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In Depth

Frequent Questions

If you haven't read our basic FAQs, then start here. Otherwise, you'll find these In-Depth Collision Repair FAQs to be one of the most complete and detailed lists found anywhere. If you have a question that is not answered below, please submit a request and we'll consider adding it to the list!

General Questions

Generally speaking, when having your car repaired, you are entitled to an itemized written estimate from your chosen shop for repair costs that you must authorize to commence work.  Once repairs are underway, you also have the right to authorize any additional repairs and costs before that additional work is started. 

In addition, when using insurance, you are entitled to having your car repaired back to pre-loss condition.  If your own insurance company is paying for the repairs then some items may be limited by specific policy provisions.  Even if you're not at fault, and the at-fault insurance company is paying for the repairs, there still may be limits as to what is covered and what is not.  Remember, it's our job  to help you obtain what you're entitled to!

If you're not at fault, the at-fault insurer owes you a comparable car for any reasonable amount of time it takes to repair your car. If you're using your own insurance, and you have rental coverage, then you get a rental limited to the dollar amount and number of days stated in your policy.   

If insurance is paying, and your car is not safely drivable, you should be able to get into a rental car immediately. However, if your car is OK to drive, then it's always best to get the fundamentals set up before you drop your car off with us:

    • Initiate your insurance claim if applicable.
    • Allow us to look at the car, as well as review and make copies of any insurance appraisal or other related paperwork.
    • Schedule a drop-off date with us, allowing us to special-order any needed parts.
    • Make a Rental Car reservation if needed.

We will be glad to help you as much as possible with any of this!

Rarely.  Most insurers look at it this way: You are taking the same risk when driving a rental car as you would be driving your own car, because your own collision coverage usually transfers to any rental car you are driving.  Some credit cards include a benefit that covers damage to your rental, so you might ask your credit-card company if they cover Rental Car Collision Damage Waiver .

Because by law the shop repairs the car for you (the consumer), and the insurance company is not involved in that contract.  We make sure our customers know how their car is being repaired, and that the insurance company has agreed to pay for it, before we start the repair process.

Deductible payments are made to the shop when the repairs are completed.  Unfortunately, we have no way to absorb any of your deductible without adversly affecting the quality of repair, and possibly committing insurance fraud...so please don't ask! 

Estimating Procedure

Sorry, no we do not.  Other ways to get an estimate are listed here in our Basic FAQs.

  • If you're not sure whether your car is safely drivable, or if you need to know more about cost, then yes.  
    • Important: You do not need to get an estimate from us to show to the insurance company when they inspect your car. We fully expect their first estimate to be low (as explained in the next question).
  • Otherwise, it's best to get the insurance appraisal first, and then stop by our shop so we can compare the appraisal to the car for accuracy. We'll also decypher the "gibberish" so you know for sure what kind of parts and repairs the insurance company allowed.  At that time we can make you an appointment to complete the repairs, and help you set up a rental car.
  • Note: More insurance companies are now using a new application commonly referred to as a Shop of Choice service, so ask your insurer...you may only need to see us!

Most insurers write a low estimate to begin with, and they will tell you once the car is under repair, your shop can request a supplement.  That's our job, no need to worry. Once the car is in our shop for repairs, we will renegotiate with the adjuster to make sure the insurance company allows us to restore your car to pre-accident condition to the highest degree possible.

By signing a teardown estimate, you authorize the repair shop to "teardown" or dismantle the damaged area of your car in order to

    1. Diagnose to the greatest extent exactly what's wrong, and
    2. Create an accurate working estimate for you (and any insurance company) to authorize.

FYI, we have also compiled a short list of the various types of estimates that you may encounter in our industry.

They shouldn't be very different at all, so the best thing to do is compare them and find out why.  By law, all estimates have to be itemized, so you should be able to get a good idea with a comparison.  Also, some shops will write a hurried estimate and omit necessary labor operations or parts costs, costs they will ask your approval for after your car is already under repair. 

If you need help comparing, we'll be glad to decyper the estimate details so you can make a informed decision as to who to choose.  On out-of-pocket pay repairs, we do have a Price Matching policy too!

About Insurance

This mostly depends on the type of loss:

Comprehensive (Comp) Claim

    • Since this type of loss is usually considered no-fault, there's no rate increase. Here is a table of Comp Loss examples.

Collision Claim

    • When you are at fault:  Each insurer has their own rules about how at-fault claims affect your rates.  Some companies allow a "forgiveness" amount (e.g. payout under $750), or even first claim forgiveness.  Ask your insurance customer service representative or your agent if these apply to your situation.
    • When you are not at fault:  Your rates should not be affected.  For example, if you are the victim of a hit & run, then your rates should not increase.  However, if you tell your insurance company it was hit & run, but after they inspect your car they can tell you hit a pole, then you're in trouble.  Witnesses and other proof of non-fault can help, and honesty is the best policy!

Property Damage (PD) Claim

    • Since this type of claim involves your insurance company paying for damage to someone else's car, this would be an at-fault claim and probably increase your rates.

If your rates do increase, there is no rule-of-thumb as to how much. You may only lose a minor discount, or if you are a recent or repeat offender, you could and up in a high risk group...so always ask your insurer!

  • This explains Comprehensive coverage, and here is a list of Comp Loss examples.
  • Collision claims are pretty self-explanatory:  Any collision between your car and another car or stationary object.
  • Property Damage claims occur when your insurance pays for someone else's property damage, usually to their car.

Steering is a term used to describe various methods insurers use to persuade you to use their DRP  shop. California law states "No insurer shall require that an automobile be repaired at a specific automotive repair dealer".  The law also states that "No insurer shall suggest or recommend that an automobile be repaired at a specific automotive repair dealer",  with the following exceptions:

    • A referral is expressly requested by the consumer, or
    • The consumer has been informed in writing of the right to select the automotive repair dealer.

The law also allows that, "An insurer may provide the consumer with specific truthful and nondeceptive information regarding the services and benefits available to the consumer during the claims process...".  Some insurers push the envelope when it comes to giving you "truthful and nondeceptive information", so we have compiled examples of what to expect in insurance is involved of the story.

A mere inquiry about a possible claim should have no impact on your rates.

If you have their insurance information, you can start a claim with the other person's insurance company, but you will have to wait until the insured reports it and gives a statement before the insurance company will assume liability.

There are some cases this may be advisable, and insurance companies that practice the best customer service will be eager to help you through a claim even when fault lies with another insurer. Reasons might be that the other insurance company requires non-genuine parts, and your insurance pays for factory parts, or maybe the other insurance company is just plain hard to deal with. Your insurer may also waive your deductible knowing they will get it back through subrogation .  Here's a chart for your consideration:

Insurance my deductible  my rental car 
my insurance Waived by my insurance, or I pay it and get reimbursed by my insurance later.

limited to my policy for cost and time, if either cost goes over my limits, I have to pay the difference  but I'll get reimbursed by my insurance later.

other party's insurance

no deductible

comparable car for as long as it takes to repair my car (within reason), but sometimes only paid as reimbursement afterward.  It's also possible to have your insurance pay for your car repairs, and the other party's insurance pay for your rental.

 

Most insurers write a low estimate to begin with, and they will tell you once the car is under repair, your shop can request a supplement.  That's our job, no need to worry. Once the car is in our shop for repairs, we will renegotiate with the adjuster to make sure the insurance company allows us to restore your car to pre-accident condition to the highest degree possible.

Your legal right is to use the shop of your choice.  The primary reason that any insurer recommends any specific shop is that they have a deal with that shop-a deal that is not necessarily in your best interest. The insurance part of the deal is usually really simple: refer as many insureds and claimants to the shop as possible. The incentive for the insurer to steer customers is also simple: it saves money. Why? Because the shop's part of the deal is that they must agree to concessions like these:

  • labor and parts discounts.
  • heavy use of cheaper used and aftermarket parts.
  • covering your rental expense after a certain number of days.
  • performing common operations such as color matching, masking, and buffing for no charge.
  • and more...

At one time, our shop had agreements with two of the largest insurers in the country, but as their list of concessions grew longer, we found we were not able to care for our customers and their cars properly--so we cancelled them. Now, instead of working for them, we work for you. For more, see our DRP vs Non-DRP comparison chart. 

At minimum, the damage to the car and anything taken that was part of the car.  Loose items (e.g. sports equipment) may have limited coverage, or may be covered under your homeowners or renters insurance policy.

In most instances, only collision and comprehensive coverage comes with a deductible while the other coverages pay in full.

Collision: To save money, many people think having a high collision deductible makes sense, because for any small at-fault loss they will probably pay out-of-pocket anyway to keep their rates from going up.  At the same time, you don’t want that amount to be so high that you couldn’t afford it if you needed to make a claim, especially in the case of a hit-and-run...which should not affect your rates. Most deductibles now are either $250, $500, or $1000, pick the one that best suits your needs.

Comprehensive:  A high deductible on this type of coverage is not advisable, because most comprehensive losses are lower in cost, and a claim should not affect your rates. If you can, get $100 to $250 deductible so things like a broken windshield or a key scratch are at least partially covered by your insurance.  And if an insurer requires you to have the same deductible on both comp & collision, and that's not what ou want, then try another insurer!

Rental:  This is important if you don't have an extra car, as any repair of a non-drivable vehicle can take 2 to 3 weeks or more. Usual minimum coverage payout is $30 per day for 30 days (if you need an SUV, then get higher coverage).  If you pay for the coverage but end up not needing it on a claim, you may be eligible to get paid in cash for the rental car, which can help offset your deductible (ask your insurer about this). 

Genuine Factory Parts:  We highly recommend this inexpensive additional coverage if your carrier offers it.  If they don't, you're probably only insured for aftermarket and used parts, so you may want to shop around.

Note: We frequently hear from our customers that they thought (or wished) they had Rental Car Coverage and/or Genuine Factory Parts Coverage when they find out they don't. "Full Coverage" does not necessarily mean "Complete Coverage".

Liability: This is usually for property damage and bodily injury you cause to another party.  Discuss this with your agent or representative, because you need enough coverage to protect your own personal property from being lost in a lawsuit. BTW, the law in California for minimum property damage coverage is only $5000, and it needs to be changed-it is the lowest in the country and only 2 other states have that same low minimum requirement.  Some states require $25,000 of property damage!

Medical: It's possible your health coverage may overlap somewhat, but in our opinion, it's better to have both.

Towing: Most companies cover towing as part of a collision claim, so discuss with your insurer whether this is something you need, especially if you're already an AutoClub member.

Disclaimer: These FAQs are our opinions based on our experience. Ask your insurance representative to confirm any information above.

Repair Phase FAQs

Yes, but with this clarification: Many of our customers are surprised to learn that their car's manufacturer does not sell refinishing products for their cars. Instead, professional automotive refinishers buy through suppliers from several world-wide manufacturers that also supply paint to your car manufacturer. 

We have been spraying BASF Glasurit exclusively for over 30 years because it is the best automotive paint in the world, and is approved by all major car manufacturers including Mercedes, Audi, BMW, Jaguar, Honda, Nissan, Ford,  GM and others as equivalent to their original factory finish. 

Our techs are trained by BASF Automotive Refinishing in how to accomplish this important operation:

  1. We look up your car's paint color code in our BASF Glasurit database which gives us a list of variances for your car.
  2. Our tech creates sprayouts of those variances and compares them to your car to find the best match.
  3. In almost all cases, the refinish process involves blending our matched Glasurit paint into your existing paint so that no matter what angle or light you look at it, it will always match.

Some of the reasons bumpers (and trim) may not match on new cars is because they are painted at a different place, with different techniques, always from a different batch of paint, and under different sprayout conditions than the car itself.

If only your bumper cover is being repainted, we will do our best to make it look the same as it did before it was damaged-however the only way to make a bumper cover match the rest of the car perfectly is to blend-refinish every adjacent panel to the bumper, and that is not a common request because the cost is prohibitive.

We always recommend (and include in our estimates) new OEM Parts, because we rarely have any problems with them - however new factory parts are usually more expensive than aftermarket or used parts.  And unless you paid extra for a OEM Parts Endorsement you can expect the insurer to always specify cheaper parts. 

  • The good news: Insurers can't require Non-OEM parts unless they are equivalent to OEM parts, and California law says so.
  • The bad news: Somebody has to demonstrate to the insurer the aftermarket parts they specify are not equivalent to OEM parts.  That's where we come in...we have several methods to make sure you get equivalent parts, and that's always our goal!

So you know what parts you're really getting, we've put together a table of various parts types used in collision repair.

First, unless you have a truck, your vehicle probably doesn't have a frame.  Modern car bodies  are built out of sheet metal (called "unibody") which allows them to be both lighter and offer better protection in a crash. No need to be concerned though, we have the expertise and equipment to repair either type back to factory specs.

We've included a couple of videos below, the first shows what happens when an old heavy full frame car crashes head-on into a newer & lighter unibody car. Guess who wins? The second gives a reasonably good explanation of the difference between full frame and unibody cars.

Head-on: 1959 Chevy Bel-Air vs. 2009 Chevy Malibu
Brief explanation of the difference between frame and unibody cars
Note: We disagree with the spokesman's remarks about a "salvage title" car.  If the insurance company totaled it, it should stay totaled. Never buy a salvage-title car!

Usually, wheel alignment is only affected if there is impact to a wheel.  However, many folks confuse wheel alignment problems with other things, so here's a short list of symptoms and possible causes:

  • My car drifts to one side at certain speeds
    • bad wheel alignment, low tire pressure, radial tire pull, badly worn tires
  • My car strongly pulls to one side
    • bad wheel alignment, suspension damage, brake problems
  • My steering wheel shakes when I brake
    • warped brake rotors
  • My car only pulls when I brake
    • brakes sticking or suspension problem
  • My steering wheel vibrates at certain speeds
    • front wheels are out of balance or bent, or tires are bad
  • My car pulls when I accelerate
    • worn steering linkage or suspension parts, bad wheel alignment

If your wheel alignment was affected by the accident, we'll take whatever steps necessary to make sure it's "in spec" when you get it back, so your car drives just like it did before your accident.

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