Picture this: It’s a warm, sunny Saturday afternoon and you’re going to meet up with a friend. You arrive at their apartment complex and since it's nearly impossible to find parking, your friend kindly offers to let you park in the garage space. The only caveat? It's a single car garage, and it's a TIGHT squeeze. You spend nearly 10 minutes carefully maneuvering your car to the right angle and you think you're finally in the clear - so you go for it. Next thing you know, you hear a loud screech --- not so clear after all.
I wish this story were hypothetical, but the “you” I’m referencing was well, me -- guilty as charged. I can tell you from experience, that nothing can ruin your day like an accident. I hate to be the bearer of bad news but accidents do happen, even to the best of us and after the initial panic and disbelief, I was left with the question I think many people find themselves asking: “Now what?”
So, for the first accident first timers or even the repeat offenders, I’ve compiled a few tips and steps you should take when you get into an accident to help ease the headache.
Insurance or Out of Pocket?
If you know for a fact that you are going to be using your insurance to pay for the repairs, then your first step will be to contact your insurance to file a claim. Most insurance companies have a general claims phone number and some even have easy to use Apps where you can file the claim in just a few minutes. Once you file a claim, they will discuss your coverage with you and give you the next steps to get an estimate.
If you are not sure if you want to use insurance and the vehicle is safe to drive, research a few auto body shops in your area and schedule an appointment for a customer pay estimate. Estimates are almost always free and shouldn’t take very long if the damage isn’t extensive. (Keep in mind, that the estimate given to you is only a preliminary estimate and the actual cost of repair might increase if additional damage is found during the repair process.) If you decide you want to go through insurance after all, just follow step one above.
Research, Research, Research!
Unfortunately, the auto repair industry is notorious for being shady. Auto repair is already expensive as it is and you want to make sure that you are getting an honest quote and quality repairs that are done right. Here are some key qualities you should look for in an auto body repair facility which can usually be found on a shops website:
Do they have I-CAR or OEM Dealership Certifications
These certifications are a great indicator that the repair shop has both the proper tools and training to work on your vehicle and repair it correctly. Certification is a large investment for a shop and shows that the shop cares about the quality of their repairs and the safety of their customers.
What is the shop’s reputation?
Ask around and read reviews. Most people go to Google or Yelp to read reviews and see a shop's rating. Remember reviews can be tricky because customers are more likely to leave a review if they are dissatisfied with service and reviews don’t often paint the whole picture of a situation. So, read through negative reviews with this in mind; but, if a shop has a repeated pattern and consistently negative comments, maybe there's some truth to it. However, if a shop has mostly good reviews and a bad one here and there, that's typically a good indicator of the kind of shop it is.
Does the shop warranty their work?
Ask the shop if they have a warranty. Most reputable shops will guarantee their workmanship and paint for the lifetime that you own the vehicle. Going with a shop that has a limited lifetime warranty is a great way to ensure that you will be satisfied with the final product.
Now that you’ve done your research, it's time to choose your repair shop.
Find Your Shop
Take your vehicle to the shop of YOUR choice. You want to be confident that your car is in good hands and you’ve already done your research, but your insurance company is telling you to take the car to a different shop. What do you do? Many insurance companies have contracts with repair facilities, these are called Direct Repair Programs or DRPs for short. The insurance will always recommend a shop on their list, which is not a bad thing. Most of the time these shops have been vetted by the insurance to make sure they meet industry standards. But if the shop you want is not on their list, you as the owner, have the legal right to take your car to whatever repair facility you choose.
Getting into an accident is never something we expect and is almost always a headache, but that doesn’t mean the repair process has to be. While every situation is different, consumers can take steps to ensure that they’re protected throughout the repair process and can trust that they are in good hands.
Blog Post Written by Randi Goulet. Office Manager at Auto World Collision Center