The Car Column

How to Handle Insurance Companies

Car accidents are unfortunately a part of life. When it happens to you, the first instinct is to call your insurance company if your vehicle sustained damage.

The first thing your insurance file handler will try to encourage you to do is go to one of their “approved” repair shops. Most consumers will just automatically go where directed because they will mistakenly assume that by going to an “approved” repair shop they will be “taken care of” and things will go quickly and smoothly.

The logic that the insurance company may use will usually include one or more of the following:

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1. “It will take a lot less time to repair your car, because ‘our’ shop doesn’t have to wait for an appraiser to start the repair.”

2. “The shop you want to go to may charge more, which we may not cover and you may end up paying the difference.”

3. “We guarantee the work of ‘our’ shop.”

4. “If you go to your own shop, we won’t be able to help you if something goes wrong.”

5. “The shop you want to use is difficult to deal with.”

6. “If you go to the shop we recommend you won’t have to wait for a check.”

7. “The shop we recommend has the proper equipment to repair your car...”


The list can go on and on with more reasons why you should go to one of “their” shops. Now, why do they do this? The bottom line is that they want to have complete control over the costs involved in repairing your vehicle.

In many cases they have pre-arranged agreements with shops on their list to use cheaper aftermarket, used, or reconditioned parts. Some shops are actually graded by the insurance companies on how many of their jobs include repair of a part instead of replacement, and how many aftermarket, used, or reconditioned parts are used instead of new parts. Insurers will use statistical data gathered from previous jobs to then determine which shops they will “steer” their business towards. Shops on the insurance company list are actually working for the insurance company instead of working for you as the vehicle owner.

Now what is your right and what should you do?

The first thing you should do is check the wording of your policy. Do they have the right to make you go to a particular shop? (Most policies don’t have this requirement!) If not, then do your own research. Determine if the shop they want you to go to has a good reputation. Do they have the

proper equipment, training, and certifications from organizations such as ASE, I-CAR, and vehicle manufacturers? Check out their reputation online on sites such as Yelp, ask friends and family if they have had experience with this particular shop, and call the Better Business Bureau to see if they have any outstanding complaints. Perhaps most importantly, don’t limit your research to only the shops on their list. Choose the shop you feel is most qualified to repair your vehicle properly, restoring its safety, function, appearance, and durability.

Once you have made your choice, let the insurance company know about your decision. Then contact the repair shop and they should be able to handle all aspects of getting your car towed in and begin dealing with the insurance company.

No matter what shop you select, if you have any questions or are experiencing any problems, I would be happy to answer any questions you may have. Please contact me at 908-789-2020.

 Sam Mikhail, President, Prestige Auto Body

7 South Ave, Garwood, NJ


Guest columnists will be sharing their thoughts, ideas and tips on all aspects of cars, from ownership to maintenance and repair.

The opinions expressed herein are the writer's alone, and do not reflect the opinions of or anyone who works for is not responsible for the accuracy of any of the information supplied by the writer.

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