Category Archives: Those Dang Insurance Companies

The Estimating Process

Ah the estimate.

An important and necessary yet potentially grey area of the repair process. If you are like most people you are probably going through an insurance company to have your car repaired. Each insurance company has guidelines as to what they will pay for, and how long each repair should take. Often if you are looking to do an out of pocket repair and not go through insurance, the estimate will be lower than what the insurance estimate might be.

So let’s say you’ve been in an accident and you’re car is driveable but needs repair. Maybe someone backed into you while you were waiting for a parking spot at the mall. You go to your local repair shop and ask “how much is this going to cost?” Good question. Now to answer that question there are multiple questions that your repair shop professional should ask and steps for them to take.

Are you going through insurance or out of pocket?
If you answer “I am going through insurance” then there will need to be an estimate created with a field adjuster from your insurance company. Which means you need to make an appointment and have the adjustor meet you at the repair shop.
If you say you are handling it yourself out of pocket, the estimator should be “easy” on you and probably give you a break on elements of your repairs.

I am constantly asked after this first question, “how come you can’t just do an estimate and then I’ll present that to my insurance company?” Two reasons, first the insurance company needs to initiate the estimate process because “they” are responsible for the repairs… and the vehicle needs to be repaired under their guidelines and the work order sheet that they’ll provide. In other words, the repair shop is doing what the insurance company asks of them. Second, it keeps things clean as to what is being fixed that is directly related to the claim. People often try to claim  unrelated damages.

Let’s say you are going through insurance and you’ve set up an appointment for the adjustor to meet you at the shop. What happens next is: you drop the car and get a rental or a ride. As the adjustor may have a window of time. When the adjustor meets with the repair shop they together negociate on what is needed, what will be done, how long it will take, etc. Then, this agreed upon estimate is what is used as a work order. Then either the shop or the insurance company should contact you and inform you what they are doing, how much it will cost, what you are responsible for covering (based on your deductible) and will keep you informed in case anything changes.
Here’s some questions you may want to ask the repair shop:
1. Are you using used parts, aftermarket parts or factory parts?
2. Is this the price final?
3. What am I responsible for paying?
4. Are they paying for a rental? If so, how much a day?
5. How long will the repair take?
6. Is my car going back to pre-collision condition?
7. What exactly will you be doing to my car?

I always invite customers to check in with me to find out where things are at in the repair process. Of course I don’t expect a call everyday but if your repair is going to take a week or more it might not be a bad idea to check in after 3-4 days to see how things are coming along.

Another thing to be aware of in regards to a rental car is that if you were not at fault and the other party is paying for your claim then they will be paying for a comparable car as yours, and the other insurance company will cover the rental for as long as it takes to repair your car.

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What’s the best auto insurance company…

…which could be rephrased to “who is the best of the bad guys?”

Customers, friends, family, anyone who has car insurance and knows that I’ve got an autobody shop ask me this question. Especially when their car is in the shop.

In order to answer that question I always recommend that people read their auto insurance contract very carefully before choosing a provider or switching to a new provider. While it may take a little bit of time and research, if you read your contract or proposed contract you will have peace of mind and know what you are dealing with.

I recommend you specifially look at:
– OEM (Original Equipment Manufacturer) new or used factory parts VS. aftermarket parts. Because at the end of the day it’s about fit & thickness – how well the part fits and how resiliant it is.
This is probably the most important element of repairs. It’s very important to be sure that your insurance company will use OEM new or used.

In Southern California the challenge that tends to show up is that an auto insurance company tries pay as little as possible for your repairs. And part of the way they do that is by authorizing aftermarket parts that generally are not as high quality as the manufactuter’s original parts. Mercury insurance is one of the only companies that actually does not allow aftermarket parts and they make sure your car is restored as close as possible to its pre-accident condition. They even try to save your car by going to an 80% formula for total loss as oppossed to 70% for almost every other insurance companies. Mercury also has very affordable rates.

So if you are in Southern California I would say start with Mercury and then compare them to any other provider you are considering.

For disclosure purposes, please know that I am not an agent of Mercury and am a fully independent shop.

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