42

I was rear-ended. There's a crack on the upper part of my bumper and the plastic part of the trunk locking mechanism is broken (though the trunk still closes).

The insurance company was pretty insistent that I use one of their recommended auto shops. I asked for a list of auto shops so I could make a choice but they made me pick one over the phone. They wanted to make an appointment for me but I said I wanted to handle it myself, so they sent me the address and phone number.

I've been getting lots of calls from the auto shop because the insurance company gave them my information, and let them know I'd be contacting them which is not something that they told me they'd do beforehand.

My questions are:

  1. Does a crack on the bumper require replacement of the bumper? If so, how much does it cost?

  2. Is it risky to use the insurance company's favorite shop? (I'm asking for a quote to get money from the insurance company, instead of getting it repaired.)

  3. Why did they not respect my privacy? (Insurance knows I want the check)

  • 2
    Do you have a loan? Lenders always want you to make the repairs. – mhoran_psprep Sep 28 at 0:36
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    The text of your question relates to issues you raise about the insurer. How does that make the auto shop “biased” (cf title)? – Lawrence Sep 28 at 5:24
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    @mhoran_psprep because the car is collateral. In layman's terms, it's their car until it's paid off, and they need it intact and fit for resale in case you default on the loan. You can't armwave it like "what are the chances of that?" Because this is exactly what happens. The people desperate for money/likely to default are the ones happy to cash out and not repair. – Harper - Reinstate Monica Sep 28 at 14:57
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    Chances are the insurance company 'recommended' shop will not do as good a job, especially cosmetically as a top grade body shop. They can use aftermarket cheaper parts made offshore that don't fit perfectly, junkyard parts rather than new, maybe leave things or touch them up that a fussier shop would replace. It's all about the money. – Spehro Pefhany Sep 28 at 16:53
  • 2. You're only asking for a repair quote to get an insurance payout, instead of getting it repaired. But if you don't own the car, the lender can and will compel you to get it repaired. "Is it risky to use the insurance company's favorite shop?" Since you were rear-ended, you're not at-fault, so it's not your money (right?) Everyone knows the system is rigged. This one's not affecting you, forget about it. If you really don't like this shop, call your insurance again and tell them to suggest another preferred shop. IME all "preferred" shops are pretty much the same. Don't waste your time. – smci Sep 29 at 1:33
80

The answer is YES. The responses saying no are so wrong it isn't even funny. How do I know - I used to do tech work for a repair shop and saw all of the inner-goings.

  1. A shop is a preferred shop because they will repair the car basically as cheaply as possible. They have to abide by certain things or they will lose their "certified repair shop" status. It is rigged.

  2. You have a right to have parts that are OEM - original manufacturer parts. Anything else is an unknown even if supposed to be exactly the same.

  3. You have a right to not have any part welded that or self repaired. Obviously this is inferior.

What should you do?

An example of an accident I was in is the easiest way.

I was involved in an accident where a young teenage girl was on her cell phone, going down a street, and decided to do a U-turn... well I was driving on the other side and she hit the front corner then proceeded to scrape (deeply) the whole side of the car.

So I took my car to one of their "preferred" shops. I got a quote of $3500. They were going to self-repair some thing, order knock off parts, and only paint the effected areas (hint - color fades, you can't just paint part of a car the original color).

Then I had to find a neutral shop - this is much harder than you think because 80% have tie-ins with insurance companies. It is a consumer scam. After I found one (small local shop) I told them - I want you to repair this like it is a show car. Boom quote was $6700 - almost double.

Insurance company told me to basically F off. Their repair shop said I was being unreasonable. I filed a small claims suit that day for $9500.

I received many calls from the insurance company. I would not budge so we went to court.

  • Judge very quickly agreed that I had a right to have my car made new not look new. OEM parts, big paint job, the works. The insurance lawyer objected and judge asks - "Do you believe in the basic principles of supply and demand?" He says - "Yes" Judge says - "Well the OEM door is $1400 and your knock-off is $800. If they were the same the would be about the same price."
  • I found statistics that reflected the additional repairs a car needed for being in a partial front-end and it was about 25% more than normal. I gave a low ball estimate for repairs for 5 years and came up with $800. Judge loved this but just gave me $400 - said she had no proof I would own the car over the life.
  • The other $2000. Loss of value. The accident is put on your car's vehicle report and no matter how good of a job a shop does, it isn't how it came off the assembly line. This one was easy for me because I just went down to a local car dealer and said I was trading it in. Asked them how much less they were giving me because it was in an accident - they said $2000. I got this statement notarized and boom. (loss of value claims are now part of normal insurance dealings in many states but the insurance companies won't tell you).

I for some reason happen to be an accident magnet and honestly tired of the time it wastes of mine and then realizing how much money you spend because someone else hits you. The advice I would give anyone if they don't want to push insurance companies is that if you go to their preferred shop then go in and say "Since you are not using OEM parts and not repairing as new, I would like a lifetime warranty on everything involved because I plan on driving this car another 10 years." They won't give you the warranty and will often offer to just fix the car "right". I have been at shops and they were like "let me call the insurance company and see if we can get OEM parts for this" (scummy scam seriously).

Your case. You can't fix a cracked bumper. Get a new OEM bumper. Simply google OEM bumper for MAKE and MODEL and you will get the price easily. Also you have a right to just take their check and not fix it - just like the person who hit you had the right to not hit you. That is your money fix it if you want and has nothing to do with the insurance company. As I have mentioned in comments, you could just sue the person and the judge will give you a judgement of money and that said judge could care less if you bought cases of whiskey with the money or repair your car - DO NOT EVER LET THE INSURANCE COMPANY SEND YOUR CHECK TO A SHOP.

Note: I want to add a specific side note for the bumper. My friend got hit three times in their bumper - all slow rear ends kid you not. The first time they did not get it fixed and accepted about $400 from insurance company. The second time was less of a hit but a truck so it really scraped it due to height differences. The field service guy the insurance sent out saw the damage and then said let me check the padding under the bumper.

It was damaged/cracked which negates much of the damage control from the bumper unit. BUT this was probably done on the first accident. That insurance and their shop only was going to pay for the bumper cover not replacing the whole bumper unit. This was $400 compared to $1100 (including paint/install). The second guy was honest the first wasn't and neither was the shop.

So he got $1500 and still didn't fix it. Got hit again boom another $800 (they wouldn't pay out because the truck damage was noticeable. He finally got it fixed before selling it. Note this was before CARFAX stuff so not sure how that would be handled - would potential buyer in future see 3 accidents and 1 repair?

  • 8
    +1 for the answer. People need to stick up for their rights. ”accident magnet" ... Because you don't drive defensively, because you think you shouldn't have to. It's the principle of the thing. – Harper - Reinstate Monica Sep 28 at 15:35
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    "Well the OEM door is $1400 and your knock-off is $800. If they were the same the would be about the same price." This is frequently true, but not always. Sometimes you're simply paying for the brand name. A $1000 Prada bag might have the same craftsmanship as a $50 bag, as an example. – ceejayoz Sep 28 at 19:02
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    @ceejayoz true - but if someone damages my Prada bag, am I entitled to a Prada replacement by the party liable for the damages, or can they just bring me a counterfeit one instead? Even if it's just a brand name, it's still a loss of value of the property that has been damaged. – vaxquis Sep 28 at 19:24
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    Interesting answer... in my experience, the shop chosen by my insurance company wasn't cutting any corners... in fact, the final they billed insurance was twice their initial estimate and I heard no complaints. – Michael Sep 28 at 21:22
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    I've had the insurance provide a lifetime guarantee on the work done by their approved body shop as standard practice, not something I needed to ask for. (Not that it was even relevant--the damage was minor enough that had it been an old car I very well might have simply ignored it.) – Loren Pechtel Sep 30 at 2:40
16

1) The insurance company is normally obligated to return your car to the condition it was before the accident. It is between the insurance company and the repair company to decide which is cheapest.

They are very good at "welding" plastic nowadays (edit: don't trust me, see other people's comments about welding), my bumper repair looks as good as new. Make sure that you point out the crack to the repair company.

2) It is more risky not to use the company's recommended shop. If the actual repair cost exceeds the estimate, things will go more smoothly if you are using a recommended shop.

3) Let the check go to the repair shop.

Edit: Before you downvote, please read my first sentence again. Blankip has convinced people that my answer is wimpy, that I said that you should cave to the insurance company.

The vast majority of people (millions per year), receive good repairs without creating a hassle. For the better insurance companies, your car will go through the same process whether you are at fault or not. So, for customer satisfaction, they are motivated to do good repairs.

People are enamored by the rebel answer, but how many people who voted for blankip will actually follow his advice when they have an accident?

The OP got the answer that they wanted, but I doubt that we will ever know if the hassle was worth it for the OP.

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    This isn't true at all. First you can make an insurance company give you OEM parts for repairs. You are under no obiligation to take the cheapest or inferior products. I have personally sued two people that have hit me and the judges agree. This is the exact wrong answer for anyone that has been hit. – blankip Sep 28 at 7:25
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    @blankip The "right answer" depends whether your objective is to fight the system and win, or to get your car fixed with the minimum amount of hassle. – alephzero Sep 28 at 11:24
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    Might be worth fighting the system for a 2 year old Lexus, probably not for a 10 year old Hyundai. And if you are going to fight, fight to return your car to the condition it was before the accident, like I said in my answer. – Mattman944 Sep 28 at 16:09
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    @Mattman944 The "welding" plastic is actually real welding, just like in metals. You end up with one single piece of plastic. So the basic method is perfect. But of course a lot of skill is needed to make a weld look good. – Volker Siegel Sep 30 at 6:30
  • @alephzero the OP clearly states in his question he just wants the money and doesn't care about fixing it fast or cheap. – Falco Sep 30 at 8:04
1

For 2) and 3), other reasons is that insurance companies to not want to send you a check and you either keep it without making the repairs or finding a cheap repair shop and pocketing the difference. The purpose of their service is to protect you from large unexpected expenses, not for you to profit from them.

So they partner with local repair shops to ensure that the work that they pay for is completed to their standards.

1

Without knowing the specifics of your car...

My car has what's called a bumper cover - a plastic fascia panel; there is a bumper structure behind it, so the plastic part is more about cosmetics than structure. Last year I had a parking lot hit-and-run leaving my front bumper cracked and dented. Although repair is possible, the end result may not be satisfactory. In my case, the (insurance company preferred) shop replaced the part. It was to my advantage because the shop only needed my car for one day - when I took it in for an estimate, they determined the exact paint match, and then ordered the part. After they received and painted the part, they called me to schedule installation. I dropped the car off in the morning and picked it up that evening.

Some 20 years ago, I had a "fender bender" in which the front plastic bumper was badly damaged. To this day I am convinced the part was repaired even though it was quoted as a replacement part. In that case, the car was undriveable after the collision because of the nature of the damage, so it was towed from the collision scene to the shop and remained there until all work was completed. I believe the part was repaired because the paint began to peel in exactly the places where the worst of the damage occurred. This experience makes me doubtful of the long-term quality of a plastic part repair.

  • To be fair, today's plastic repairs are much better than repairs done even 5 years ago. With the advent of 3D printing and it going mainstream, the knowledge of how to repair plastic, and the tech behind it, have grown considerably. Plus, there's a lot to be said about an individuals skill, as well as their paint used. Some paints are designed specifically for plastic, since it can stretch and move with it. If the painter didn't use this kind of paint, you'd see paint flakes even in a repainted new bumper. – computercarguy Sep 30 at 18:11
1

In California the insurer is required to allow you to use any shop you want and to notify you of that fact. As others have said, you don't have to get it fixed, though if you have a loan the check may name your lender as well because your lender will want to make sure they have enough security for the loan.

It is reasonable to be concerned that the recommended body shop will have the insurer as its primary customer-if they lose that designation it is a disaster. That said, it is difficult for the consumer to evaluate the job a body shop does. I have had a few repairs done by shops my insurer recommends and have had no trouble. You need to investigate them just like you would any other one you would choose. The insurer makes it easy to deal with the recommended shop by accepting their bill, paying them directly, and giving a warranty on the work. I would expect the recommended shop gives the insurer a quantity discount, but that is not your problem.

0

If you don't fix the bumper, the next accident may cause even more damage because the bumper couldn't adequately protect the rest of the car.

Or, you don't fix it now, another accident occurs, and you get the same thing repaired...or not after dinging the insurance company for more money.

  • 3
    You do not have to fix something. Insurance company gives you money because you were harmed. You don't even have to go through the insurance company, you can just sue the individual. Do you think if you sued someone the judge will say... "see you back here in a few weeks and I want proof that you fixed it right"? No of course not. – blankip Sep 28 at 7:22
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    @blankip If the vehicle has a lienholder, you probably do have to fix it. – Wayne Conrad Sep 28 at 15:51
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    "the bumper couldn't adequately protect the rest of the car." - the cracked plastic outer "bumper" isn't the part that "protects the rest of the car". – MrWhite Sep 29 at 0:37
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    @MrWhite is correct. Unless you have a chrome bumper, it's not doing much more than protecting you from shopping carts. There's a steel frame (and likely some foam padding) behind the plastic bumper that's doing the actual work of protecting your life. Plastic bumpers get cracked in heat and doesn't significantly affect their performance, since they aren't truly significant protection in the first place. – computercarguy Sep 30 at 18:06
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If take the money and don't fix the car the insurance company will drop the physical damage coverage on that car until it's fixed. If there is no loan on the car you don't have to fix it but ins co won't continue comp and coll till it's fixed. Otherwise next accident they have to pay for it again

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    Please use full words and sentences so that your answer can be understood by all. – Lightness Races with Monica Sep 28 at 16:47
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    Including research, or at least stating personal experience, to back up your claims would also be a good thing. – computercarguy Sep 30 at 18:13

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