Guide to Collision Repair Estimates

Following a car accident, the idea of finding the right collision repair shop can seem intimidating and overwhelming. Hopefully it’s a process that you don’t have much experience with (unless you work in the collision repair industry).

Remember that you have the right to select your collision repair shop and nobody, even your insurance company, can force you to use a specific shop. It can help to get a few estimates from different repair shops so you can find the right one for you. The following steps can help you with collision repair estimates.

Research and Ask Questions

Don’t be afraid to ask questions when you’re speaking with representatives at the repair shops you’re considering. One sign of a great repair shop is one that is willing to explain what they do and what you’re paying them for. An estimate might take some time to create, but should include a breakdown of repairs, including the costs for parts and labor.

Consider more than the Total Cost

Remember that parts, labor, and overhead costs can vary from shop to shop. Higher costs do not necessarily mean better repairs or better parts. If you’re looking at shops in the same area and you find one that is a lot higher or lower than the others, ask why. Sometimes, different shops use different kinds of repair parts, and the parts you choose to use can affect the cost just as much as the shop’s location or labor charges.

Shops should always use the OEM repair guidelines, be willing to answer your questions, and have a record of good reviews.

Trust the Experts

While the Internet is a useful tool and it can help you find advice to get a great collision repair estimate, it is not an estimating tool. Every make and model has a specific set of repair procedures created by the manufacturer, and only by following these procedures can an estimate or repair be done correctly. Access to these procedures isn’t free online, so you’ll need to take your car to a repair shop and have it examined by a professional. If possible, take it to more than one so you have something to compare your estimate to.

While your insurance company may have an estimator, they too need to look at your vehicle in order to correctly estimate the cost of repairs. It’s not a process that can be done remotely.

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Vehicle Scans

Your Vehicle’s Computer Systems May Require Diagnostic Scanning

Why? Auto manufacturers require scans of vehicle’s electronic systems in certain situations to ensure they’re calibrated and working properly for passenger safety.

Your auto body repair shop can refer to the original equipment manufacturer (OEM) repair procedures to determine whether your vehicle requires pre- and post-repair diagnostic scans.

(Ford, Toyota, and Volkswagen are examples of OEMs. These companies create specific repair procedures for the vehicles they design and produce. Auto repair shops should always follow these instructions.)

What does a ‘Pre- and Post-Repair Diagnostic Scan’ do for you?

Your vehicle is composed of many parts, including computers and electronic systems. Diagnostic scans identify issues in all of your vehicle’s electronic systems. These problems can’t be identified any other way (until they cause serious safety issues).

The pre-repair diagnostic scan identifies all computer systems and diagnostic trouble codes (DTCs) that exist after an accident. DTCs show which systems need to be repaired or calibrated. Accident damage, including dents, broken glass, or battery or electrical problems, can cause problems in computer systems that trigger DTCs!

The post-repair diagnostic scan ensures that all the computer systems are working properly after your repair so your car is safe for you to drive. (No DTCs should appear.) Taking your vehicle apart and putting parts back together can trigger DTCs, even if it’s just a bumper or a door handle!

What kinds of computer systems does your car have?

If your car was manufactured after 1996, it has enough computer systems that a diagnostic safety scan can find issues that can’t be found any other way. These computer systems and sensors run through nearly every part of your car, from your windshield and door handles to the inside of your gas tank and your engine.

Think of your fuel tank distance notification, your automatic headlights, your windshield wipers, your rear parking camera, or keyless start or auto-lock features.

Isn’t that why cars have dashboard warning lights?

Scans can identify specific problems in computer systems – warning lights only show that a problem exists. Not every computer system triggers a dashboard warning light.

In 2017, the entry level Honda – the Honda Fit – had up to 500 possible codes that can come up on a scan. The most elite option, like a Honda Pilot, can have 1,000! It’s not possible to have a warning light for every system, and it hasn’t been since before 1996.

Why are we telling you this?

Although these scans are only required for your safety, insurance companies aren’t always willing to pay for them. The decision to scan or not is yours and we want you to make an informed decision.

Will your insurance cover it?

Depending on your policy and your insurance company, diagnostic scans may be covered.

Insurance companies who won’t cover the costs of these scans in any policy are primarily concerned with their business, not your safety. Covering the cost of diagnostic scanning will cost them money and may lead them to increase their prices, which isn’t good for business.
If you believe your insurance company should cover the cost of your diagnostic scans, call them.

For More Information is a website created by a group of auto manufacturers. It lists their opinions on diagnostic scanning and is available to you and your insurance company.

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Safe Child Car Seat Practices in a Car Accident

According to the CDC, car accidents are the number one cause of death and injury in children. AAA reports that when compared with seat belt use, using safety restraints specifically designed for children, like car seats, can reduce the risk of injury by up to 82 percent. The older a child is at the time of an accident, the less difference a child safety seat makes, but the difference is still significant up to certain heights and weights.

To ensure your child is safe, recommends the following four steps:

  1. Find the right car seat based on age, weight, and height. There are four main types of safety restraint systems for kids: an infant car seat, a forward facing car seat, a booster seat, and a seat belt.
  2. Make sure it is correctly installed. Sometimes this can be tricky, so make sure to read the instructions carefully.
  3. Register your car seat online.
  4. Receive recall notifications (if any exist) and take the necessary steps to keep your child safe.

But, what happens when you’re in an accident? Hopefully, if you’ve followed the above steps, your child is safe. But does a car seat need to be replaced after an accident?

If you’ve been in an accident, it’s time to inspect your car seat, do some research, and make an informed decision.

Do Car Seats Really Need to be Replaced Following an Accident?

One of the basic rules of car accident and child safety has always been that after an accident, always replace your car seat. But as car safety and car seat safety has improved, this rule has become fuzzier.

The NHTSA says that in some instances, yes, it should be replaced, while in others, it’s not necessary. They recommend that child safety seats and boosters are replaced after a severe r moderate crash, but after a minor crash, it’s not always necessary.

So, what defines a minor crash?

  • The car was able to be driven away from the site of the accident,
  • The door nearest to the child safety seat was not damaged in the accident,
  • The vehicle occupants suffered no accidents,
  • The airbags did not deploy in the accident, and
  • There is no visible damage to the child safety seat.

If the accident did not meet all of these requirements, it was probably severe enough that the child safety seat needs to be replaced. However, always make sure to look at the safety seat for obvious signs of wear or damage! Your child’s safety is not worth the risk.

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Pre and Post Repair Scans

Does your Auto Repair Shop Perform Pre and Post Repair Scans?

When you take your car to a repair shop after it’s been in a collision, your repair technician should walk you through the repairs and have your approval before moving forward. Depending on your insurance policy, your insurance provider will also be made aware of the repairs to be performed and their cost.

But, as a consumer, are you aware of the auto manufacturer requirements for safe repairs? Your repair technician and your insurance company should be. Currently, there is an industry-wide discussion over the need to scan vehicles electronically before and after performing repairs.

So, what is the discussion about pre and post-collision repair scans?

As automotive technology develops, advanced safety features are introduced, and vehicles are designed to automatically prevent accidents based on information from various computers and sensors, the proper repair and calibration of these sensors and computers becomes vital to the safety of drivers, passengers, and pedestrians.

There are two main sides to the argument: the original equipment manufacturers (OEMs), which are the automotive names you know: Honda, Toyota, Nissan, GM, Ford, Chrysler, et all, and the auto insurance companies.

The discussion is ongoing, but came to light when Mike Anderson, owner of Collision Advice, moderated a panel discussion regarding repair scans at NACE in Anaheim, California, in 2016.

Original Equipment Manufacturers

Many OEMs have released official statements saying that in order to be sure that repaired vehicles are safe to drive and the sensors and computers within them are reliable, they need to be scanned before and after repairs.

OEM1Stop, a website dedicated to providing accurate repair information directly from OEMs, contains a collection of official OEM position statements regarding Vehicle Repair Scanning. While not every position statement is exactly the same, all OEMs do recommend scans and some require them. The specifications for when they’re required vary.

The pre-repair scan should tell repair technicians whether the computers need to be repaired, replaced, or recalibrated when the vehicle comes into the shop. The post-repair scan will tell them whether the repair itself corrected (or caused) any errors before the vehicle is returned to its owner.

During the panel discussion at the 2016 NACE event, the OEM panelists agreed that performing diagnostic scans is necessary. Brian Wayne, the representative from Fiat Chrysler Automobiles, stated that the Chrysler Pacifica contains over 200 computers, many of which don’t trigger dashboard warning lights for every little problem.

Imagine having a separate dashboard warning light for every issue or even every system within the vehicle! According to OEMs, it’s not realistic and scanning vehicles is the only way to identify and diagnose every issue.

 Auto Insurance Providers

Insurance providers, who are often required to pay for these scans, argue that they may not always be necessary, and although they prioritize consumer safety, they’d prefer if OEMs provided more specific guidelines regarding the need to perform the scans rather than stating that they’re needed for every single repair.

For example, during the panel discussion, Chris Evans of State Farm argued that scanning the vehicle after a repair can be a waste of time and money. He said, “A scan isn’t always necessary… we don’t always want to have to pay for it. What if you replace something where no embedded technology exists? No technology has obviously been affected.”

In other words, when the damage and repairs done on every vehicle are unique, how can the scan requirements always be the same? Does requiring these scans raise the cost of repairs? If so, does that additional cost fall on insurance providers, OEMs, repair shops, or consumers?

Insurance providers also argue that not every vehicle out there has advanced safety features that rely on the proper calibration of sensors or contains over 200 computers. In some vehicles, there are dashboard warning lights for any issue that would arise. American Honda Motor Company’s representative, Chris Toby, had a response to this argument during the panel discussion.

“We looked into establishing a… first year and a last year for this… we actually started triggering codes without [dash] lights in 1996.” said Toby, “Realistically, any car that you’re going to… do a repair on is going to need a scan.”

Stuck in the Middle of the Argument

Unfortunately, the debate is ongoing, putting consumers and repair technicians in the middle. If OEMs require scans and insurance companies refuse to pay, repair shops and consumers may be left with a tough decision and a hefty bill. Both the hardware and software needed to perform the scans is expensive and requires updates in order to be accurate, and accurate calibrations can be tricky to perform without the right tools and training.

Ultimately, discussing the issue and spreading awareness of the cost and safety issues is the first step toward resolution. In the meantime, it’s important to stay in touch with your repair technician and be aware of the repairs and safety features on your vehicle.

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Why Do Collision Repair Shop Estimates Differ Between Shops?

Chances are, if you’ve been in an accident or if your vehicle was vandalized or damaged by weather, you’ve been shopping around for repairs. You may have noticed that lots of the advice online recommends comparing estimates at different repair shops. But, if your car has the same damage, why would different repair shops give you different estimates? Which one should you trust?

There are a lot of reasons an estimate may vary from shop to shop, and understanding what they are can help you make an educated decision about which shop should repair your car.

The materials used can vary.

Different shops use different tools, different materials like paints, plastics, screws, welding, etc. and different hardware and software in their computer systems. All of these can add up to varied estimates.

Not all replacement parts are created equally.

There are several different options when it comes to materials used for replacement parts, and some are better than others, depending on your needs. The cost of these replacement parts varies too! Usually, your options are OEM (original equipment manufacturer) parts, non-OEM parts, or recycled parts.

Different locations cost different amounts.

If you’re taking your car to the middle of town, rent prices or taxes or general overhead for your repair shop are likely to be higher, as is the cost of hiring employees who can afford to live nearby. Taking your car to a less expensive area means the shop will have lower overhead costs.

Experience and the need to get your business.

More experienced shops with loyal customers and an established reputation can afford to charge more because they have too many clients, while newer, less experienced or less established repair shops may need to take any business they can get at any price.

Estimate qualities aren’t always the same.

There are a lot of debates going on in the automotive industry at the moment about how to correctly estimate and perform repairs. Most of this is due to the rapid evolution of automotive technology, but the standard hasn’t yet been set. Some shops may perform a more thorough repair that requires them to dismantle your vehicle, some may have fancy equipment and use sensors, some may base estimates on photographs, and some may rely on insurance company regulations more than others. Some shops may tend to overestimate while others tend to underestimate. It’s always a good idea to ask questions so that you understand exactly how your estimate was done and how it could change as repairs start.

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Understanding Your Car Insurance Policy

Car insurance is a legal requirement for drivers in most states, but understanding an auto insurance policy is not an easy task. It’s important to know what your coverage includes now whether you’re choosing a new policy or you have one that you’ve never (or rarely) used, before you’re in an accident, so we’ve put together a basic explanation to help you get started.

Liability Coverage

Generally, liability coverage is the minimum required insurance. It covers accidental damage to property or personal injury caused to an accident to the other party involved in a crash but not for you, your vehicle, or your passengers.

Injury and property damage can include medical expenses, lost wages, property in addition to a damaged vehicle, or court costs, depending on your policy.

Collision Coverage

When your vehicle is damaged in a collision with another vehicle or an object, this covers the cost to repair it, up to your policy limit.

Comprehensive Coverage

If your vehicle is damaged from something other than a collision with another vehicle or an object, this covers the cost to repair it, up to your policy limit. Comprehensive coverage includes things like vandalism, theft, floods, or storm damage.

Personal Injury Protection (PIP)

Sometimes, PIP is required by law. It covers your medical costs if you’re injured in an accident.

Uninsured Motorist Coverage

If you’re in an accident with an uninsured driver and they can’t afford to pay for things like your medical costs or repair bills out of pocket, this covers it. It’s meant to cover what the other driver’s liability insurance would have covered if they had it.

Underinsured Motorist Coverage

Similar to uninsured motorist coverage, underinsured motorist coverage covers what the other driver’s liability insurance is unable to cover. If the other driver is underinsured, it means that the money they owe you is beyond their policy limit, and this policy kicks in there to make up the difference.

Other Kinds of Insurance Coverage

There are many kinds of auto insurance coverage available, and you can often choose to combine them in personalized ways. Your insurance provider can help you to understand them better!

If you are in an accident, remember that your insurance policy may or may not cover the cost of the damage, and the other driver’s insurance may or may not, depending on the policies and on the accident. However, your insurance company can never tell you where to have your vehicle repaired – that’s always up to you.

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How to Handle an Out of State Road Trip Car Accident

Car accidents are stressful at any time of the year, in any weather, no matter where you’re driving. But during the summer, with so many more drivers on the road, driving in unfamiliar places, an out of state car accident is much more likely!

Do you know what to do when you’re in an accident out of state? Do you know if your insurance covers you when you’re out of state? What about finding a new auto repair shop, or visiting a doctor?

Auto Insurance Check-Up

Before you embark on a road trip, call your auto insurance company to verify that they cover you where you’re going. Most policies cover you in the 48 contiguous states. Your insurance company can provide you with out-of-state policy details.

Traffic Laws Check-Up

Do a quick google for the states you’ll be driving through and verify that the traffic laws are the same. It is unlikely that they’ll be much different, but some states do have varied laws. Keep an eye out for road signs while you’re there!

Document your Accident Thoroughly and Immediately

You are in a new place, you’re not a local, and it won’t be as easy for you to get information and documentation later as it would if you were home.

● Call the police and make a police report. Make sure to get a copy or have one sent to you as soon as possible.
● Get the contact and insurance information from the other driver and make sure it is accurate. Write down their license plate number and vehicle make and model.
● Take photos of the scene, including the street signs, the vehicles, the location, and any people who are nearby.
● Talk to anyone who witnessed the accident and get witness statements, names, and contact information.
● Write down what happened as best as you can remember it.

Do you need a doctor?

If you need to go to the hospital, go. If you are concerned that you might need to see a doctor, do it now. Don’t risk your health because you are in an unfamiliar place.

Consider a Lawyer

If you think you might need a lawyer, you’ll need one in the state where the accident occurred. You can ask for references or you can ask a lawyer in your home state for a referral, but don’t give an official statement to anyone except the police if you’re considering a lawyer, even if an insurance adjuster shows up.

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Common Collision Repair Myths

Hopefully, repairing your car beyond general maintenance isn’t something you have to do too often, if at all. Car accidents can be serious, dangerous, and expensive. But, if you do have to repair your vehicle following a collision, these are three common and false ideas floating around that we’d like to clear up before you make any decisions.

Myth #1: You have to use the body shop your insurance company selects.

This is probably the biggest myth in the repair industry, and insurance companies may perpetuate it. You can choose to use a recommended repair shop, and you (and your insurance company) might get a great deal out of that decision. However, you never have to use the repair shop your insurance company recommends.

Legally, you have the right to choose your own repair shop. It doesn’t hurt to ask for suggestions and do some research online. If you want, you can ask your insurance company for suggestions. They may have an agreement with one or more repair shops that dictates certain things about repairs to speed up the process and lower the price for them, which may or may not be in your best interest.

Myth #2: To have your car fixed like new, you have to take it to the dealer.

These days, the dealership isn’t the only place where you can get original parts for your vehicle. Original parts, called OEM (original equipment manufacturer parts) are those made by the same equipment manufacturer who built the parts your vehicle was made with when it was new. Your other option is aftermarket parts, which may be used, or they may be new, but made by a different manufacturer.

Most shops will offer both options, so it is possible that your vehicle can get the same repairs at the dealership and at another body shop.

Myth #3: The insurance company pays for all damages.

This completely depends on your insurance policy. There are many different kinds of policies available to you, and it’s always a good idea to discuss your policy with your insurance company before committing to any repairs.

For example, collision coverage should cover damages caused by a collision, but it won’t cover damages that existed prior to the collision. If your vehicle was damaged for another reason, like vandalism or bad weather, you’ll need comprehensive coverage in your policy, not just collision coverage. In some states, your vehicle damages may be covered by the other party’s insurance policy instead of your own.

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How do Seat Belts Keep us Safe in a Collision?

Research from the National Highway Traffic and Safety Administration (NHTSA) reports that seat belts save about 13,000 lives in the United States annually. The NHTSA also reports that over 2,500 lives of crash victims could have been saved if they had been wearing seat belts.

Why are seat belted passengers considered to be safer than unrestrained ones? According to the NHTSA, “During a vehicle crash, being buckled up helps keep you safe and secure inside your vehicle, whereas being completely thrown out of a vehicle is almost always deadly.”

A Brief History of Seat Belts

In the United States, the first seat belt patent was issued in 1885 to Edward Claghorn of New York City. The first modern seat belt, called a three-point seat belt, was invented in Sweden and introduced to the automobile by Volvo in 1959.
Seat belts were required in every automobile by 1968, but wearing them is still not mandatory in every state.

How Seat Belts Work

The basic idea of a seat belt is simple. Wearing a belt keeps passengers from being ejected from a vehicle in a crash. When a vehicle stops abruptly, its passengers will also stop. The life saving difference is where on the body a force is applied to stop the person, and how suddenly it is applied. For example, stopping by hitting your head on the windshield is much more likely to cause injury than stopping because a seat belt forces the center of your body to stay in a cushioned seat.

As seat belts have developed over time, there are several different kinds.

● A 2-point seat belt, also called a lap belt, has only two attachment points, one near each hip.
● A 3-point seat belt, also called a lap/shoulder belt, includes a lap belt and a shoulder belt and has three attachment points, one near each hip and one over a shoulder.

Today’s seat belts are three-point seat belts, which spread the stopping force across the pelvis and upper body. Because three point belts spread the force across more of the body than two point belts, they minimize the strength of the force in one area, minimizing injury.

Remember that seat belts are designed for adult sized bodies, which is why child safety seats are so important in the case of an accident. Child car seats allow the force of an accident to be spread across an area appropriate to keep a child safe.

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The Evolution of Automobile Safety

On September 13, 1899, Henry H. Bliss became the first person to die in an automobile accident in the western hemisphere. Although he wasn’t in the vehicle at the time, his death set into motion a series of improvements to automobile safety that still continue to evolve today. These are some of the safety features that have developed over the last 118 years.

Speedometers became available in 1901 in the Oldsmobile. Today, they are standard in every vehicle.

Safety Glass Windows help to prevent injuries by broken glass in the case of a collision. They were introduced by Cadillac in 1924.

Turn Signals like those we use today were introduced by Buick in 1940. They signaled in the front and back of the car and turned off automatically after a turn.

Dashboard Padding was introduced in 1947, but wasn’t widely used until the mid 1950s.

Seat Belts were introduced in 1950, and by 1956 they were offered as an optional safety piece by several manufacturers. New York was the first state to require seat belts in the front seat in 1962, and by 1964, they were required across the United States. Seat belts still are not required in every state, although every state except New Hampshire has required them since 1995.

Headrests were required for front passengers in 1969 to protect people’s necks in the case of a rear-end collision.

Safety Door Latches that prevent doors from opening during a collision were added in 1955.

Drivers Education didn’t exist until 1955 either, when Michigan became the first state to require a course of driver’s ed before anyone under 18 could have a license.

Safety Standard Enforcement didn’t start until 1967 when the first Federal Motor Vehicle Safety Standards were introduced. They regulated protruding knobs in the passenger area, hazard lights, brakes, and additional padding and impact absorption.

Airbags weren’t used until 1974, when GM introduced the first one, and weren’t a standard across the industry until 1998!

The first side impact airbags were used in 1994.

Child Safety Laws didn’t exist until 1978, when Tennessee introduced the first one in the world. Since 1985, every state in the U.S.A. has had laws regarding child safety seats.

Modern Safety Features include things like electronic stability control, adaptive headlights, emergency brake assist, blind zone warnings, and lane departure warnings. While none of these are standard in the United States today, many of them are standard or basic options from many vehicle manufacturers.

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