Tips for Getting a Car Estimate After a Collision
A car accident today can be traumatizing. Even a low-speed collision can trigger airbags to go off and the discomfort of whiplash. On top of all this, you have to find an auto-body repair shop to provide you with an accurate collision estimate. While a number of shops may be able to provide you with a car repair estimate, you should not trust your investment with just anyone. As a general rule, you should only take your vehicle to an auto-body repair shop that you would trust to pay out-of-pocket for the same work. Therefore, in order to figure out what shops will provide the professional quality of work that you deserve to restore your property after the accident, you may have to shop around and do your homework. There can be a wide margin of error between a quality collision estimate and what a less qualified shop is willing to take for the work.
Get a Quality Estimate
Obtaining a quality estimate from a shop requires them to commit some time into examining the intricacies of the problem and to check on part prices. You should not settle for the auto-body repair shop replacing your factory original parts with inferior aftermarket knock-offs. These aftermarket parts may look the part but tend to degrade faster and may even suffer compatibility problems that are not obvious at first. The repair shops have to record in the full total of the factory parts and provide the book rates for the labor aspect of a car repair estimate. Any quality auto-body repair shop will have a flat-rate labor guide that compiles the factory-suggested car repair estimate timeframes for any auto-body repair. These flat rates can be something like .5 hours for paintless dent removal of a ding on a lower rocker panel or 15 hours for roof replacement. The collision estimate from a respectable shop will be accurate and verifiable by the insurance company according to the book rates. An auto-body repair shop also has to calculate in the mechanical repair work that is done in addition to the body trauma when they make the car repair estimate. If an engine or transmission has to first be removed to get at body parts for the project, then the drivetrain, needless to say, has to come out.
Don’t Let an Insurance Company Delay the Process
An insurance company should take no longer than a week to inspect and estimate your vehicle after the accident. If they are not on their game, you should simply pay out-of-pocket to have the repairs done. If you’ve found at least two independent auto-repair shops with similar estimates who use the flat rates that are verifiable by the factory labor guide, this is more than enough evidence to demand full reimbursement after the repairs are completed. However, as a note of caution, the delay time when the insurance company is forced to pay for your rental car can be a huge incentive for them to settle. If you go the reimbursement route, you may have to sue them in order to reclaim full damages. This should not be a problem if you have sufficient evidence of the total cost and can demonstrate that the insurer’s estimate is not based on book rates or the factory parts in your vehicle. If the insurer doesn’t settle, they’ll be forced to pay your attorney fees and lose the case on summary judgment based on the evident book rates applicable.
Watch for Low-Ball Estimates
When you are shopping for a car repair estimate, you don’t want to look for the best deal. While a number of shops will be willing to provide you with a quick estimate of what they would be willing to take for the job, you should not accept substandard labor and parts that would back that quote. If you can show by several book-rate backed quotes that you are entitled to substantial funds that limit depreciation of your vehicle, you should not accept anything less. You are already taking a hit to the value of your vehicle to begin with after falling victim to an accident. Few people want to purchase vehicles that were involved in accidents because of the great unknown number of subjective factors regarding the quality of the repairs. This is your argument for obtaining full value from the top shops in your region. Having to accept less after you were likely injured on top of it, adds insult to injury and is grounds for a malice theory and punitive awards if the insurance company vexatiously draws out litigation.
What About the Insurance Company-Recommended Body Shop?
The insurance company is a hustler by nature. They would like you to believe that the quality of repairs can adequately be carried out by their auto-body shops because it saves them money. The insurance company can claim that they are simply getting a high-volume referral-discount on the same work. However, you should question the quality of any work and the parts used by a repair shop that is willing to work at such a substantial discount because time is money after all. And if the discount isn’t that substantial, then the difference is not negligible enough to haggle over.
Why Shop Around for an Auto Body Shop
When you are shopping around for a collision estimate, you should proceed with caution. Not every auto-body repair shop has the tools and training to work on your particular type of model. For example, if you own a newer BMW, it is likely made of exotic steel alloys that cannot be welded with normal welding equipment. These steel alloys are lighter and stronger than regular steel but can be so strong that even fire crews are unable to penetrate them with the jaws of life. If you own an import vehicle or otherwise find that your vehicle is made with special steel alloys, it is critical to ensure that the auto-body repair shop has SmartWeld technology. Furthermore, not every shop is equipped with precision laser alignment equipment. Laser alignment systems are important because the uni-frame vehicles made today use the crumple zone technology invented by Mercedes-Benz. The crumple zone technology is there to absorb the impact during a collision. But, the cost is that the vehicle is severely deformed even during a fender-bender. And for this reason, you need to be careful if you have a luxury vehicle that is in a front-end fender-bender because it may cost more to repair the vehicle than to write it off as totaled even if the damage is limited to the front end. This is because specialized skill, parts, laser alignment, and possibly the need for SmartWeld technology can pad up the price. One of the most expensive parts of an auto body repair is the painting. A quality paint job can easily reach $10,000 or more. For this reason, you should always ensure that the auto-body repair shop has a bake booth to regulate humidity and quickly dry the paint. Humidity is one of the most difficult aspects of a paint job. If it is not dialed in correctly, then the paint will suffer a clouding effect called “blooming.” Ensure that they will use the color codes of your vehicle and mix the correct factory color using genuine factory paints.
Questions to Ask the Auto Body Shop
In addition to verifying that they are competently equipped, you should also verify that they will only use genuine OEM (Original Equipment Manufacturer) parts and other materials from the dealership. Be sure to ask about the thoroughness of their inspection, whether they use a flat-rate labor guide, and how they have come to the number in the collision estimate. A flat-rate quote should itemize the various repairs that need to be done. Don’t let your car be a roadblock for you. Get in touch with CBS Collision today. For your convenience, CBS Collision has three locations ready to serve you, or you can use the estimate tool to send photos straight to CBS Collision for your estimate.