What is a 'preferred' body shop?
You've been in an accident and need auto body repair services. We have all been there, and we know how stressful it can be to figure out all the details of insurance claims let alone where to go. And now, some insurance companies are suggesting "preferred” body shops (also referred to as “Direct Repair Facilities” or “In-Network Shops”). To make this as easy as possible for you, here is some information to help you understand what's in your best interest.
Let's start with the basics: what is a "preferred" body shop? They are shops that work through a direct repair program offered by an insurance company. A relationship with a repair shop allows the insurance company to control how a car is repaired, right down to approving specific parts and labor. It eliminates a lot of guesswork from the insured, since the insurance company simply gives them a list of their "preferred" repair shops and lets them choose, but at a price. In other words, you are tethered to your insurance company, not the auto shop. The insurance company gets to make all the decisions, which isn't always in your best interest or that of your vehicle.
What motivates auto body shops to enter such a relationship? Usually, it's guaranteed income. Insurance companies provide them with business in exchange for gaining more control. Even though one of these "preferred" shops can do a perfectly adequate job, it's a lot better if you use an auto body shop that works for you, not the insurance company.
Any auto body shop that works with you directly will be concerned about your satisfaction, not that of the corporation. Keeping costs down is important to insurance companies, and if they can do that by using cheaper parts and lower labor rates, then they will. Like with most things in life, you'll typically want to go with quality over the cheapest option, especially when safety may be involved.
Insurance companies often take steps to discourage you from using a "non-preferred" shop, which is not surprising. If they have less control, that means more paperwork and costs for them, but ultimately, that's what insurance premiums pay for.
It's simple really: if you're insured, your insurer MUST allow you to repair your car wherever you like. It’s always your choice!