By Tom Torbjornsen
Tom Torbjornsen from Towne Automotive Group here with my weekly article. Thanks to the recent blast from Old Man Winter, I have seen many disabled vehicles on the roadsides following a collision. Then I thought to myself, most folks have no idea what to look for when selecting a collision repair shop when they need one. Add to this challenge the fact that, when people are in the market for a collision shop, they are frequently under great stress and trauma. So here are some suggestions for you to be prepared should you find yourself involved in an accident and needing a collision repair shop.
Ask questions: Ask your automotive technician, friends, family, car insurance agent and colleagues at work if they have any recommendations. Also, ask the local used car dealer’s service department who they use to repair used cars that come into the dealership. This is a great way to find a good collision repair shop. Good word of mouth is the first line of defense in your search. A good body shop will always have a loyal following of customers.
Visit the shop: Look around. Does the facility look clean and organized? Ask for a tour of the facility. Any quality collision shop would be happy to show you around. Ask to see vehicles that have just been repaired. How do they look? Check for technicians’ certificates such as I-CAR and ASE or manufacturer specific training certificates. Are the people friendly? You certainly wouldn’t want a disgruntled technician working on your vehicle, which could result in a substandard job. Do they have computerized estimating?
Conduct background checks: Contact the Better Business Bureau, local consumer watchdogs and the State Insurance Bureau. Determine if there have been complaints about the shop and if so, how were they resolved. Let’s face it, we all like to think that we are perfect, but mistakes do happen. The key here is how quickly and professionally were the complaints handled and resolved between the customer and the shop.
And here are a few additional thoughts I have regarding collision repair: In New York state you can take your car to the repair shop of your choice. New York State Insurance Regulation 64 states that the insurance companies cannot dictate to you where the repairs must be made. The insurance company must negotiate “in good faith” to reach an agreed repair figure with the New York State licensed repair facility doing the repair, returning the vehicle to pre-loss condition.
In some cases the insurance company may suggest where to take your car for repairs. This is commonly referred to as a DRP (Direct Repair Program) facility. The insurance company recommends these facilities because the shop has met the criteria to return the vehicle to pre-loss condition as expeditiously as possible. The purpose of the DRP is to speed up the claim and repair process and get the insured back on the road as quickly and painlessly as possible.
This is not to say you cannot get the same service at a non DRP facility. There are plenty of professional collision repair facilities that are not DRP facilities and can give you the same caliber of service; you just have to find them. If you are searching for such a facility immediately after being in an accident, it can be a difficult and trying experience. Now is the time to shop for a collision repair facility, not when you are under the pressure of getting the repair done quickly so that you can get your vehicle back on the road.
You are entitled to have your car returned to pre-loss condition under your insurance policy. The question regarding the use of OEM (Original Equipment Manufacturer) versus aftermarket (non-original equipment) parts often comes up. Which is better for your vehicle?
The parts used for the repair must be of LKQ (Like Kind and Quality). Your collision repair facility assumes the important role of advocate and advisor, negotiating with the insurance company to accomplish what is best for you. Remember that the shop is working for you, not the insurance company. And don’t forget, as I have stated previously, the insurance company is responsible to return the vehicle to pre-loss condition! In other words, if your car is five years old with 90,000 miles, the insurance company will approve repairs that are best based on the value and condition of the vehicle, in order to return the vehicle to its market value.
This particular scenario may dictate the use of less expensive aftermarket parts of comparable quality. Comparable quality is defined as having a correct fit and OEM crashworthiness. If the part fails to match these qualifications, then the insurance company may elect to go with a good used part off the same year, make and model vehicle, which would return the vehicle to pre-loss condition. The insurance company is obligated to return the vehicle to its present value, not its value when it was new.
Why do we have fire drills? So we don’t have to think in a high-stress situation; we just follow procedure. Along this line of thinking, some sage advice from the experts: Prepare an “accident drill,” find a quality collision repair facility, find out how to file an insurance claim, find a good attorney, and make sure your registration and insurance papers are close at hand. This one-time investment of your efforts will pay off in peace of mind and effective handling of an emergency situation should the need arise.
As always, the key to successful living is proper planning. Remember the 5 Ps: Proper Planning Prevents Poor Performance. I wish you success!
Are you ready to replace your old ride with a newer vehicle? Come on down to Towne Hyundai and see me, Tommy T! Do you like Hyundai? We have a great incentive lineup for February! You say you want a pre-owned vehicle? We have a giant stock of pre-owned vehicles to browse. If you remember me on Saturdays on WBEN and Channel 4 answering your car questions, I ask you to look me up at Towne Hyundai/Autochoice on the corner of Southwestern Boulevard and Milestrip Road in Orchard Park for my personal consultation on your next vehicle purchase.
At Towne Automotive Group we scour every pre-owned vehicle with our 115-point inspection before it goes on the lot for sale. We’ve been doing this a long time with a stellar track record of happy customers, so you can rest assured that you’re buying a solid, safe vehicle for you and your family. When you come in just ask for me, Tom T. You can also e-mail me at TomT@TowneAuto.Com or give me a call at 662-7400, ext. 534. I’ll help you find the exact vehicle you are looking for. I’ll put you into the right vehicle for you, your family and your budget.