of your policy agreement. Failing to report a car accident to your insurer may also be grounds to deny you coverage of repair costs.
Notify the Insurer Before Obtaining a Repair Estimate
Notifying the insurer before obtaining a repair estimate allows the insurer to work with its recommended repair shops and get a special rate. Clients do not need to intermediate between their insurer and a repair shop.
Coverage, Responsibility, and the Right to Choose a Repair Shop
Insurance coverage refers to the risk or liability your insurance policy covers. There are many types of car insurance, each with varying degrees of coverage. However, you may need to pay the difference out of pocket if your repairs exceed your coverage.
Responsibility refers to your duties as a policyholder and the actions you must take (such as reporting an accident) to be eligible for policy coverage.
While your insurer may recommend auto repair shops that can fix your vehicle, you have the ultimate say on where to take your car in for repairs. Also, your insurer cannot refuse coverage if you don’t visit their preferred shops.