When you’re looking for a repair shop to put your car back in shape, it’s important to understand the charges you’re facing. Different shops have different fees and different ways of charging for labor and parts. These helpful tips can boost your understanding of what you’re paying for when you have your car repaired.

Understanding your Auto Repair Estimate

When you get an estimate, there are a few key things to remember.

1. You are not obligated to repair your car at the repair shop that your insurance company recommends.
2. An estimate may require the repair shop to take your car apart to an extent (better estimates often do).
3. You can get more than one estimate and compare prices.
4. Your insurance company may also perform their own estimate.
5. Always get a written estimate! Keep a signed copy for yourself.
6. An estimate is just that: an estimate. It is not a guarantee of costs.
7. Some shops charge for diagnostic time, including estimates. Others don’t; make sure you know before you agree to an estimate.

What should your auto repair estimate include?

Your estimate should tell you what parts need to be repaired, what replacement parts are needed, which parts can be repaired, and the estimated labor charges.

For your protection, make sure your estimate includes a statement that the shop will contact you for approval before performing any work that is not listed on the estimate. It’s not unusual for additional repairs to arise once the repair starts.

Labor Fees

Your estimate should include charges for labor. Some shops charge a flat rate for labor, others charge an hourly rate. The estimate should specify which is used and if it’s an hourly rate, it should include an estimate for the number of hours the repair will take.

Replacement Auto Parts

Some parts may need to be replaced if they cannot be repaired. There are several different kinds of replacement parts and depending on your vehicle, your budget, and your preference, each one has benefits and drawbacks. Don’t be afraid to discuss the kind of replacement part to be used on your vehicle with your repair shop.

OEM Parts

Original Equipment Manufacturer (OEM) parts are those made by the factory that produced the original parts for your vehicle when it was new. They will be exactly the same as the parts your car originally had. If you’ve chosen an OEM Certified Shop, these will be the parts your shop will recommend to insure a safe repair.

Non-OEM parts

Non OEM parts are made by other manufacturers and may not be exactly the same as the original parts.

Recycled, Salvaged, or Used Parts

Parts from other vehicles, whether the same make and model as yours or not.

After you’ve been in an accident, you have a lot going on. The last thing you need when you’re worried about getting your car repaired quickly, safely, and affordably is a bunch of confusing car insurance terms to work through! Check out our guide to auto insurance words you might hear in a collision repair shop.

Act of God

When something out of human control or influence happens (that damages a vehicle) it’s called an Act of God. Things like forest fires, tornadoes and other storms, earthquakes, floods, or a volcanic eruption fall into this category. Acts of God are generally covered under comprehensive coverage, not collision or liability.

Additional Insured or Additional Interest

A person other than the main insured person who is also covered on an insurance policy is an additional insured. For example, if your car is leased, your leasing company is likely an additional insured on your policy.

Carrier

The insurance company, or insurance carrier, is the entity that issues an insurance policy. It’s called a carrier because it carries certain risks in lieu of the main insured person.

Claim

Any request or demand for the carrier to pay according to the insurance policy is called a claim. The person who makes the claim is the claimant.

Coverage

The benefits and protections that are named in an insurance policy constitute the coverage. Each portion of the policy is subject to the terms and conditions of that specific policy, so your coverage may not be the same as your neighbor’s even if you use the same carrier.

No Fault Insurance

Some states require insurance companies to pay losses of their policyholders that are covered in the claims without regard to fault in an accident. This doesn’t mean they have to pay for everything, it just means that the policy kicks in when a covered accident happens and not when fault is determined.

Comparative Negligence

This legal principle is applicable in certain states and means that even when a driver is partly at fault for an accident, they’re still able to make a partial claim. The negligence of each party is compared to that of the other party and the claim depends on the percentage of responsibility.

Contributory Negligence

This legal principle is applicable in certain states and means that a driver who is at fault, even a little bit, is not able to make a claim on their insurance policy.

Deductible

Insurance policies include a deductible, or a set fee that the covered party is responsible to pay toward damages before the insurance can be paid out.

Exclusions

An exclusion is something that is not covered under an insurance policy. It may be a certain event, person, property, situation, or something else. For example, it’s unlikely that damage caused by drag racing is covered under an auto insurance policy, even if an accident occurs.

Loss

This is the amount the insurance company pays out on any given claim.

Steering

If an insurer tries to get a vehicle owner to use a certain repair shop, it’s called steering. Steering is illegal in most states and vehicle owners have the right to choose their own repair shop.

Car insurance is a legal requirement for drivers in most states, but understanding an auto insurance policy is not an easy task. It’s important to know what your coverage includes now whether you’re choosing a new policy or you have one that you’ve never (or rarely) used, before you’re in an accident, so we’ve put together a basic explanation to help you get started.

Liability Coverage

Generally, liability coverage is the minimum required insurance. It covers accidental damage to property or personal injury caused to an accident to the other party involved in a crash but not for you, your vehicle, or your passengers.

Injury and property damage can include medical expenses, lost wages, property in addition to a damaged vehicle, or court costs, depending on your policy.

Collision Coverage

When your vehicle is damaged in a collision with another vehicle or an object, this covers the cost to repair it, up to your policy limit.

Comprehensive Coverage

If your vehicle is damaged from something other than a collision with another vehicle or an object, this covers the cost to repair it, up to your policy limit. Comprehensive coverage includes things like vandalism, theft, floods, or storm damage.

Personal Injury Protection (PIP)

Sometimes, PIP is required by law. It covers your medical costs if you’re injured in an accident.

Uninsured Motorist Coverage

If you’re in an accident with an uninsured driver and they can’t afford to pay for things like your medical costs or repair bills out of pocket, this covers it. It’s meant to cover what the other driver’s liability insurance would have covered if they had it.

Underinsured Motorist Coverage

Similar to uninsured motorist coverage, underinsured motorist coverage covers what the other driver’s liability insurance is unable to cover. If the other driver is underinsured, it means that the money they owe you is beyond their policy limit, and this policy kicks in there to make up the difference.

Other Kinds of Insurance Coverage

There are many kinds of auto insurance coverage available, and you can often choose to combine them in personalized ways. Your insurance provider can help you to understand them better!

If you are in an accident, remember that your insurance policy may or may not cover the cost of the damage, and the other driver’s insurance may or may not, depending on the policies and on the accident. However, your insurance company can never tell you where to have your vehicle repaired – that’s always up to you.

Five Myths to Stop Believing about Collision Insurance

Myth #1: Your insurance company chooses the repair shop you have to use after a collision.

In reality, insurance companies aren’t allowed to tell you where to have your vehicle repaired at any time; you legally have the right to choose where you take your vehicle to be repaired. Insurance companies may have lists of suggested shops, and they may have agreements with some shops, like direct repair options, but you don’t have to choose according to your insurance company’s suggestions.

Myth #2: The insurance company’s estimate is always right.

Both your insurance company and the body shop are likely to perform estimates on your vehicle, and they may not always be the same. Just because the insurance company comes up with a lower number, doesn’t mean they’re right, and it doesn’t mean you’ll be required to cover the difference between their estimate and the actual cost. It’s generally up to your collision repair shop to negotiate with your insurance company.

Myth #3: Comprehensive insurance coverage protects me from everything.

Comprehensive coverage is one kind of insurance coverage that you can include in your insurance policy, but it doesn’t cover everything. Usually, it covers damage that is NOT caused by a collision, like damage from vandalism, a fire, or a tree falling on your car. For coverage of damage caused in a collision, you’ll need collision coverage as part of your policy.

Myth #4: My insurance won’t go up if the accident is not my fault.

This isn’t necessarily true. There is always fault assigned in an accident, so even if it’s considered ‘no fault’ insurance, your rates may be affected if your insurance company has to pay and isn’t reimbursed by the other driver’s insurance company.

Myth #5: Collision coverage pays for damages caused in any accident.

Collision insurance is meant to cover the cost of damage caused to your vehicle caused in an accident that is your fault. If you cause the accident, your liability insurance should cover costs incurred to the other driver. If you don’t have collision coverage, you may be held responsible to cover the cost of damage to your own vehicle if the accident is your fault. If the accident is the fault of the other driver, their insurance is usually responsible for your costs, unless the driver is uninsured or underinsured, in which case they can’t pay, and your own uninsured/underinsured driver coverage should pay.

A Mini-Glossary of Helpful Insurance Related Collision Repair Terms

When you’re in an accident, it’s (hopefully) a rare occurrence, but that means that you’re likely to run into a few insurance related terms you aren’t accustomed to hearing. That’s why we put together this list of useful insurance terms to help you through the process of dealing with a car accident.

Adjuster/Claims Adjuster – A claims adjuster works for an insurance company. His or her job is to settle insurance claims, so this is the person you’ll speak with when you call your insurance company. The adjuster determines how much the insurance company will pay, and interprets what the policy covers when a claim is made.

Carrier – A carrier, or insurance carrier, is the company that issues an insurance policy and pays out when a valid claim is made.

Collision Insurance – This type of insurance coverage is not mandatory, but it will cover the cost of repairing your vehicle when damage is caused by a collision with another vehicle or an object, like a tree. Regardless of who causes the accident, this coverage is for your vehicle only, not any other vehicle or property that was involved in the accident.

Comprehensive Insurance – This type of insurance coverage, like collision insurance, is not mandatory. It covers the cost incurred when your vehicle is damaged from something other than a collision, like theft, weather damage, vandalism, or a fire.

DRP (Direct Repair Program) – Many collision repair shops and insurance companies have contractual agreements that are intended to make the repair process easier, faster, and smoother. These agreements have set rules regarding repairs, standard procedures, record keeping, and more. DRPs have benefits and disadvantages – sometimes repairs can be done faster and insurance companies will cover certain things, but they may require shops to use less expensive parts. It’s a good idea to ask your collision repair tech about any DRPs they’re a part of.

Direct Repair Shop – A collision repair shop that participates in a direct repair program is called a direct repair shop. Remember that even if a collision shop participates in a DRP, you are not required to take your vehicle to that shop. The advantages and disadvantages of a DRP can vary.
Endorsement/Rider – This is a modification to your insurance contract.

Steering – When an insurance company tries to get a customer to take their vehicle to a specific repair shop, or does not let the customer choose their own repair shop, it’s called steering. In most cases, steering is illegal. You have the right to take your vehicle to any repair shop.

The Basics of Car Insurance

Car InsuranceIn the United States, most states require vehicle owners to have some kind of car insurance, but the laws regarding what kinds of car insurance you need vary from state to state. Your auto insurance company won’t sell you anything less than what is legally required, but they will offer all kinds of additional coverage options if you choose to purchase them.

Understanding what all the different options cover can be confusing, but our list of common car insurance coverage options can help. Generally, there is no insurance that is called ‘full coverage’, but full coverage is considered a combination of liability, collision, and comprehensive insurance coverage.

Liability Coverage

Insurance coverage for liability covers the cost of damage that you or your vehicle cause to others. Usually, a portion of liability insurance covers bodily injuries, or physical injuries to other people, and a portion covers property damage. Liability insurance can also pay for your legal bills if you’re responsible for an accident. Usually, liability insurance is legally required.

To cover your own injuries, you’d need Personal Injury Protection, or, your own medical insurance.

Collision Coverage

Collision Coverage is usually not required by law, but it covers the cost of repairing your own vehicle after an accident or collision.

Comprehensive Coverage

Comprehensive coverage is usually not required by law. It covers the cost of repairing your own vehicle after damage caused by something other than a collision. Depending on your policy, what is covered under comprehensive coverage and what isn’t can vary, but usually it covers things like theft, vandalism, weather damage, fire, or hitting an animal that damages your vehicle.

Uninsured or Underinsured Motorist Coverage

Unfortunately, not everyone follows the law and has car insurance, and not every insurance policy covers 100 percent of the damage that an accident can cause. Uninsured or underinsured motorist coverages helps to cover the cost of your medical bills, and possibly property damage, if the other driver’s insurance doesn’t.

It can also come in handy in a hit and run, when you don’t have the other person’s information.

Extras

Car insurance companies can offer you coverage for nearly any expense related to your vehicle or an accident, from rental car reimbursement to roadside assistance. However, there is not insurance that covers general maintenance like oil changes and brake changes.

Roadside assistance can help cover the cost of towing and getting you where you need to go if your vehicle breaks down on the side of the road.

Rental reimbursement can help pay for a rental car if yours is in the shop, stolen, or damaged.

Steering is the act of an Insurance Company, Adjuster, or Appraiser directing a claimant to or away from a specific auto body repair shop. Steering is ILLEGAL in Massachusetts (see Massachusetts General Laws Ch. 26 section 8G) but unfortunately it still happens. Read more here…

With a first party claim, the insured is requesting reimbursement from his/ her own insurance carrier. The types of claims paid and respective amounts paid are detailed on the insured’s coverage selection page. These claims are governed by the Massachusetts Automobile Insurance Policy (MAIP). As stated on page one (1) of the policy, the MAIP is a “legal contract between the insured and the insurance carrier”. Additionally, the policy states that as long at the insured pays his/ her premium, the carrier agrees to “provide the insured and others the benefits to which the insured is entitled”. This includes auto repair shops and auto storage centers. Read More...

The Massachusetts Division of Insurance has determined that “there is no minimum or maximum per day dollar limit” a party is entitled to collect in a rental claim. Under Part 4 of the Massachusetts Automobile Insurance Policy “The insurance company must pay whatever the reasonable rental cost is of a comparable vehicle”. More details…

Liens

In any instance where a lien arises under this section for charges due that are to be paid or reimbursed by an insurance company licensed in the commonwealth, upon written notice by the holder of such lien to the insurance company, the check or draft issued by such insurance company for such charges shall name the holder of the lien. Read all about liens here.