1. No law requires you to get more than one estimate.

2. You are not obligated to use any particular body shop. You choose the shop and authorize the repairs.

3. You do not have to accept the insurance company's appraisal of damage. Check the “Appraisal Clause” of your policy to learn how to resolve any differences.

4. You are responsible for paying for repair/ Arrangements for full payment of the repair bill must be complete before the vehicle will be released.

5. There is a big difference between shops. any shop can give you a lower estimate by leaving some things our or overlooking parts. Do not assume you can get the quality of workmanship you want from the shop offering the lowest estimate.

Common Terms & Definitions

Aftermarket Parts
Automotive replacement parts that were not made by the original equipment manufacturer.

Term used to describe an item replaced due to an accident that has some wear. The practice is often applied to tires and batteries that are several years old. If a battery has used up 3/4 of its life, the Insurance company will pro-rate the item's cost and in this case will pay 1/4 of the cost to replace the battery and will ask the insured or claimant to pay the remaining 3/4. The premise being that the Insurance Company is only obligated to return the vehicle to its pre-accident condition.

The amount of money you have to pay toward repairs before your insurance covers the rest.. For example, if you're in an accident that causes $3,000 worth of damage to your car and your deductible is $500, you will only have to pay $500 toward the repair. The insurance will cover $2,500 of the repair.

Acronym for Direct Repair Program. These programs often involve a contractual agreement between an Autobody Repair Center and an Insurance Company. For the most part, the agreements set the rules of repair and standardized procedures such as warranties, billing practices and record keeping.

Hazardous Waste
Any unusable by-product derived from the repair and/or painting process that cannot be disposed of through normal waste disposal streams. These products can be potentially harmful to the environment and require special handling as well as professional disposal. Federal, State and Local laws apply and may differ in their scope.

Acronym for Like Kind and Quality. Refers to a used part salvaged from another vehicle. It is inspected by the seller and re-inspected by the shop upon receipt and accepted if it is deemed appropriate.

The process of washing, degreasing and lightly abrading a panel prior to applying paint.
Alternate Term(s): Prep Work

Acronym for Remove and Install. Refers to a part removed from the customer's damaged vehicle to be saved and reinstalled after the repair has been completed.

Acronym for Remove and Replace. Refers to a part removed from the customer's damaged vehicle that cannot be acceptably repaired. It is replaced with a new part.

Steering – Any attempt by an insurer to get the consumer to take their vehicle to a shop not of their own choosing. Steering is illegal in most states. Vehicle owners have the right to have their vehicle repaired at a shop of their choosing.

Supplement – Additional repairs needed to complete the repair that were not identified on the original estimate. It is often impossible to identify all damage to a vehicle until it's disassembled.

Tear Down
To disassemble the damaged area of a vehicle to reveal any possible hidden damage.

Total Loss
A vehicle is considered a total loss when the collision, fire or water damage is so extensive that repair costs would exceed the value of the vehicle. Depending on the state in which the vehicle is insured, a total loss may be defined differently. For example, in some states a total loss may be equal to the vehicle’s actual cash value (ACV), while in other states a total loss may be a percentage of the vehicle’s ACV—usually about 80%.
Generally speaking, if the repair cost is anywhere near the vehicle’s ACV, the insurance company may total the vehicle because subsequent supplemental repair claims encountered during the repair process could easily push the repair cost beyond the ACV amount. In most cases, the older the vehicle, the more easily it will total-out in the event of a crash.

Time Required for Repairs

Repair time, also known in the industry as “cycle time,” or how long your car will be in the body shop, is determined by a number of factors, not the least of which is the severity, nature and extent of the damage.
Generally speaking, the use of OE or Original Equipment parts can help speed repairs. Here are a few reasons why:

  • When a part fits properly, like an OE collision part should, the technician can install the part and move on to the next operation. When a part does not fit correctly, the technician must either take more time to attempt to make the part fit properly—possibly compromising the quality of the repair and the final appearance of the vehicle—or try another part. Ordering another part can cause a delay of a day or more.
  • Vehicle manufacturers don’t recommend the use of salvage parts. Sometimes, however, a salvage part is specified for the repair. When this happens, the salvage part may need to be reconditioned, cleaned-up, have small dents removed, and have the paint completely sanded before it is ready to be fitted to your car. This could cause delays.
  • The use of multiple parts suppliers may slow the repair process.

In some cases, the body shop is authorized to write an estimate for repairs and the insurer will accept that estimate. In other cases, your insurance company may require its own estimator or adjuster to look at the car. This usually consumes a day or more.
Be sure to ask the shop how long repairs will take. Generally speaking, everyone involved in the process—you the customer, the shop and the insurer—wants you to get your car back as soon as possible. It’s a win-win for everyone.
Today, the average accident estimate is about $2,500, and repairs are often completed over a number of days, depending on the severity of damage.