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Should you use the body shop recommended by your insurance company?

Fact-checked with HomeInsurance.com

If your car is damaged in an accident and needs repairs, the insurance company might cover the repairs if you have the right coverage in your auto policy. If the insurer agrees to cover the damage to your car, they’ll ask you to use an “approved mechanic.” 

An approved mechanic or body shop may also be referred to as “within the insurer’s network”, which is a business that already has a relationship with your insurer. The insurance company typically prefers you to go there because it will be cheaper and easier for the provider—but not necessarily for you. 

Although your insurer will strongly suggest a body shop, you are allowed to take your car in for repairs wherever you choose. 

There are advantages and drawbacks to using a body shop recommended by your auto insurance company. We’ll go over what to consider before deciding on a body shop for repairs. 

Choosing a repair shop after an accident

The repair shop you choose after an accident should be weighed carefully. Although it will be easiest to go with the option recommended by your auto insurer, it might mean sup-par repairs if you‘re not careful. 

The repair shops that your insurer recommends have a relationship with the insurance company. These repair shops work closely with auto insurers and will do their best to save the insurer money when repairing your car. 

Due to this relationship, the repair shop might not use the best replacement materials when fixing your car. If you do go with a recommended repair shop, make sure to follow up with plenty of questions for the mechanic to ensure your car is getting the best treatment.

Benefits of using the body shop the insurance company recommends 

On the plus side, body shops recommended by auto insurers are usually reputable establishments that guarantee their work for the car’s lifetime. Choosing one of these recommended body shops comes with some helpful perks, including: 

Faster service

If you use a recommended repair shop, the entire process will go faster. Your auto insurer likely has a running account with the body shop they send you to, so the paperwork, repairs and payment can be handled quickly. Some people may ask “does insurance send the check to me or the body shop?” If the shop is insurer-recommended, then the check will probably go straight to the shop. 

If you go with a body shop outside of the insurer’s network, then it may take the insurance provider longer to settle payments. In some cases, you may even have to pay the repairs out-of-pocket first, then wait for reimbursement from insurance.

Lifetime warranty 

Any mechanic or body shop in your auto insurance company’s network should guarantee their work. Lifetime warranties are the standard for insurance-recommended repair shops, but you should confirm the warranty before the repair begins.

However, most reputable repair shops should offer lifetime warranties on their work, so if you chose a repair shop on your own, you should still be able to find one that guarantees a lifetime warranty with their repairs.

In-network body shop

If you go with a recommended body shop, it will be within the insurer’s network, which can stretch across the country. So if you are in another state and the repairs fail, the insurer can direct you to another body shop in-network that’s close by.

If you choose a repair shop that is not recommended by the insurer and you need further repairs, then you might have to travel back to the specific shop that made the original repairs, even if that shop is in another state.

Downsides to using an insurer-preferred body shop

Agreeing to have your car repaired at an insurer-preferred body shop isn’t always necessarily the best plan. Recommended body shops usually have the insurer’s best interests in mind as the priority. This simple fact can lead to issues with repairs, such as:

Shoddy repairs

If you go to an insurer-preferred body shop for your repairs, keep in mind the body shop may try to fix your car by the most cost-effective means possible. The incentivized relationship between body shop and insurance provider means that integrity to quality replacement parts could be compromised. This could result in poorer quality repairs.

If you chose a repair shop that doesn’t have a relationship with your insurer, then the body shop isn’t incentivized to repair your car for a low cost. This is why it’s important to contract a reputable mechanic, insurer-preferred or not. 

Unfamiliar mechanic 

If you have a mechanic who is already familiar with your car, then that mechanic will probably do the best job on repairs. This is especially true if your car is older or an unusual make or model. 

If you go with the repair shop recommended by your insurer, then a mechanic who’s never worked on your car will handle the repairs. Even if the mechanic is good, they will not have the same experience as a mechanic who is already familiar with your car. Repairs can take longer in that situation.

Negotiating required 

Going with a repair shop outside of your insurer’s network might take some extra negotiating on your part. Your insurer will have to spend additional time handling paperwork and verifying costs for labor and materials and you may need to be involved in the process. 

If you choose your own body shop instead of the provider-recommended shop, the insurer could also downplay the damage to your car to save money. Be prepared to negotiate with the insurance company to ensure your car receives adequate repairs. 

Watch out for body shop fraud

Unfortunately, fraud is fairly common when it comes to auto repairs in the insurance industry. Some repair shops may quote the damage to the car as much worse than it actually is, then bill the insurer for more repairs than the car needs. 

Some fraudulent mechanics may even declare your car as totaled when it isn’t so they can sell your car at a profit instead of repairing it. To protect yourself against body shop fraud, pay close attention to the repairs your car needs and ask lots of questions. Compare evaluations from a second repair shop as an additional precaution.

Tips for getting the best price on car repairs

Whether you go with the insurer-preferred repair shop or decide to find your own mechanic, there are a few proven tactics for getting the best price on car repairs:

Research the options

Before deciding on a repair shop, do your research to ensure the shop is reputable. You can read reviews online to get a good sense of the shop’s work. Personal recommendations are a great way to find the best shops as well. Most car repairs for insurance purposes do not require a specific or specialty shop. 

Get a few quotes

Call a few different repair shops and describe the repairs you need. You should be able to get rough estimates from a few different places. The trick is finding a repair shop that offers affordable and trustworthy service.

Use common sense 

Above all else, use your common sense when finding a repair shop. When provided with a quote, does it make sense compared to other quotes? When you visit the repair shop, is it clean and tidy? Does the mechanic seem trustworthy? These are important questions to ask yourself when deciding on a repair shop. 

The takeaway

  • The mechanic your insurer recommends isn’t always the right choice for repairs
  • Insurance-recommended repair shops typically handle repairs fast, but those repairs might be sub-par quality compared to other shops
  • If you already have a mechanic who knows your car, they are probably the best bet 
  • Before agreeing to repairs, make sure the repair shop is reputable.

Auto repair insurance is standard in most full coverage policies. If you’ve been in an accident and your car needs repairs, you should file a claim with your auto insurer as soon as possible. Once the claim is filed, your insurance provider may recommend a repair shop in-network, but you are not obligated to go with the recommended shop. 

Insurer-proffered repair shops are usually skilled and offer lifetime warranties, but these shops also have an incentivized relationship with the insurer. If you go with a recommended repair shop, follow up to make sure your car is getting the repairs it needs.

Julian Dossett

Julian is a freelance writer for Coverage.com, where he writes about auto and home insurance with an eye toward consumer advocacy. His work has appeared at The Simple Dollar, Bankrate, Reviews.com, Blockchain Beach and MSN.com. He’s currently based in New Mexico.

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