Your Rights as a Consumer
As a consumer of automotive collision repair, you have a number of rights which, if exercised, could better ensure that your vehicle will be repaired in a proper, complete and safe manner. Consider the following.
Choice of Repair Facility
Choosing the body shop where your vehicle will be repaired is an important decision, and in most cases, you have the right to make that decision. Not all shops are alike, however. Many automakers offer certified collision repair networks, with shops that are committed to a complete repair through ongoing industry education, and that meet all the equipment and facility requirements of those automakers.
If a network shop isn't an option and you don't already have a favorite body shop in mind—preferably one that employs properly trained technicians and has all the equipment and facilities needed to make a proper and complete repair—a "direct-repair facility" suggested by your insurer may be a good choice. These are shops with which the insurer has a contractual agreement, including both dealership and local independent shops.
Family and friends who have gone through the repair process also can be a great source of advice, and don't forget about your dealership—it may have its own body shop, but if it doesn't, it can likely offer a list of reputable shops in the area.
Remember, the body shop is fixing YOUR vehicle for YOU, and it's important you're comfortable with the shop you choose. If you're making an insurance claim, your insurer pays the bill, but most states prohibit the insurer from requiring you use a particular shop—that means, ultimately, no matter what you hear, the body shop is
Choice of Repair Parts
As a consumer, you have the right to request that your vehicle be repaired only with Original Equipment (OE) collision replacement parts. These are the same parts that your vehicle manufacturer distributes to ensure proper fit, function, and most importantly, safety.
Two factors influence whether your request will be honored: your insurance policy limitations and local (state) laws and regulations regarding collision repair.
Insurance Policy Limitations
Prior to being involved in an accident, check your policy to see what allowances may, or may not be, made for certain part types.
Some policies may allow for OE parts in all circumstances, while others may allow for OE parts depending on the age of the vehicle. Some may specifically call for use of parts that are "like kind and quality," usually indicating salvage parts. In other cases, insurance companies may offer two auto policies: one that specifies that only OE parts be used, and another that may allow the use of alternative parts.
In addition, there may be policies available through a plan endorsed by your vehicle manufacturer, which assures OE parts for that brand of vehicle. Find out before you buy!
State Laws and Regulations
Most states require repair shops and/or insurers to disclose to their customers when something other than OE parts will be used, usually as part of the estimating process.
Far fewer states—about a quarter—also require shops and/or insurers to get your consent before using non-OE parts. These laws and regulations vary greatly, however, and most come with time limits—such as two years/30,000 miles—or other restrictions.
There also are several states with no disclosure or consent rules currently in place for collision repair.
Protect your family and your vehicle investment, and know your rights BEFORE YOUR VEHICLE IS REPAIRED.
Check with your local collision or auto body repair associations regarding the collision repair-related laws and regulations in your state—a quick Internet search should help you find them.
The Right to a Safe, Properly Repaired Vehicle
Everyone deserves to drive or ride in a safely repaired vehicle; one that will perform properly in the event of a subsequent collision. But don't leave safety to chance.
Ask questions about the parts that will be used, and how your car will be repaired. Ask about the technicians' training and if the shop is "certified" or "recognized" within the collision repair community. You have rights, but rights must be exercised. Get involved in the repair of your vehicle.