How Understanding Your Insurance Policy (Including the Fine Print!) Can Save You Money

If you own a car, you’re required by law to have a current auto insurance policy and keep proof of insurance inside your vehicle. Like many, though, you probably haven’t spent a lot of time diving into the details of your policy. Many people don’t understand even the basics of automobile insurance. Here’s a short course (not a crash-course!) to get you up to speed on what’s in your policy and how it affects you when you get in an accident.

Your policy usually consists of five different sections:

How Understanding Your Insurance Policy Can Save You Money
  • Declarations contain unique information such as the name and address for each driver in your household, the make, model, and vehicle identification number (VIN) of each vehicle, the policy number, and duration. It also spells out the type of coverage you have, including policy limits and deductibles. You’ll want to make sure that the information you provide your insurer is accurate—they can deny your claim if you have misrepresented any key facts.
  • Coverage Parts/Insuring Agreement outlines the options and limits that you purchased, such as liability, medical, collision, and comprehensive. This section tells you what your insurance company promises you in return for your payment.  
  • Exclusions detail what is not covered. By highlighting the limitations of your policy, the insurance company tells you exactly what is covered when you make a claim. Knowing these exclusions allows you to make changes that strengthen coverage. 
  • Conditions are the legal responsibilities of the insured and the insurer, such as premium payment obligations, steps for filing a claim, and methods for resolving disputes.
  • Definitions, often referred to as the “fine print,” explicitly defines the terminology used in the document and include the rights of the insurer and the policyholder.

Making Informed Decisions

So, now that you know the building blocks of your policy—how does having a greater understanding help you make better decisions about cost and coverage? Here are just a few critical areas to examine:

  • Collision coverage covers the loss to your vehicle when it is in an accident. Choosing the correct deductible can be a real balancing act. You pay a lower premium for a higher deductible. This is great if you never or rarely get in an accident. On the other hand, it can cost you a lot of extra cash if you have a high deductible and find yourself with multiple claims. How many miles you drive, the kind of driving you do, and your ability to remain focused at the wheel can help determine whether you need a higher or lower deductible.
  • Liability covers the property and medical losses of another party if you’ve cause an accident, including legal fees. Bodily injury covers items such as medical costs and the lost salaries of someone you have injured, while property damage pays for repairs to vehicles and other property. In California, the minimum bodily injury coverage is $15,000 per person and $30,000 per accident. Property damage is $5,000 minimum. Higher amounts of coverage raise premiums but can protect you when damage is more costly. Remember, you’re on the financial hook when you cause an accident, and insurance can protect your assets in the event of a crash.
  • Coverage for uninsured and underinsured motorists covers you up to the policy limits when you incur damages, and the driver either has none, or too little, insurance and limited assets that you can recover. Like every aspect of insurance, having too much insurance that you never use and having limited coverage when you need it can cost you.

Make sure to keep yourself adequately covered and read the fine print of your policy to make the best choices possible for you and your family. It is also critical to know where to bring your vehicle if you get in an accident. We use only high-quality parts and provide outstanding workmanship to return your vehicle to you in pre-collision condition. For the best choice for Sonoma County autobody repair, contact Cline Collision Center online or call us at 707-591-9909 today!

What Would Happen If Everyone Stayed Home? You Might Get A Car Insurance Rebate

Covid-19 has had a profound impact on personal lives and budgets. Though there’s not much great economic news yet, one small glimmer of relief is the announcement that many auto insurers are providing refunds to their customers.

You Might Get A Car Insurance Rebate

Insurers base their premiums on the likelihood of claims, and, with drivers logging fewer miles, cars are less prone to crashing.

Most major insurance companies are passing at least some of this windfall to you. Rates and time windows differ, though, and you should contact your insurer for the most up-to-date information if you have questions.

The following are some of the larger companies and their proposed plans:

  • Allstate: If you’re in “good hands,” you can expect average refunds equal to 15% of premiums for April and May. They will deposit funds back to your credit card, bank account, or as a credit on your account.

  • Farmers: Farmers is offering a 25% discount on April auto insurance premiums.

  • Geico: The gecko is providing clients with both motorcycle and auto policies a 15% discount on six-month policies that renew between April 8 and October 7, 2020, and on 12-month policies that renew between April 8, 2020 and April 7, 2021.

  • The Hartford: If your car insurance policy was in effect on April 1, you’ll get a 15% discount on two months’ worth of premiums.

  • Liberty Mutual: Liberty Mutual is giving an automatic 15% refund on two months of car insurance premiums, via your most recent payment method or sent to your home by check.

  • Nationwide: Says it is by your side” and customers will receive a one-time $50 refund for each policy they have.

  • Progressive: Progressive is providing a 20% credit on premiums paid in April and May, applied automatically to your account beginning in May or June.

  • State Farm: Offering its good neighbors an average national rebate of 11%, payable when policies renew.

  • USAA: Customers can expect a 20% rebate on two months of premiums if they had a policy in effect March 31.

Not all customers are receiving the same benefits. For example, some consumer groups have cited State Farm’s 11% offer as being less than generous. Also, some “non-standard” carriers, those used by low-income consumers, are refusing to provide relief, even though they will profit from the equation that fewer miles equal fewer crashes.

If your mileage has decreased significantly, contact your provider and ask for a rate that reflects that lower mileage. Didn’t get the refund you wanted from your provider? Make sure you don’t cancel without having another policy to replace it. Getting coverage may cost you more once you have been uninsured.

Fewer cars traveling fewer miles does not, unfortunately, mean there will be no accidents. If you find yourself in need of autobody repair, Cline Collision Center provides top-quality workmanship and customer service, including help navigating all insurance challenges. Call 707-591-9909 or contact us online today!

Why Use an Independent Auto Body Shop?

Had an accident? In need of auto body repair? We know how stressful it is to navigate the stress of insurance claims. Especially when insurers float “preferred” body shops to you.

Why do insurers hand out this status and what does it mean to you? Shops that are preferred by insurers often have mixed loyalties. They need to keep you happy, but their monetary alliance is to insurers who tell shops to make repairs within narrow cost windows for parts and labor.

This is good for insurers. They are better able to control the repair costs incurred by motorists. This is also good for shops that are preferred. They get more business sent their way. Can you guess who it isn’t good for?

Customers are the only ones shortchanged in this setup. Shops are going to be much more motivated to keep a giant corporation satisfied than they are in giving you the quality repairs you need. Most insurers don’t require preferred shops to use OEM parts. In the name of efficiency, your car will get repaired with aftermarket parts that may not fit or function as well as the originals.

In fact, many insurers will try to sway you from going to non-preferred shops. Unfortunately, they have it backward. You pay a solid chunk of money each month so that the insurance company will restore your vehicle after an accident. Rather than try to control cost at your expense, they should ensure that body shops give you top-quality repairs. 

We remain independent and prefer to work for you! We use the right parts installed the right way with the right tools and equipment! Why would you trust your vehicle to cut-rate shops your insurer prefers? Who is looking out for your safety? The pros at Cline Collision Center will bring your vehicle back to pre-collision condition. We offer a full slate of autobody services, from dent removal to high-end painting and auto detailing. Contact us online or call us at 707-591-9909 for fully guaranteed repairs for your damaged car or truck.

Your Auto Body Advocate

The Cline Collision Center process for repairing your vehicle.

Getting into an accident or damaging your car is one of the most inconvenient and stressful situations. It’s likely you won’t know what to do when it comes to dealing with your car insurance company and the auto body repair process.

That is where Cline Collision Center comes in. Our mission is to be our customer’s advocate. We know your situation is stressful and we understand the lingo and terminology your insurance company might be asking you. This is why we established a process for auto body repairs that removes the stress and delivers an exceptional finished vehicle for our customers.

The Cline Collision Center Vehicle Repair Process:

  1. File Claim with Insurance Company: Before Cline Collision Center can get started, you must file a claim and provide a statement with your insurance company.
  2. Call Cline Collision Center: Once you have your claim number you can provide it to us and we’ll get started.
  3. Estimates, Approvals and Loaner Car: Our Manager, Joe, will be the one who takes your claim number and begins working with your insurance company on an estimate for repairs. This will be the time that we also coordinate a loaner car to have during the duration of the repair.
  4. Prep for Repairs: Upon estimate approval, your car will be disassembled and repairs will be scheduled. OEM parts will be ordered, paint colors determined and repairs can begin.
  5. Structure Repairs: Our highly trained team will begin repairing your vehicle and bring it back to new.
  6. Body Work: Exterior panels and finishing will be replaced.
  7. Paint Shop: After the body work is completed, your vehicle enters our paint shop. We utilize only the best brands (Spies Hecker, Dupont and Axalta among others).
  8. Assembly: Our team will put all of the repaired panels back on the vehicle. Inspections are made to ensure every component is perfect.
  9. Detail: Upon sign off of repair, we then detail the car to make sure it looks pristine.

Communication is Key

We communicate with our customers through every step of the auto body repair process. We know how inconvenient it is for you and we want to make sure you feel at ease and informed. With Cline Collision Center being a Santa Rosa Gold Class Repair Shop by i-Car, and committed to only using OEM parts, you can rest assured your car is in good hands.

Get the best parts-and the best service at Cline Collision Center.

Schedule an appointment.

7 Things Auto-Body Shops Won’t Tell You

If you get into an accident, there are several things that are useful to know before you head to the body shop.

#1. A Fender Bender Can be Expensive to Repair

If you’ve gotten into a literal fender bender and it’s deemed that you’re the one at fault, you may be surprised at the cost of replacing a fender – even after the $500 deductible. The average fender replacement can cost anywhere from $300 to $1,600 after the costs of installation and painting. On vehicles with carbon fiber fenders, that cost can be as much as $5,000 to replace.

#2. Approved Shops are Often Obliged to Work on Behalf of Insurance Companies

Auto insurers contract with auto body shops to repair vehicles for a pre-negotiated rate; sometimes this includes practices like require low hourly labor rates, or making the shop pick up the cost of the rental car. Insurers often give customers so many discounts that it makes it impossible for shops to make much of a profit, causing some companies to feel tempted to cut corners.

#3. Not all Replacement Parts are Equal

OEM (original equipment manufacturer) parts are designed to match your make and model of vehicle exactly. Insurers generally prefer shops use generic, lower quality, or salvaged parts because they’re less expensive. If you’re at fault for an accident, you may be bound by your insurance policy to use these lower quality parts, however, if someone else is at fault be sure to tell your auto body shop to use OEM parts.

#4. The Due Date May Be Exaggerated

Mechanics often take on more work than they can handle but may blame it on things like parts being delayed. Before you choose a shop to do your body work, it’s always a good idea to check their online reviews to make sure that they deliver what they say they will.

#5. A Rental Car Can be Expensive

Renting a car is convenient if you’re going to be without your vehicle for an extended period of time, however, the costs can add up quickly. Renting a car for three weeks could cost $1,000 or more. Even if you have rental car insurance, your daily reimbursement may be limited to the cost of a compact car. Make sure your rental car insurance is comparable to the size of car you’re having repaired.

#6. Choose a Shop That Specializes in Your Type of Vehicle

Many European cars have precision parts and use types of metal that require specialized equipment to repair it. You should always take your car to a shop that’s certified by the manufacturer to work on your specific vehicle. Going to a manufacturer certified shop ensures the shop will understand your vehicle and have the right tools and parts to properly repair it back to manufacturer’s specifications. These shops do generally charge higher rates, so insurers won’t necessarily recommend them – but they should still be willing to pick up the tab.

#7. The Insurer’s Warranty Doesn’t Necessarily Mean Much

Insurers will sometimes exaggerate warranties on parts, for example, saying that they’ll be good for the life of the vehicle. This can be a tactic to urge consumers to go to a shop within their network. In reality, the body shop’s guarantee is the one that you should trust. Most shops guarantee their work, and most manufacturers guarantee their parts – those are the warranties that truly matter.

How long does it take for an insurance company to fix your car?

What you should know about the repair process and dealing with insurance companies:

After a vehicle accident, you’re probably thinking something along the lines of: I have insurance, so how long will it take for them to fix my car? Here’s the thing, your insurance company has nothing to do with the actual repair of your vehicle. They do, however, have an employee known as an insurance adjuster come out to your chosen body shop to evaluate your vehicle, and approve repairs. This process typically takes 4-5 days.

Your insurance company will suggest you use a specific auto body shop. They might even come across with the attitude of you must have your vehicle repaired by the body shop of their choice. Here’s the thing, by law, it is YOUR choice who you pick to fix your vehicle. Insurance companies recommend certain body shops because it is beneficial to the insurance company. They have contracts in place that have negotiated lower parts and labor rates. Claims representatives have monthly goals in place that they should meet. Generally, these companies would like to see at least 40 percent of their auto claims go to their direct body shops. This is why if your decision is not one of their recommendations, they might try to sway you differently. Statements you might hear include “that shop isn’t in our preferred network” or “we can’t warranty the work performed at that shop” or “the charges at that shop are higher” or even “claims take longer to settle at that shop”. When you call your insurance company, know your right as a consumer is to choose the shop that works for you.

What to look for in an auto body shop:

1.     Choose a shop that is certified to repair your vehicle

Cline Collision Center is OEM certified by Chrysler, Dodge, Fiat, Jeep, Ram, MOPAR, SRT, Ford, Hyundai, Infiniti, Nissan, Honda, and Acura. Choosing a shop that is certified by your vehicle’s manufacturer means they certify that this shop are experts at what they do.

2.     Check out their Google and Yelp reviews

Most people only review when they have an extremely positive or extremely negative experience. However, it’ll still give you a general idea of what customers think about the body shop that is of interest to you.

3.     Professional and courteous staff

You being taken care of is just as important as your vehicle being taken care of. Choose a friendly shop, like Cline Collision Center.

4.     Will write a free written estimate

A written auto repair estimate is a contract between you and the repair shop that describes what will be done and how much it will cost. Getting this information in writing can help prevent problems down the road.

5.     Will detail your vehicle

It’s not the most important but every auto body shop should detail the vehicles they repair in order to deliver that new car look and feel. You’re spending big money, and the last thing you want to receive is a dirty vehicle. Cline Collision Center is an auto body repair facility located in Santa Rosa, CA. We are open Monday through Friday from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. Give us a call at 707-591-9909 to learn more about what we have to offer you and your vehicle, today. Or, stop by for a free estimate!    

Insurance Steering is Illegal: You Choose Your Auto Repair Shop

In California, anti-steering regulations were passed in 2016 to ensure that insurance companies could not illegally steer consumers toward specific auto repair shops if they required auto work. The regulations prohibit insurers from statements that are misleading or deceptive with the intent of directing patrons toward a specific auto repair facility. In the past, there was a tendency to make deals with specific repair facilities to both the facility and the insurance company’s mutual benefit, so insurers directed consumers to these “approved” repair shops. Now, with the new regulations in place, it’s illegal for them to do so. Insurance Steering is Illegal: You Choose Your Auto Repair Shop

The reality is that the consumer always has the right to choose their own auto repair shop when they need repairs after an accident, collision, or breakdown. It’s very possible that your insurance company may make “suggestions” or “recommendations” for where they think you should go, but they are in no way able to undermine or change their coverage based on which shop you decide to use. You may review their list and find a repair shop you like on there, or you may not. If you have your own preferred shop, you can have your repair work done there even if it’s not a “recommended” shop from your insurance provider. If you’re receiving pushback from your provider, it’s worth double-checking your rights to ensure that they’re not breaking the law by misleading you into doing what they want you to do.

In addition to the laws stipulating that insurance providers can’t be untruthful about your rights to choose your shop, they also support existing laws that say an insurance provider can’t force you to go to a specific shop and that you always have your right to choose. The stipulations also include reasonable timeframes for inspection of your damaged car and distance regulations so that they can’t use other underhanded tactics to shepherd you into a shop of their choosing. The regulations also complement the Auto Collision Repair Labor Rate Survey regulations, which ensure that you’re not overpaying or paying out of pocket for collision repairs to your vehicle.

Accidents and car repairs are already stressful enough. There’s no reason to add to that stress by feeling forced to go to an auto repair shop you didn’t choose yourself. At Cline Collision, we do everything we can to make things less strenuous for you, from helping you fill out and file your insurance paperwork to giving you online access to check the status of your vehicle. If you have any questions, please let us know.

Dealing With Insurance Paperwork After an Accident

The last thing anyone wants to deal with after they’ve been in a car accident is insurance claims and piles of paperwork. Unfortunately, it’s a reality we all have to face once in a while. Dealing with insurance is never an enjoyable pastime, but in order to get safely back on the road in good time, it’s a requirement.

If you’ve been in a collision and have auto body damage that needs repairing, you’ll have to file a claim with your insurance company. As we went over in a previous post, you have the legal right to choose where your car is fixed – don’t let the insurance company try to back you into a corner and make you go to one of their “preferred” repair shops if you don’t want to. At Cline Collision, we know that this is probably a stressful time for you. That’s why we take care of the paperwork for you.

When you first make a claim with your insurance provider, make sure you record the claim number. That’s all we need. Once you come in and provide us with your claim number, we’ll take over from there. Our process involves writing out our estimate and repair order, which we provide to your insurance company. Then they’ll send someone out to inspect the vehicle themselves and prepare their own estimate (they can do this right here at our shop). The estimates should match or be very close, and you should receive copies of both.

From there, we begin the repairs and auto body work. On the insurance paperwork, we’ll list out everything we do to the car – parts used, the prices for various services, and everything that was replaced or removed. During the repairs, we may have to add “supplements,” or parts and services we didn’t initially expect. We always get approval through the insurance company before we do this. In the end, you’ll receive the original bill, plus any supplements that were required. Your insurance will receive all this paperwork as well, and once you’ve paid your deductible, they should approve and cover the rest. Because we get approval for everything we do, you shouldn’t have any issues.

This is the way we operate, and it works. We want this process to be as stress-free as possible for you. That’s why we take care of the paperwork and dealing with insurance approval so you don’t have to. If you have any questions, please let us know! We’re here to help.