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How to get your car repaired after an accident

Accidents happen, but they shouldn’t leave you stranded.

You’ve been in a car wreck and filed your claim. Now what? Explore what to do after filing a car insurance claim and how to get your car back on the road quickly.

What should I expect from the repair process?

If you’ve been in a car accident and are filing an insurance claim to cover the cost of damage, follow these basic steps.

  1. Contact insurance and make the claim.
  2. Choose an auto body shop.
  3. Take your car to the repair shop.
  4. Follow up with your insurance company and the garage.
  5. Confirm repairs and pick up your car.
  6. Get your claim check.

Contact insurance

Immediately after a car accident happens, get yourself and your car to a safe place. Then exchange information with the other driver and contact your insurance company.

If you can do so safely at the accident scene, give your insurance company a call. It’s helpful to speak to someone about what you should and shouldn’t do, including admitting guilt or liability, and about the next steps. Be prepared to give your name, contact information, car registration, driver’s license number and a description of the incident.

If you’re making a car insurance claim, you’ll need to fill out a claims form with your insurance company. Most companies let you submit a claim online at their website or through a mobile app.

Choose an auto body shop

In most states, insurance companies legally can’t steer you to choose a specific repair shop. However, some companies offer a list of preferred mechanics. If you’re making car payments, your lender may require you to pick a shop from this list.

Otherwise, you have the right to choose where you’d like to repair your car. If you work with a shop in your insurance company’s network, you might save time and hassle. On the flip side, your insurer’s preferred mechanic might use aftermarket parts to save on costs.

If you don’t have a regular auto body shop, consider these tips when making your decision:

  • Check that the mechanic is ASE certified.
  • Ask if the shop is affiliated with AAA since the company vets repair shops for trustworthiness.
  • Consider your car brand’s auto shop since the mechanics will know your car best and won’t void your warranty.
  • Ask about warranties on repairs in case the initial repairs don’t fix your car’s damage.
  • Read online reviews from previous customers, looking for an overall high rating.
  • Compare price estimates with several repair shops, asking about the repair process to see if the mechanic is cutting corners.
  • See whether the shop uses aftermarket parts, and explain whether you need original parts to keep your car’s warranty active.
  • Ask the mechanic to show you what’s wrong with your car before making repairs.

What certifications should I look for?

These certifications give the body shop more credibility while giving you more confidence about your car’s repairs:

  • AAA
  • AC-Delco
  • ASE (Automotive Service Excellence)
  • Better Business Bureau
  • ICAR (Inter-Industry Conference on Auto Collision Repair)
  • NAPA Autocare
  • Parts Plus Car Care
  • PPG Certification

Take your car to the repair shop

Once you make an appointment with a mechanic, you’ll need to figure out how to get your car there if it’s not drivable.

  • Check to see if you have roadside assistance with towing from your car insurance company.
  • If you’re an AAA or other road club member, see if you can get towing.
  • Hire a towing company to bring your car to the shop.

How long do I have to repair my car after an accident?

You can ask your insurance company how long you have to get your car repaired. Most claims have a statute of limitations that state your timeframe for repairs exactly before the claim is no longer valid.

Also, the cost to repair a problem like a broken windshield could increase the longer you wait to get it fixed, and your insurance company might not agree to foot the extra expense. This could fall under maintenance neglect, one of the exclusions listed under your policy.

How to get around without your car

The amount of time that your car’s in the shop depends on the severity of the damage, your mechanic’s schedule and the difficulty of finding parts. If you won’t have a car for more than a day, consider your options for getting around in the meantime.

  • Rental car. If you have rental reimbursement coverage, shop around for the best deal on a rental car.
  • Loaner car. Many dealerships like Mini are known for lending cars to customers, and others will give rides home while the car is being repaired.
  • Public transit. You could use Uber, a taxi or public transportation if you live in a city where you can easily and affordably use these options.
  • Ride from a friend. You could find a ride or loaner car with a friend or family member who would enjoy helping you out.

Follow up with insurance and the auto body shop

Double-check with your insurance about any repair shop documentation or other requirements that you’ll need to get reimbursed for repairs.

Depending on your insurance company, you may need to show an itemized list of repairs and estimated costs. Some companies approve this list before repairs are made, so check that your insurance company and the garage are on the same page.

Do I have a say in how my car gets repaired?

Yes, you have a voice in the repair process. Repair shops and insurers often negotiate about how the repairs will be completed, so this is your chance to advocate for what you want.

You want to voice your opinions when dropping off your car or soon after — but the insurer may deny some requests if the repairs will cost more and you don’t have extra coverage. For example, your insurer might pay for aftermarket parts if you didn’t add original parts coverage to your car insurance.

Areas that you, your insurer and the repair shop may negotiate:

  • The work being done — You may not agree with what the mechanic is going to do, or you may want additional work done.
  • Replacement parts versus repairs
  • Types or brands of parts — 31 states require the repair shop to disclose when they use aftermarket parts
  • Cost of labor
  • How much time the repairs take

Confirm repairs

Your mechanic will call to let you know when your car is ready. Before you drive home, run through your car’s repairs and the bill to make sure everything is in order.

  • Ask the mechanic to walk you through the repairs that they made.
  • Go through the itemized bill and make sure you understand what everything means.
  • Check that the bill closely resembles the estimate they gave you before the repairs. If something is different, ask why.
  • Go for a test drive to make sure nothing feels off.

Pay for repairs

If you’re found at fault for the accident, you’ll need to pay your deductible before your insurance company authorizes the repairs. If you’re not at fault, your insurance company should work with the other driver’s insurance company to reimburse you for your deductible.

Some companies pay the repair shop directly instead of reimbursing you, especially if it’s a preferred or recommended shop. Claims are typically paid within 30 days.

What if I’m not happy with the repair work?

If you get your car back from the shop and don’t like the quality of work done, you can escalate the claim in a few ways.

  • Contact the insurance company and repair shop. Explain why you’re unhappy and provide pictures of the repairs.
  • Ask to speak to a supervisor. If you’re not getting anywhere with the insurance rep, ask if a manager can help you.
  • File a complaint. If you’re still having trouble, you can file a dispute with your state’s insurance department. The process for doing so varies by state, but in most locations, you can submit a complaint online.
  • Talk to a lawyer. You could sue the insurance company but consider the legal fees. Only escalate to this step if there’s substantial damage left after your insurance pays for the repairs.

Bottom line

Getting into a car accident and dealing with the insurance claims process can be frustrating, but knowing what to expect and which steps to take can help you avoid a headache. When in doubt, communicate with your insurance company to make sure everyone is on the same page and there aren’t any surprises.

If the claim process with your insurance company left you feeling worse than when you got into the accident, start comparing insurance companies with an easier claim process.

Frequently asked questions about car repairs

Who is most likely to be researching how to get your car repaired after an accident?

Finder data suggests that men aged 25-34 are most likely to be researching this topic.

ResponseMale (%)Female (%)
Source: Finder sample of 2,301 visitors using demographics data from Google Analytics

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