After a car accident, you probably want to get your car repaired as quickly as possible. While each insurance company may have its own process for handling claims, the process almost always starts with a repair estimate.
What is a repair estimate?
A repair estimate is a written approximation of how much it will cost to repair the damage to your car. Your insurance company will send its own adjuster to your home (or to a drive-in claims center) to estimate the repairs needed for your vehicle. It then will offer you an initial estimate based on your car's pre-accident condition, labor rates, the amount of time the repair will take and the cost of parts, according to Progressive.
Once you have this initial estimate in hand, you can take the money and run (and live with whatever damage your car has sustained) or take it to a body shop and have the damage repaired, according to Edmunds.com. You have the choice of using your own body shop or one recommended by your insurer.
Sometimes, the body shop may uncover damage your insurance company missed. If that's the case, a claims representative from your insurer will re-inspect your car alongside the body shop to produce a supplemental estimate, according to Progressive. Afterward, your insurer will offer a supplemental estimate.
Sometimes, according to Edmunds, your body shop will insist that your car insurance company's estimate is too low. If that's the case, according to Progressive, your insurance company will work with the body shop on an agreement.
Paying for your repairs
If the accident is not your fault, you have the option of filing a claim directly with the at-fault driver's insurance company. Because the at-fault driver's liability insurance pays, you won't need to pay a deductible.
If the accident is your fault, or if you file the claim directly with your insurance company, you'll be required to pay your deductible while your insurance company picks up the remainder of the repair costs. The deductible is paid directly to the body shop when you pick up your vehicle.
Choosing a repair shop
Deciding where to take your car can be a daunting process. The following tips from Allstate and Edmunds will help you find a reliable, honest repair shop:
- Ask around. Recommendations from family and friends often are the best way to find a repair shop.
- Get a detailed breakdown of costs. Make sure your body shop is willing to go over the estimate with you and is willing to answer questions. This can help prevent surprise charges.
- Find out what type of parts your shop uses. In some cases, disreputable companies will install used parts instead of new ones (but charge for new ones). Ask your body shop for documentation of the parts used to repair your vehicle. Be sure you understand terminology like "OEM" (parts built by the car's original equipment manufacturer) and "aftermarket" (parts that aren't created by the car's maker).