Preferred Body Shops – What’s Your Insurance Company Up To?

You’ve been in an accident, or in some way received damage to your vehicle. The first thing you are told to do is to call your insurance company. The first thing that they are told to do is to recommend their preferred body shops. Did you ever stop and take the time to ask, “what makes insurance preferred body shops… preferred?

It’s all about saving money! And let’s be clear: it’s not your money that is being saved. The only reason that insurance preferred body shops are even a thing is to save the INSURANCE COMPANIES money. In this article, we’ll take you behind the curtain and show you the real workings of what happens when you file an insurance claim.

TERMS FIRST

When your insurer suggests their preferred body shops, what they don’t tell you is that they have a very big financial interest in you taking your car to them. You see, the only way for a body shop to get on the ‘preferred list’ is to sign a contract with the insurer. That contract is often referred to as a Direct Repair Program (DRP).

When a body shop agrees to a DRP relationship with the insurer, they sign away any and all ability to advocate for the PROPER repair of your vehicle. Instead, they agree to go along with the fastest, least expensive (and often incomplete) repair possible.

Why would they do that? In most cases, competition drives shop owners to sign up with insurance companies’ DRP – or preferred – programs because the insurers promise to send them as many cars as they can handle. On the surface, that seems to be a good decision for the body shops. But in reality it’s a lot like seeing your soul to the devil.

Who REALLY stands to gain? The only real winners in the DRP game are the insurance companies. With preferred body shops under contract to agree with their estimates, the insurance companies can rush repairs, authorize less expensive, substandard parts and mandate that certain repairs simply do not get done on your car.

IT’S ALL ABOUT RELATIONSHIPS

Both the insurance company and the body shop have a part to play in the repair of your car. The insurance company’s role is to PAY for the proper repair. The body shop’s role is to REPAIR the car properly. Both are supposed to have a relationship with YOU.

In a DRP relationship, the rules quickly shift to saving the insurance company money at all costs, including sacrificing what may be the correct repair plan for your vehicle. In such a relationship, insurers cross the line and try to dictate HOW the car is going to be repaired.

And DRP body shops are contractually obligated to do what the insurance company tells them to do.

INDEPENDENT BODY SHOPS ARE DIFFERENT

When we use the word ‘independent’ shops, we are specifically referring to those that are not preferred body shops. Since they have no contractual agreement with the insurance companies, they can make the case and document the procedures required for the proper repair of your vehicle. This means that independent body shops are working for YOU – not the insurer.

Your insurer will still write their estimates to include used, aftermarket or salvaged parts for your car’s repair plan. But an independent body shop can engage them – aggressively if necessary – on your behalf. And they have the documented manufacturer’s procedures to prove that there’s only one way to correctly repair a vehicle.

FASTER IS ALMOST NEVER BETTER

No conversation about insurance preferred body shops would be complete without addressing the 800 lb. stopwatch in the room. It is in everyone’s interest to get your vehicle repaired as quickly as possible. And one of the most common insurance company tactics is to promise a faster turnaround if you choose to take your car to one of their preferred shops.

One of the ways that they can promise a faster turnaround is that they often cut corners and disallow certain procedures that would normally be performed in a proper repair.  This can lead to problems – sometimes structural and safety related problems – if your car is ever in another accident.

Turnaround time for the proper repair of your car is dependent upon several variables. If the shop isn’t on the ‘preferred’ list, insurance companies can sometimes take their time arguing about the necessary parts and repair plan with the body shop. Sometimes parts need to be ordered from outside of the country. And sometimes the repair plan requires work that your insurer would not have included in their own plan.

At the end of the day, wouldn’t you rather have a vehicle that is repaired correctly? Isn’t the safety of you and your family your ultimate priority?  If so, perhaps an independent body shop is what you’re really looking for.

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