Tips on Insurance Companies, Preferred Repair Shops, and OEM Parts
The time after an auto accident can be very stressful and you probably have lots of questions about what to do. Your car is likely your second largest investment besides your home and getting it repaired the right way is important. With tens of thousands of auto repair shops nationwide choosing the right shop can seem impossible. The car insurance company will often present you with a list of preferred or approved auto body repair shops. These are companies that the insurance company has approved to make estimates and repairs without insurance adjuster approval. It is your legal right to choose any repair shop and you should exercise that right.
Why would you choose a repair shop not “preferred” by the insurance company? The clearest reason would be if you already know a local shop who’s work you trust. Choosing a shop who has worked on your vehicle in the past makes sense because you already know they make quality repairs and are trustworthy. There certainly are many quality repair shops on the preferred list offered by the insurance company but there are a couple issues to consider. Insurance companies work with these shops because they have in the past. They might prefer a shop that can get work done cheaper and faster because the insurance company wants to settle the case as quickly and cheaply as possible. That could lead to corners being cut or the use of inferior parts.
A common question is what parts will be used in the repair of your vehicle. There is a lively debate about which parts are best to use and in which situations. There are a couple pieces of industry jargon with which you should be familiar. OEM or Original Equipment Manufacturer parts are new replacement parts built by the manufacturer that built the parts for the new vehicle. They guarantee a perfect fit and finish with your vehicle. OEM parts are the highest quality part available but as brand new parts they are also the most expensive. LKQ stands for Like Kind and Quality parts. Now depending on who you talk to the definition of these type of parts can vary. Generally LKQ parts mean used, recycled, or rebuilt OEM parts (parts off a used vehicle) and also quality aftermarket parts which were built from the original specifications or molds. The difficulty and confusion is that not all aftermarket parts are built from the original manufacturer’s specifications.
If you have a new car with few miles on it you will want to make sure that all repairs are done with OEM parts. This ensures that you don’t lose value by putting used parts on a new vehicle. You want to restore your vehicle to like new condition and that is only possible with the original and new parts. Even if your vehicle is a couple years old or has a lot of miles you should ask for OEM parts if the vehicle is still in good condition. Depending on your insurance policy putting OEM parts on a slightly older car might not be covered and you will have to pay for the difference in cost. You must consider the value of your vehicle but using OEM parts will result in the highest quality repair. For lower value cars LKQ or aftermarket parts might be the difference in totaling your vehicle. If you have an old car putting brand new parts on it does not always make sense.
After an auto accident you have to work with both the insurance company (yours or the other involved party’s) and the auto body repair shop. You can be steered by the insurance company towards their preferred shop but you should consider checking around. If you already have a relationship with a local auto body repair shop they could be your best option. Working with your shop will allow you to better understand what parts they are using. Getting OEM parts on your vehicle will protect it’s value because of guaranteed fit and finish. OEM parts are of the highest quality, will last longer, and improve safety. Avoid the horror stories you have heard about aftermarket parts that don’t fit or fail after limited use.