Consumer Rights: Choosing Your Auto Body Shop
Your rights after your vehicle is towed from an accident.
There’s standard protocol most people adhere to following a car accident, even minor fender benders. The first step should always be ensuring you and others involved haven’t sustained serious injuries. The second step is typically documenting any vehicle damage, and then exchanging information with the other driver.
Once the immediate needs are taken care of, its second nature for most people to call their insurance company to file a claim, but let's stop right there. Do you know which auto body shop your car will be towed to after the dust settles? The answer: any one you want!
Massachusetts State Law
Massachusetts protects a consumer's right to choose which auto body shop performs their vehicles collision repairs. Technically speaking, the Commonwealth of MA Regulation 212 2.0.4 states that: “No staff or independent, appraiser, insurer, representative of insurer, or employer of an independent appraiser shall refer the claimant to or away from any specific repair shop or require that repairs be made by a specific repair shop or individual.”
The term ‘steering’ which is often heard in the auto body and insurance world, is the act of persuading a consumer to choose a specific auto body shop. Insurance companies often refer to these shops as “preferred partners.”
Preferred Partner vs. Independent Shops
The reason that insurance companies have a network of preferred shops simply comes down to the partnership benefiting either the insurance company, auto body shop, or both. Whether the benefits are incentive based or simply more cost effective, it’s not necessarily a negative to go with a shop on an insurance company’s preferred list.
There are pros to using preferred shops which can often include:
Enhanced warranties for the repair work versus using an independent shop of your choice.
Preferred shops are typically part of large networks which means you may not have to bring your car back to the original shop if further service is needed. For example, if your vehicle was repaired at a local shop but then you relocate for a new job, you will most likely be able to bring your vehicle to another local shop in your area that's in the same network.
Insurance companies typically have good working relationships with their preferred shops which means less hassle, and a smoother repair process for you.
If you consider yourself to be a bit more savvy with cars, you may want to be more hands on with choosing your own repair shop. Maybe you’ve used a shop in the past that you had a great experience with and wish to bring your vehicle back. Choosing your own auto body shop may increase the timeline of the repair process but for some it's worth the extra time.
The Bottom Line
The choice of whether or not to select the body shop designated by your insurance company is up to you. Many people have a repair estimate completed by an independent shop which they will use in their selection process. Bringing your vehicle to a preferred shop results in faster turnaround time which is important to many drivers.
There is no right or wrong answer when faced choosing an independent or preferred shop. It ultimately comes down to which factors are most important to an individual and their knowledge, or lack of when its comes to their vehicle and its repairs.
A&M Auto Body Inc.
A&M Auto Body Inc. located in Lawrence, Massachusetts, deals directly with many insurance companies as part of their preferred networks, but also many repairs are completed for customers independently. No matter the scenario, A&M Auto Body Inc. uses the same seamless and flawless precision for every vehicle, every time.