Tuesday, August 22, 2017

The Complete Guide to Auto Collision Repair


A consumer's encyclopedia of auto collision repair information

Auto Craft in Wichita, KS, has put together this complete collision repair guide as a quick reference to help you navigate the ins and outs of body shop work. Auto Craft proudly serves the Wichita, KS and South Central Kansas area, so remember that name when you need help with auto collision repair.

Your car is one of the most important purchases in your life. It’s also one of the costliest expenses you’ll have, so it’s logical that you will want to take care of it. It’s no fun to think about, but sometimes you have to, when you come of a store and find door ding or bent fender. Nobody wants to think about hail damage or getting into an auto accident, but sometimes we have to.

In this article, we’ll prime you with some vital information so that you can navigate your way through the stressful process of collision repair.

We’ll help understand the processes, terminology and insurance issues. What’s the difference between collision coverage and complete coverage? What about medical coverage or personal injury coverage? We’ll help you sort out the terminology so that you can rest well knowing you got the best coverage for your car.

We’ll also provide you with information on a Direct Repair Program that guarantees your repairs for life.

We’ll explain the types of work a respected and renowned body shop provides, such as traditional collision repairs, paintless dent removal/repair, and windshield repair. We’ll clarify exactly what kinds of repairs are available to your car so you can make the right decision.

We’ll also help you determine whether your car is totaled and explain the importance of getting a second opinion. If you’re looking for parts for your vehicle, we’ll enlighten you about the differences between Original Equipment Manufacturer and after-market parts so you can make the right purchase.

Finally, we’ll guide you through Auto Craft’s online estimate tool so you can get a start on those repairs as soon as the damage happens.

We’re here to help because you shouldn’t have to do this alone.

Buckle up.

Collision Repair Insurance Terminology

The last thing you want to do after an accident is steer through the twisting roads of confusing terminology used by insurance companies and auto body shop professionals.
This guide will help you to translate. No rocket scientist needed.

Collision Insurance Coverage
When objects collide, bad things sometimes happen. This kind of coverage repairs your vehicle if it collides with another object, hence the term “collision.” Objects may include another car or a stationary object like a tree, lamp post, or a house. Please avoid driving into houses. Auto collision specialists can fix cars but we’re not certified to fix houses.

Comprehensive Insurance Coverage
Sometimes, things can happen even without collision. This policy covers damages from events unrelated to collision coverage, such as:

  • Your car suddenly catching on fire. Searing good times.
  • Your car magically disappears via theft.    
  • A suicidal tree decides to fall on your car.
  • An even more suicidal deer decides to become venison via impact against car.
  • A storm decides to take your car for a spin.
  • Your car decides to go for a swim in a flood.
  • An aspiring artist decides to vandalize your vehicle.

An insurance premium—also  called a “rate”—is the payment you make to your insurance company every month to insure your vehicle. The premiums are dependent on a variety of factors including your driving record, age, number of consecutive years insured, and how sporty your car is. If you drive one of those fancy Mercedes speedsters, your premium might be higher.

A car insurance deductible is the money you must pay toward repairs before your insurance coverage kicks into gear. It’s basically the money that your insurance won’t cover towards repair costs.

Every insurance policy has a deductible and they range from $0 and $1,000. Your deductible is usually tied to your premium. If you have a higher deductible, your premium may be lower. If you have a low deductible, then you may pay more for your premium. Finding the right deductible is entirely dependent on your financial situation so it’s important to find a plan you can afford.

Pro tip: if the cost of repairs is less that your deductible, consider paying for the repair out of pocket in lieu of filling a claim. This may save you money in the long run because you won’t take a hit on premium rate increases.

Personal Injury Protection
Personal Injury Protection covers medical expenses and, in many cases, lost wages resulting from bodily injuries due to an auto accident. It is often called “no-fault” coverage because its pays claims regardless of who is at fault in the accident.

However, it doesn’t cover every passenger, which is where the next type of coverage kicks in…

Medical Payments Coverage
This type of insurance pays medical and funeral expenses for any other passengers not listed on your policy.

Bodily Injury and Property Damage Liability Coverage
While you may be covered for medical related expenses, you may still face liabilities from other parties involved in the accident. Bodily Injury and Property Damage Liability Coverage will help with your legal defense and pay for any judgments against you. They can also pay for the lost wages for the other parties.

Direct Repair Programs

Your eyes do not deceive you: Direct Repair Program (DRP) really does give you a lifetime guarantee on body work. But wait! There’s more!
Getting a DRP means fewer calls and hassles, and you don’t have to play the time consuming and soul exhausting “claim game” to provide your insurance company with three competing prices.

A DRP is a special business arrangement between insurance companies and reputable, high-end body shops like Auto Craft Collision Repair in Wichita, KS. Cost savings are bountiful as paperwork is more automated, and the body shop becomes your estimator so the insurance company saves on personnel costs.

A DRP makes it easier for everyone. The insurance company approval process is streamlined between the body shop and insurance provider because both parties know what to expect.  However, the best benefits are for you - excited customer who cannot contain your unbridled joy – because the body repair work is guaranteed for life, there is no claims adjuster, the best prices are guaranteed, and your car is repaired faster.

OEM Versus Aftermarket Parts

During the process of getting your vehicle repaired, you’ll probably hear the terms “OEM” and “aftermarket” when discussing pricing for auto parts.

Don’t worry, they’re not talking about trading organs on the black market. We would never do that.

What we do however, is try to find you the best prices and parts for your vehicle. OEM and aftermarket describe the designation of a part: from the manufacturer or from a third party maker.

Aftermarket refers to replacement parts that are made by other companies after the vehicle is manufactured. These parts are built according the manufacturer’s specifications are often less expensive. While there is an impression that aftermarket parts are not as good as OEM, this isn’t always the case. In fact, many are equivalent to or sometimes better than OEM parts.

OEM stands for Original Equipment Manufacturer. They are parts produced by the company that originally manufactured your vehicle. For example, a Ford bumper that came directly from Ford is an OEM part.

With most aftermarket parts being less expensive than their OEM counterparts, this represents a cost savings solution to not only you, but to insurance providers. In some cases, your insurance company may only be willing to pay for aftermarket parts for your repair.

In this situation, the insurance company is legally required to warrant, in writing, that the aftermarket part is at least as good as its OEM equivalent. This warranty should appear on the paperwork your adjustor gives you. Body shop are also legally required to clearly identify every part as OEM or aftermarket in your repair estimate so you know exactly what parts we’re recommending.

If you prefer to use OEM, you’re more than welcomed to request it but you may be required t pay the cost differences out of pocket.

At Auto Craft, we want nothing more than to return your car to the condition it was in before your collision (or better condition) and these legal requirements allow us to make sure this is always the case whether it is using OEM or aftermarket parts.

Paintless Dent Repair or "PDR"

For some repairs, you may not need a traditional fix or replacement parts. If the damage is mostly superficial, like a high school reunion, Other, less expensive methods may work. Paintless dent repair / removal (PDR) is a harmonious marriage of innovative tools and craftsmanship. Watch this one-minute video to see a technician do his magic.

PDR can drastically reduce repair costs with certain kinds of auto body damage. It’s also faster than traditional body repair which means less time away from your car and more time doing things that matter to you.

Another benefit of PDR is that it doesn’t require fillers, which run the risk of aging differently (and visibly) compared to the original body material. It’s your vehicle’s original finish being renewed.

PDR is also eco-friendly, so environmentally conscious drivers can rest easy, knowing that there are no vapors and no trips to the landfill.

However, as a reminder, PDR isn’t a solution for every situation. Deep dents, hard creases, or already damaged paint require traditional collision repair techniques.

But when PDR is available, Auto Craft can assure you that your car will be restored to like-new condition at a fraction of the traditional repair price and in a fraction of the time.

Windshield Repair or Replacement?

A broken windhshield can be costly, but it’s not always the case. Sometimes, you can save up to 80 percent of costs with a windshield repair if the damage doesn’t spread and before dirt gets into it. That’s money you can use to buy your car something nice like a skirt or whatever cars like these days.

Here are some of the types of damage that can usually be repaired for around $50 compared to a couple hundred or a few hundred dollars for auto glass replacement:

•    Quarter-sized rock chips
•    Cracks up to 12 inches long
•    Star breaks (cracks radiating from a central point)
•    Bulls eyes and partial bulls eyes (circular or semicircular damage caused by a round object)
•    Crack chips and dings (single crack the size of a quarter)
•    Pits (small piece of glass missing).

However, severe damage or cracks near the edge of the glass typically require a windshield replacement. Every situation is different and the technician’s job is to ensure the repair doesn’t weaken the windshield further or put you in danger. Keeping you safe is the first priority. When auto glass repair is an option, it’s a great way to avoid the high cost of a windshield replacement.

Sometimes, a windshield replacement and some aftermarket repairs are not enough to get your damaged car back on the road. Sometimes, your car has flatlined and your insurance wants to pull the plug.

Pulling the Plug: When is a Car Declared a Total Loss?

In the collision repair business, we sometimes tell customers that their insurance companies have declared the car as a total loss, even though it may be drivable or the damage ‘tis but a scratch. Our auto collision specialists deliberate with your insurance provider about the costs of body damage repair and they both consider the feasibility of fixing your vehicle.

Like everything in the insurance business, it’s about numbers. But you don’t need to call that rocket scientist eagerly waiting in the shadows. There is a formula that’s easy to understand. But before we look at the formula, let’s talk about a few common tip-offs that a car may not be salvageable.

Instant tip-offs that a car may be totaled
  1. Deployed air bags. Airbags can cost a couple of thousand dollars to replace. It doesn’t make sense but that is the reality of car design and safety regulations. If your 10-year-old vehicle worth $3,500 deploys its airbags, it may be considered totaled with no other damage.  
  2. LOTS of fluids on the ground after an accident. It’s not always certain, but this often indicates enough general damage to warrant a total loss declaration. It has to do with where the fluid reservoirs are located and how the car is assembled around them. Replacing or fixing it may be more cost than the car is worth.
  3. The vehicle can’t be driven because of the damage. This makes sense as it may be an indication of frame damage to the car. Damaged frames are often prohibitively expensive to repair because our experts have to take EVERYTHING off to work on the frame.
  4. Hail damage. Nature likes to play golf sometimes and even minor damage to individual chassis sections may lead to a vehicle to be declared totaled. The hours can add up with even light damage over the whole vehicle.

The Total Loss Formula most insurance companies use is simple:

Cost of repair + salvage value compared to the actual cash value of the vehicle.

Different insurers and state insurance commissions use the formula differently. In some states, if cost of repair + salvage value equal 50 percent of the actual cash value of the car, it’s considered totaled. In other states, it may be 75, 80 or even 100 percent—a nice deal, if you can get it.

This percentage is called the Total Loss Threshold (TLT).

In Kansas, the TLT is 75 percent, while a Tulsa, OK, collision repair shop is required to use a 60 percent TLT.

Please keep in mind that not every repair is the same for every vehicle. Every repair is unique and so it is important you discuss the matter with your auto repair center and your insurance provider. It doesn’t hurt to get a second opinion.

Does Your Vehicle Damage Estimate Seem High? Get a Second Opinion.

If you’re not satisfied with the first vehicle damage estimate you receive, there’s no reason you can’t ask for a second opinion.

In fact, it’s your right.

That’s right. Just because you received an estimate from a claim adjuster assigned by your insurance company doesn’t mean you have to take it at face value. It may not always be right and can sometimes overlook damage that runs deeper than the surface. Or maybe they’ve over-estimated the damage, leading to an inflated claim. You want to get it right, so don’t be afraid to get a second perspective.

This is where you can finally utilize your Google searching skills. Use the web to find the best body shop repair.

Another great way to get a second opinion is to actually get an opinion. Talk to people you trust or, if you don’t have friends, go on social media and browse around. See what people are saying. Call around to several shops and see if they offer great tools like an easy-to-use online body shop cost estimator (see below).

Be sure to have your insurance company sign off on any shop you pick so that you won’t get a surprise bill.

No one knows your car better than you. Find someone that you can trust to take care of your car as well as you have.

While getting a second opinion may be time consuming, Auto Craft has a tool to help you get estimates quick and easy.

How to Use the Online Auto Craft Estimate Tool

The entire process of auto repair can be stressful, and an online auto body estimator allows you to get an approximate value for your costs on the spot, skipping a visit to the body shop.

Here is how to use this innovative tool with examples from Auto Craft’s online estimator, in case you’re looking for the best body shop in Wichita, KS:

1. Head over to www.autocraftinc.com on your phone or computer and select the Green Estimate Tool button.
Image of first page of auto collision repair online estimate tool

2. Click the picture for the type of vehicle you have and then type in the year, model and make. Click the “Next” button at the bottom.
Mobile screen shot of Auto Craft's online estimate tool for auto body work

3. Highlight the damaged areas on your vehicle. Click the “Next” button.
Third page of online body shop estimate tool to tap on damaged areas of vehicle

4. Take photos of your vehicle as directed. “Next” button.
Next page of online estimate tool where user takes photos of damaged areas with the app

5. Take a photo of your Vehicle Identification Number (VIN). If you can’t find it, click to watch the video. “Next.”
Page 5 of estimate tool interface shows user how to locate V.I.N.

6. Add any additional damage notes, then “Next.”
Moblie collision repair estimate tool page 6 allows user to make additional damage notes

7. Fill out your personal information (private and secure), and hit the “Submit Now” button
Final page of Wichita, KS, body shop repair cost online tool where user inputs contact information

That’s it. The experts will contact you and take care of the rest and we’ll contact you shortly.

After getting your estimates, having a claims adjuster examine your car, and having your insurance sign off on the repair, you may feel that the damages were not severe enough to require repair. Maybe you don’t need to fix your vehicle. Should you keep the insurance money?

Should You Pocket the Insurance Money for Your Auto Collision Repair?

‘Tis but a scratch. It can be tempting to pocket the insurance money rather than getting your vehicle repaired. Are you allowed to do this? If you own the car outright, and the check is made out to you, yes, you can keep the money. But is it a good idea?

That depends entirely on your situation.

If the damage consists of minor dings and dents that don’t bother you, and you have more pressing financial needs, keeping the money could be an acceptable option.

But it may not a be good idea for several reasons. There could be more serious damage you can’t see under the scratch that may worsen without repair. The damage may not look bad but your car and its brakes, tubing, frame, etc., may be struggling. Driving an unrepaired car may make the problems worse.

According to a 2011 report in Edmunds' AutoObserver.com, the economic hard times brought on by the current recession has led many motorists to delay auto repairs, making their cars potentially unsafe to drive.

Some of the damage may not be visible to your claims adjuster. When a body shop starts working on your car, more problems may be discovered. Your insurance policy typically will pay for any additional damage that's revealed, but if you delay repairs, your insurer may doubt the true cause of structural or mechanical problems.

Think ahead and think carefully.

Don't expect your auto insurance company to pay for the additional repairs later on if you can't prove the damage occurred due to the accident, according Jim Klapthor, a spokesperson for Allstate Insurance Co.

"I don't see any economic benefit to having your car damaged, filing a claim, receiving a check to fix it, and then not repairing it," Klapthor said.

If you are involved in another accident and the damage is in the same area, your insurance company is going to try to determine what part of the damage was from the first accident, Klapthor stated.

It's not going to pay you for the same damage twice.

Eventually, even if you pocket your insurance money and use it for something else, you may still have to make the repairs down the road.

Most importantly, if your vehicle is unsafe to drive, it is wise to use your payout to fix it.
Finally, if your vehicle is deemed a total loss, you won’t be able to take the cash and the car. No cake for you because to receive your payout, your auto insurance company will probably possess your totaled car as a condition of its payout. If your car is deemed a total loss (even if perhaps you feel it is still road-worthy) you will not receive your payout unless you give up your car.

Pocketing your insurance money is entirely dependent on your situation but it is heavily advised that you carefully consider the potential problems that may occur.

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