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How to get your car repaired after an accident

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

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You’ve been in a car wreck and filed your claim. Now what? Unfortunately, the insurance claims process can be confusing and time-consuming, so try to understand the process and the steps you can take to make it go as smoothly and quickly as possible.

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 considering filing an insurance claim to cover the cost of damages, follow these basic steps.

  1. Contact insurance and make the claim.
  2. Choose a repair shop.
  3. Take your car to the garage.
  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 safely do so at the scene of the accident, give your insurance company a call. It’s helpful to speak to someone about what you should and shouldn’t say or do, including admitting any guilt or liability, and what the next steps are. Be prepared to provide your name, contact information, vehicle registration, driver’s license number and a description of the incident.

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

Our top pick: Progressive

Discover coverage that’s broader than competitors, valuable discounts up to 30% off and perks like shrinking deductibles that reward no claims.

  • Broad coverage, including for custom car parts or ridesharing
  • Transparent pricing tools that help you buy within budget
  • Accident forgiveness on small claims or for staying claim-free
  • Stack a variety of discounts for multiple cars, autopay or homeownership

Choose a repair shop

In most states, it’s illegal for insurance companies to steer you to choose a specific repair shop. However, some insurers offer a list of preferred mechanics to choose from. If you’re making payments on your car, your lender may require you to pick a shop from this list.

Otherwise, you have the right to choose where you’d like to take your car for repairs. If you choose to work with a shop that’s in your insurer’s network, though, 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 shop and would like to pick your own, consider these tips when making your decision.

  • Check that the mechanic is ASE certified.
  • Ask if the shop is affiliated with AAA.
  • Ask about warranties on repairs.
  • Read online reviews from previous customers.
  • Ask to see what’s wrong with your vehicle before the shop makes repairs.
  • Compare price estimates.

What certifications should I look for?

  • 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 garage

Once you’ve made 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 towing is included in your roadside assistance from your insurance company.
  • If you’re an AAA or other road club member, see if you can get towing.
  • Hire a towing company to pick up your car and bring it to the shop.

How long do I have to make repairs?

Make sure you ask your insurance company how long you have to get your car to the shop for repairs. Most claims have a statute of limitations that will state exactly how long you have to get your car fixed before the claim is no longer valid.

Additionally, 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 that may be listed under your policy.

How to get around without your car

The amount of time that your car’s in the shop depends on factors like the severity of the damages, the mechanic’s schedule and the difficulty of finding your parts. If you’ll be left without a car for more than a day, consider your options for getting around in the meantime.

  • Rental car. Does your roadside assistance come with rental coverage? If you don’t have rental coverage, shop around for the best deal on a rental car.
  • Loaner car. Does your repair shop or dealership offer a loaner car while yours is getting fixed? Many dealerships like Mini are known for lending cars to customers while their car is being repaired.
  • Public transit. Do you live in a city where you can easily and affordably Uber, taxi or use public transportation to get around?
  • Ride from a friend. Do you have a friend or family member who can give you a ride or loan you a car?

Follow up with insurance and the garage

Double check with your insurance company about any documentation you’ll need from the mechanic regarding your repairs.

Depending on your insurer, you may need to show an itemized list of repairs, along with estimated costs. Some insurers want to approve this list before repairs are made, so check that your insurance company and the garage are on the same page. Get a list of these requirements when you make the claim, then follow through with them.

If the process seems to be going slow, contact your insurer and garage to make sure they have everything they need to speed up the process.

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Confirm repairs

Your mechanic will give you a call to let you know when your car is ready to be picked up. Before you drive it home, do a quick run-through to make sure everything seems to be fixed.

  • Ask the mechanic to walk you through the repairs that were 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 prior to repairs. If something is different, ask why.
  • Ask about any repair guarantees offered by the garage.
  • 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 usually need to pay your deductible before your insurer authorizes repairs. If you’re not at fault, your insurance company should work with the other party’s insurance company to reimburse you for your deductible.

Some insurers 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 are unhappy with the quality of work done, you can try to 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 is still substantial damage to your car after the repairs the insurance paid for.

Unhappy with your claim? Find a better insurer

Name Product Roadside assistance New car protection Accident forgiveness Safe driver discount Available states
Progressive
Optional
30%
All 50 states
Discover coverage that’s broader than competitors, valuable discounts up to 30% off and perks like shrinking deductibles that reward no claims.
Clearcover
Optional
Yes
AZ, CA, IL, LA, OH, TX, UT and WI
Get instant online support and score a low rate thanks to online data that sets premiums automatically.
The AARP Auto Insurance Program from The Hartford
Optional
Yes
All 50 states & DC
Drivers over age 50 can enjoy low rates and perks designed for mature drivers, plus freebies and AARP member perks like free replacement cost coverage.
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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 insurers with an easier claim process.

Frequently asked questions about car repairs

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