Q: Do I have to get my vehicle repaired ?
A: In most cases, no. One of the exceptions is when there is a lien holder involved. The bank or other lending institution has a right to protect their investment up to the amount owed.
Q: Can my insurance company tell me where I have to get my vehicle repaired?
A: No. This is known as steering. In most states steering is illegal, merely suggesting where to have your vehicle repaired may be a violation of the law.
Q: Does the insurance company have to pay even if I am not having my vehicle repaired ?
A: YES ! Whether it is your insurance company or the other party's. Your policy most likely states that the insurance company is obligated to "pay to restore your vehicle to pre-loss condition or to compensate you for the actual cash value of your vehicle, whichever is less".
Q: What is "pre-loss condition" ?
A: "Pre-loss condition" is the condition your vehicle was in the instant prior to an accident. Insurance companies are obligated to "indemnify" (make you whole) you by restoring your vehicle to its pre-loss condition. The insurance company is not obligated to make it better than it was, however, they can not force you to accept anything less.
Q: Do I have to get more than one estimate ?
A: No. Generally you are not required to get any estimates, but doing so may be in your best interest. In most cases the insurance company will send an appraiser to estimate and evaluate the damage to your automobile. This appraiser can be employed by the insurance company or by an independent appraising firm. [See Value Added Services]
Q: Why is there a difference in the amount of the insurance estimate and that from my shop?
A: There can be several different reasons for this. You must realize that both the estimator at the shop and the insurance appraiser are human, and that today's automobiles are very complex. Often there is hidden damage which is not readily apparent on first inspection. Sometimes one person sees something the other has not. Some insurance companies do not permit the appraisers to write for damage that can not be seen, even if through experience they know the damage exists - "if it doesn't show in a picture, don't write it". Collision repair facility estimators are not governed by this rule. Another reason can be "judgement" times: the shop may think it will take 4 hours to repair a dent where the insurance appraiser may have allowed only 3 hours. Operational times, that is the time to perform a specific task such as installing a fender, also vary from one estimating system to another. Yet another reason for differences can be the inclusion of "used" or "after-market" parts. If the shop wrote for all new, original equipment manufacturer parts, (parts made by the manufacturer of your auto), and the insurance company wrote for used or after-market parts, the prices can be very different.
Q: What are "after-market" parts?
A: Often referred to as "Like Kind and Quality Parts" (LKQ), "Quality Replacement Parts" (QRP), or "Economy Parts", these "After-Market" (A/M) parts are made by companies other than the original equipment manufacturer, the company that originally made your vehicle, also known as OEM. These A/M parts are generally made outside the U.S.A., although some (very few) are manufactured in this country.
Q: Are these parts really of "like kind and quality" ?
A: Extremely rare, if ever. Independent research by unbiased parties has shown, in nearly every case, that "Imitation Replacement Parts" are inferior. Major publications have published findings of tests and studies related to this issue, and few, if any have been favorable to the A/M parts.
Q: What is the difference between so called "Quality Replacement Parts" and those made by the company that built my vehicle ?
A: Easily the most recognized difference is "fit", the way the parts line up with the rest of the vehicle. Imitation parts makers must use a "reverse manufacturing" process, that is they take a new OEM part, make a mold, then use the mold to make a press to actually stamp out the parts. This process is inaccurate, and allows much room for error and variance. Typically, when an A/M part is installed on a vehicle, the gaps and body lines do not line up properly and the part needs to be shimmed, mounting holes need to be slotted, or the part needs to be otherwise "reworked". Another concern, not as immediately apparent, is the corrosion resistance of the "Imitation" parts. Most OEM parts are zinc coated or galvanized to help resist rust and corrosion whereas most A/M parts are not. This may not present a problem for several years.
Q: Are there other drawbacks to using After Market parts ?
A: Yes. Usually, these A/M parts will void the factory warranty offered by the manufacturer of your vehicle. There are also economic repercussions due to lost revenues for U.S. employees.
Q: Do I have to accept A/M parts if my insurance company writes for them ?
A: Usually no. The best course of action is to involve the repair facility, and in some cases your insurance agent. Involving a consumer protection agency, whether private, such as Wreck Check Car Scan Center, or governmental such as your state insurance commissioner can also help.
Q: How can I protect myself from these inferior parts ?
A: Carefully reading your policy is the best way to protect yourself and your investment. When shopping for insurance, careful comparison is critical. Currently, major insurers are working on rewriting policies that will stipulate the use of these inferior parts. Notifying your elected public officials can help prevent these changes from being made. If you've already purchased your policy and been involved in an accident, or if the other person's insurance company is trying to force you to use these inferior parts, Wreck Check Car Scan Center can help.