Finding the best auto body repair shop

September 2, 2011 8:18:28 PM PDT
When your car is in a wreck, you just want it fixed. But what are your rights?

Even if nobody is hurt, a wreck is expensive and a hassle. Putting your car back together takes your insurance company, cash and a good body shop.

"The insurance industry wants to make sure the car is rebuilt correctly, and so they want to make sure they take care of their customers," said Tully Lehman with the Insurance Information Network. "So they check on those auto repair shops to make sure they are doing quality work."

The Insurance Information Network is an educational group funded by insurers. An insurance company can endorse shops and make suggestions, but it can not steer you toward them.

The California Insurance Code says insurance companies can't require a specific repair shop. Insurers can't direct, suggest or even recommend a body shop unless a referral is requested by the insured or the insured has been informed in writing of their right to select the repair facility.

"Steering is like HMOs for car repair, where the insurance company wants you to go to a place where they control the repairs and they don't necessarily have your interest at heart," said Rosemary Shahan, an automobile consumer advocate with C.A.R.S.

Shahan says there can be a close relationship between the insurer and auto body shops that work against the consumer, but the law is clear: You are in charge.

"You are the one who gets to call the shots," Shahan said. "The insurance company may try to pressure or lure you to get you to go where they want you to go, but that's where you need to say, I am taking it to my guy."

Insurance companies, however, are allowed to offer guarantees or other financial consideration for going to their shops.

"It's incentive, so the idea is we are guaranteeing the work being done," said Lehman. "Personally, if I was having my car worked on, I would want someone behind me."

Both Lehman and Shahan agree on one thing: Make sure your car goes to a good shop.

"No matter who it is you decide to use, whether it is a recommended insurer or another one you have in mind, you want to check them out first and make sure they are going to do good work for you," Lehman said.

Normally only available with a subscription, ABC7 viewers can access Consumer's CHECKBOOK's ratings of 160 auto body shops in the Bay Area by clicking here. Another good resource for comparing auto body shops is the Better Business Bureau.


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