The aftermath of a damaging car accident typically involves car insurance claims, claims adjusters, and auto repair shops. If you’re in a small fender-bender, you might not even bother filing a claim with you or the other party’s insurance. But after a car accident with damage, depending on who is at fault, either your insurer or the other driver’s insurance provider is responsible for paying for the repair.
The insurance company will typically produce an estimate and suggest a local shop to do the repairs. They might pay the repair shop directly, or cut you a check so you can pay them yourself. However, sometimes you may wish to do the work on your own to save a little money. But before you go this route, consider a few factors.
Is There a Lien on the Vehicle?
Who can work on your car may be determined by who currently holds the title.
If there is a lien on your vehicle, then you most likely will not be permitted to repair the car yourself. The lender, whose money is on the line, won’t want to risk leaving the repairs up to someone who may or may not know what they are doing—and if you’re not a certified repair shop, how do they know you’re capable?
Your insurance company may offer a direct repair program, which is a network of approved repair shops, but you aren’t obligated to use it. You have the right to bring your vehicle to the shop of your choice.
Although your insurer can’t require you to use a specific repair shop, your lender might. Check your loan agreement for the specific conditions that apply to you. You’re likely to find language that will specify that you must have your vehicle repaired by a certified shop that guarantees its work. The agreement may even require that repairs be made at a shop that is approved by the lender.
If you can’t find specific language in your contract, call your auto loan provider to find out for sure.
If You Own Your Vehicle Outright
If there’s no lien on your vehicle and you own the title, you have a lot more flexibility. In most cases, you should be able to do whatever you want with the insurance payout, and that includes having your vehicle repaired at a shop, fixing it yourself, or not fixing it at all.
This may not be true all the time, though, and you need to read the language of your policy carefully. You can also ask your insurance agent for advice on the matter.
How Your Coverage May Be Affected
Even if you own your car outright and are not required to use an approved shop to fix your vehicle, your insurer may still be wary of repairs you do yourself.
As a result, you may find your insurer unwilling to continue to provide you with comprehensive or collision coverage if you choose to do your own repairs. Also, if additional damage is discovered later, your insurer will likely not pay for its repair.
If you get into another accident in the future, your insurer may refuse to pay for any damage done to the part of your car that you previously repaired yourself.
In these instances, it may not be worth the small amount of money you’ll save doing the repairs yourself and may even cost you much more in the long run.
If you decide to repair your car yourself, it’s a very good idea to have an adjuster look at the damage and provide an estimate before you do any of the work. In fact, your insurance provider will likely insist on it.
This is an important step, as it provides both you and your insurer with a solid idea of what a reasonable settlement of the damages will be, thus avoiding any future misunderstanding.
If you mess up the repair, the costs of any additional or remedial repairs will come out of your pocket, not your insurer’s or a repair shop’s. Therefore, if you are not absolutely sure about your ability to do the job properly, have the work done by an approved mechanic or body shop the first time. Sometimes, saving a few bucks in the short term is not worth the hassle and possible expense in the long term.