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Insurance “Preferred” Shops vs Independent Auto Body Repair

You’ve had an accident and you’re in need of some auto body repair. Lots of us have been there, and we know the stress that comes along with figuring out all the details of insurance claims and “preferred” body shops. We want to make this as easy as possible on you because you’ve already been through enough, so we’re writing up a quick primer to help you understand what’s in your best interests.

First things first: what is a “preferred” body shop? These are shops that work through an insurance company’s DRP, or Direct Repair Program. It’s a relationship with an auto repair shop that allows the insurance company to have a great deal of say in how a car is repaired, down to approving specific parts and labor. It takes a lot of guesswork out of the hands of the insured, since the insurance company simply hands over a list of their “preferred” shops and lets you choose, but it comes at a cost. That cost is that the auto shop is beholden to the insurance company, not you, the customer. The insurance company gets to call the shots and decide what they’re willing to allow, which may not be what’s best for you or your car.

Why do auto body shops enter a relationship like this? Because it’s guaranteed income, usually. The insurance company provides them business in exchange for more control over the outcome. You can certainly have perfectly adequate work done at one of these “preferred” shops, but ultimately it’s better for you to go with an auto body shop that’s working for you, not your insurance company.

Here’s why: any auto body shop that works with you directly is going to be focused on making you happy, not making a corporation happy. Insurance companies are interested in keeping their costs down, and if that means making sure your car is repaired with cheaper parts and a lower labor rate, then that’s what they’re going to do. Generally, insurance companies don’t require “preferred” shops to use OEM parts, which means a lot of discount aftermarket parts are used instead. As with most things in life, you’re always going to want to go with quality over the cheapest possible solution.

It’s not uncommon for insurance companies to try to put you off from using a “non-preferred” shop, which is hardly surprising. If they have less control, that means more paperwork and cost on their end, but ultimately that’s what they’re there for. You pay insurance premiums so that you can receive quality care if something goes wrong. An insurance company cannot stop you from having your car repaired at the auto body shop of your choice, but they will probably try to convince you to go to one of “their” shops by making claims that outside-network shops “charge more” or “take longer.”

The true long and short of it is that if you’re insured, then your insurer must allow you to repair your car wherever you like, and once you hit your out-of-pocket premium, their coverage should kick in. We’ll do everything in our power to help you through any stall tactics so we can get your car repaired and back to you as soon as possible. We’re happy to help you with the paperwork to get your claim settled!