Should you choose your own repairer or an insurer-preferred auto shop?
If you get into an accident and need to have your car repaired, most car insurance policies let you decide between your own repairer or going with one of the insurer’s approved mechanics.
In both cases, you will generally need to have repairs approved by the insurer ahead of time. Either option is solid, so consider reputation, convenience and other factors before making your decision.
Why choose your own repairer?
Using your own repairer has risks and downsides that using the insurer’s repairer doesn’t, so you should have a good reason before making that decision.
- Your mechanic already knows you and your car. If you have a classic car, a luxury car or something that otherwise needs a special touch from an experienced mechanic, it’s probably best to stick with your own repairer, especially if you’ve been with them for a while.
- You trust your mechanic. If there’s a specific workshop or mechanic who knows your car better than anyone else, that could be the place to go. There’s something to be said about familiarity, and they’re also going to have an idea of the car’s service history.
- Your mechanic is local. Most of all, it can be convenient. The insurer’s approved repairer might be further away, like a big dealership in a larger city nearby.
- Your repairs might be done faster. With a smaller independent dealer, you might not have to wait as long either. The recommended repair might have a big backlog, so you could be stuck without a car for longer than you need to be.
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Why choose your insurer’s repairer?
If you’re pretty indifferent either way, you might just want to go with one of the insurer’s recommended, referred or approved insurers.
- Easier and more streamlined process. You won’t have to go back and forth with quotes and whether or not fixes are justified, and you don’t have to worry about your insurance not covering certain claims, or only covering partial repair costs. Many insurers will also pay the repair shop directly, meaning you may be able to avoid paying out of pocket and getting reimbursed by your insurance provider.
- Guaranteed coverage for repair costs. If your chosen repairer has quoted a higher price than the insurer’s, the insurer might ask you to pay the difference. You generally don’t have to worry about that if you go with the insurer’s approved repairers. Insurers and their repairers contact each other directly, so you can be more confident that repairs have been approved before they’re carried out.
- Lifetime repair guarantee. You’ll find this guarantee will often only apply to repairers that have been recommended by the insurer. The insurance company obviously can’t vouch for the quality of every repairer, but will happily stand by its own partners. If the repairs fail or are botched in some way, the insurer can make it right. If you choose your own repairer and then those botched repairs end up causing damage to your car, it’s safe to say you won’t be able to claim that subsequent damage under your car insurance.
Can I trust a preferred mechanic?
There’s a common perception that an insurer’s repairers are more likely to skimp on materials and perform a more cut-rate job than your own trusted mechanics. However, if you think about it, it doesn’t make a lot of sense.
- Insurers are financially responsible for bad repairs. Thanks to the lifetime guarantee, if an insurer’s mechanic does dodgy work, they’ll be costing the insurer a lot of money and will be dropped like a hot stone. If an independent mechanic does dodgy work, bad reviews are the only repercussion.
- They’re independent mechanics. The insurer’s mechanics aren’t always direct employees of the insurance company; often they are standalone businesses whose quality has been confirmed by the insurer. The insurer sends work their way precisely because they know it gets quoted accurately and is going to be done well. That’s a more valuable arrangement to the mechanic than however much time or money they might save by doing a dodgy job.
- Preferred mechanics have an extra layer of review. An insurer’s approved mechanic is probably under more scrutiny and has a clearer track record of their work. If one of them isn’t up to scratch, it’s going to stand out a lot more than a substandard independent mechanic.
Yes, you might get a shady, rude or otherwise bad mechanic from a preferred providers list, but it’s probably less likely than the general independent group of mechanics in your area.
Pros and cons of choosing your own vs. recommended repairer
Your own independent mechanic
- Probably someone you trust who knows your car
- Local and convenient
- Some repairs may be only partially covered
- Have to pay out of pocket and wait for reimbursement
- Won’t qualify for lifetime repair guarantee
- Backed by your insurer
- No back-and-forth for approvals
- Often billed directly to auto shop
- Guaranteed repairs covered
- Might qualify for lifetime repair guarantee
- Doesn’t know your car’s history
- Might not be a close or convenient location
Unless you have a compelling reason to choose your own repairer and are confident in their honesty and skillfulness, you might be better off going with whoever the insurer suggests, and let them worry about it.
Either way, the choice is yours. As long as you clear it with your insurer first. If you’re not happy with your repairer options, compare car insurance companies to find one that can offer your choice of repairer or a better group of recommended providers.