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Auto Repair Estimate
Learn how insurance companies will evaluate your damages and depreciate your repairs
If you are in an accident, the Insurance Adjuster will want to write the auto repair estimate himself or have one of his “approved or certified” bodyshops write one.
It does not matter that you have an auto repair estimate or estimates from other bodyshops (the dealership included); they will want to see two things themselves:
a. How much can they deduct from that amount
b. If there are other damages that they do not owe you for (prior damage)
Adjusters are trained to ask and to look for prior damages so they can deduct them.
Let’s say that your car had its back bumper damaged, and you get rear ended again. The insurance company will depreciate the bumper (you did not have a brand new bumper), and they pay you for a depreciated broken bumper. They will put you back in the position you were in.
The insurance company will do everything in its power to save $1.50. Maybe that is why they have so much money.
They want to write the estimate so they know before hand what the actual damage is and later try to negotiate some kind of deal with a bodyshop.
They will give you an auto repair estimate and tell you to take your car to a bodyshop and show to the bodyshop the estimate they just wrote. They want you to “show” the estimate to your mechanic. Your mechanic will then know that these are the only repairs the insurance provider is authorizing.
Mechanics around the city know the system. 90% of the car accidents out there are handled through insurance companies. This gives insurance companies incredible power over bodyshops and repair facilities.
Think about it. If Insurance companies decide to “ban” one bodyshop because they do not like the pricing, they can just stop recommending them to the public. They can take them off their database as a “recommended shop”.
Insurance companies cannot tell you to “not go to a specific bodyshop” as they would be breaking the law.
But by not acknowledging them, the bodyshop can lose substantial amount of business, almost to the point of bankrupting them.
Therefore, mechanics want to keep doing business with the insurance company.
This system arguably helps to keep bodyshops and mechanics honest, and it also keeps the prices down.
However, if mechanics know that there is no insurance involved, then your price is “different”.
The best way to know if this auto repair estimate is legitimate, (some are) is to have a “second set” of eyes look over it.
Call an independent mechanic or claim adjuster and show them the car (or pictures) and the auto damages estimate done by the insurance company before you decide to authorize repairs.
The independent mechanic will pick things up like paint issues and other hidden damages not mentioned on the original report.
Regarding paint, does your car need a completely new paint job or just the part that was broken? It really depends.
The insurance company will argue that they only owe for the part that was hit.
However, if the paint does not match or it is substantially different, then you are not “put back” to the position you were in before the accident.
You did not have a mismatched painted car before you were hit and now you do! The insurance company must fix this, so get a second opinion as soon as you can!
Do not wait to do this after the car is fixed, they might argue that the paint faded, or that you caused some kind of damage to the repair.
Show them that they are responsible for fixing the vehicle to the way it was before their client hit you.
There will be some damage to your car that is either so minor that is not worth fixing, or it just cannot be fixed (matching paint perfectly).
In this case, ask the insurance company for an Appearance Allowance.
This is cash compensation for your damages. Depending on what the damages are, you can ask for up to $1000 or more. Just make sure you are giving the insurance company a deal.
Let’s say that to fix your “silly” damage or unfixable damage will cost $2000. Then ask for $1500. The insurance company will gladly take the deal. They are saving money ($500)!
An auto repair estimate looks like this:
Be sure to check every single aspect of the estimate.
Look at the price they are quoting you for parts. If the parts are inexpensive, this should raise a red flag. Again, have your mechanic look over the estimate so everything is accounted for.
If you doubt the price or you think something is out of the ordinary in the auto repair estimate, call and double check that these parts are indeed what your car needs.
If you do not know much about cars and/or car repairs, call your mechanic and ask for help.
In many occasions, the auto repair estimate is low (not super low, but just low), and the bodyshop says that they can fix the car for that amount. When they actually start working on the car, usually more damage is discovered.
A “little” amount of new hidden damage is always the norm.
The insurance company will issue a “supplemental payment” to cover the difference. Remember, they owe you to fix your car so they must not keep the expenses within an estimate. So if the original estimate is wrong, you cannot be penalized for that.
If the hidden damage is not discovered on the original auto repair estimate and it is substantially higher ($1500 or more), then the insurance adjuster will have to go back in and re-inspect your car to see if the insurance company will approve the new repairs.
If the damage is substantial, and the insurance adjuster does not like the prices the shop is quoting, then you will be put in a bad spot.
The adjuster and the mechanic will be arguing over prices, parts, and techniques, for extended periods of time. The mechanic will keep your car until the repairs are done.
The adjuster wants to move the repairs forward as fast as they can. There are many claims where the adjuster prefers to pay to tow the car out of one bodyshop into another that will give them the price she/he quoted in the auto repair estimate.
This will take time, and if you are in a rental car, you will be subject to the limits of your policy. There will be no extra rental allowance because the adjuster and the mechanic cannot agree.
Do not forget that the mechanic is fixing your car. They are your agent.
It will not look like that since they know they are being paid by the insurance company. However, this is your car and you must control everything that happens to it.
Be on top of the conversations and call the mechanic directly. Ask if they guarantee repairs and if the parts that they are using are as good as factory parts.
Many times, they will tell you that they are only fixing the car that way to please the insurance company.
To avoid the “pointing fingers” game, try to have a three way conference call with your adjuster and the mechanic so you know that they both agree on what is to happen next.
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