If you’ve never had to use full-coverage insurance to repair your vehicle before, here’s your guide to what to expect from the repair process. You’re also not alone: Collision insurance is something most people pay for, but hope they’ll never use.
Whether your insurance company is Geico, Safeco, or any other, the big picture steps that you can expect from the repair process remain the same, although insurance companies’ behind-the-scenes processes differ greatly.
Your collision repair center should absorb most of the paperwork for you and make the process as easy as possible. There are guidelines that must be followed to ensure all originally estimated as well as all hidden supplemental damages are handled properly so claims are paid without an issue. This requires a high level on hands-on experience.
Get the claim started with your insurance company
Waiting on the insurance company can be the biggest factor delaying getting your car back, so the earlier you get the claim started, the better!
Many insurance companies now have an app to make claims through and manage your insurance. Or they might prefer a good old phone call or an email. Whatever they use, get in touch with their claims department. Tell them where you’re planning to bring your vehicle. Your insurance company might suggest a few collision centers, but you can choose any body shop you like.
Even if you don’t get a response right away, you can move on to the next step: getting an estimate for repairs.
Your next step will be to get an initial estimate of what it will cost to repair your vehicle. Your insurance company may want you to do this through their own app or estimators, or they may tell you to bring your vehicle to a collision center for an estimate. At Buerkle Body Shop, you can call us to start a remote estimate (you won’t need to bring the vehicle in for the estimate).
If your vehicle is not in drivable condition, your insurance will likely cover towing to a collision center and a rental vehicle for you to drive. Check your insurance policy to be sure. Many body shops, like us, have rental vehicles on site for their customers (you don’t need to book one from Avis!)
The collision center works with your insurance company on the estimate
The collision center evaluates your vehicle to determine two main points: whether the vehicle can be repaired while maintaining structural integrity and safety, and if so, how much the repairs will cost.
Some vehicles are damaged so badly that they simply cannot be repaired to their original level of safety.
Your insurance company determines whether the car is a total loss
The next step is for the insurance company to decide whether they will pay for your vehicle to be repaired, or whether it should be scrapped. If the vehicle is scrapped, this is called a total loss, or the vehicle is “totaled.”
Total losses typically fall into two primary categories: structural, and economic.
Structural total loss
Sometimes, the vehicle is just too badly damaged to be able to repair it to its original level of safety. The use of high-strength, ultra high-strength and boron steels help protect vehicle occupants in a crash, but they cannot be repaired if damaged. Sometimes replacing the part is just too intrusive to make for a sound repair.
Economic total loss
An economic total loss is when the vehicle could be repaired safely, but the cost of repairing it is too high compared to the vehicle’s market value. It’s cheaper for your insurance company to cut you a check for the value of the car than to pay for the repairs.
For newer vehicles (5 years old or less), most insurance companies will decide to total if the estimated cost of repairs is 70% or more of the vehicle’s market value. We’ve seen nearly-new cars total out from damage you would think would be repairable, because the advanced structural technology that makes them safer and more stylish also makes them more expensive to repair.
Vehicles over 5 years old are sometimes repaired even if the estimated cost of repairs is higher than 70% of the vehicle’s market value, based on the guidelines of the state in which the vehicle is insured.
Your insurance company might send out their own estimator to the shop to decide if it’s a total or not, or they might use the shop’s estimates.
We fix your vehicle
This is the part you’ve been waiting for! Depending on the severity of the damage, plan on anywhere from several days to several weeks for us to get your vehicle through all the stages of repair in our shop.
The repair stages can include
- Prescan vehicle for possible trouble codes
- Disassembly & blueprinting of repair
- Further damage evaluation; assesment of any hidden damage
- Contact insurance company for supplemental approval if needed
- Set up, measure and repair frame/unibody if needed
- External panel replacement or repair as needed
- Paint prep, painting, and drying
- Buffing and polishing of refinished area
- Final re-assembly
- Mechanical repairs, such as alignments or calibration of lane-watch systems, as needed (in service center)
- Post scan to check for and clear any trouble codes
- Cleanup and final inspection
Again, typically your insurance will cover a rental vehicle while your own is in the shop. If not, we have low-cost options available; ask one our staff for information.
You pay the deductible, if any
A deductible is the amount you need to pay toward the repair before insurance coverage kicks in. The amount of your deductible is set in your insurance agreement. For example, if the total repair bill is $5,000 and your deductible is $1,000, then you pay $1,000 out of pocket, and the insurance company pays for the remaining $4,000.
You’ll need to pay the deductible directly to the shop. If you have other insurance that is going to cover the deductible, you should make prior arrangements at the estimate stage.
Deductible payments to Buerkle Body Shop are due upon completion of repairs.
The insurance company pays the collision center
In most cases, the insurance company will pay your body shop directly if you ask. If they make the payment to you, you will need to pay the body shop for the repair amount before you can pick up your vehicle.
We handle almost all the paperwork with your insurance company. In practice, that means that you need to file the claim and sign off on a couple forms, but other than that, your biggest challenge will be waiting patiently to get your vehicle back again!
Pick up your vehicle
When your vehicle is ready, you might never know from looking at it that it was ever damaged. A good body shop will ensure your vehicle has been returned to pre-collision condition and is mechanically safe and sound to drive. Pick up your beloved set of wheels and drive safely!