Insurance companies are always promoting cheaper or discounted insurance in their marketing ads. It often seems like the only selling feature which is hidden behind “only paying for what you need”. While the lower price is appealing, what you may not realize is those discounts come at a cost to you.
The insurance company’s goal is to save money and achieves this by strong-arming shops about what they are willing to or refuse to pay for. They also cut costs by removing a portion of their payroll in role of the field adjuster. Instead of sending out a field adjuster, we now use our phones to take photos of the damage to send in for an estimate.
To the consumer, photo estimating is extremely convenient and easy. You simply take a few photos of the damage, upload them to the insurance app, and typically in a short time period you receive a check. The problem with the phone estimates is the photos taken can’t see damage beneath the surface. We want to caution Sewell drivers that even though the damage may appear minor, it most always has more significant damage beneath the surface.
Auto body shops despise photo estimates when they are used solely to write a repair estimate. Eventually, consumers also realize how much a disservice photo estimates are when they realize that there is more damage hiding, and the car is going to take longer to fix than the insurance company photo estimating system predicted.
A recent DEKRA presentation revealed how a low-speed accident into a trailer hitch could result in more extensive damage to a vehicle than was visible from the exterior.
During the Society of Collision Repair Specialists (SCRS), a talk by DEKRA Services Managing Director Christian Ruecker, the discussion questioned the value of photo estimating as well as the quick parking lot damage assessments conducted by a repairer, consumer or insurer.
Ruecker stated that disassembly the “most crucial” part of the estimating process because it reveals all the damage, not just what is visible on the outside.
DEKRA is a leading global safety testing and inspection company that also manages over 120,000 collision repair claims annually from their facility in Germany. In their crash test facility, DEKRA ran a 2009 Mercedes C200 CDI T-Model at 6.1 mph into a trailer hitch mounted on an unbraked 2,932-pound barrier on wheels. The intent was to simulate a “bumper” bender or a minor collision like backing into something in a parking lot by a pickup truck.
The result showed that from the outside, the damages appeared to be purely cosmetic. If you could live with the scratches and dents, you might not even get your car repaired. Why not just choose to send a photo estimate in, and cash the insurance check instead? The problem with doing that is that the photo estimates couldn’t see all the damage behind the bumper cover. And the lack of any major damage to the outside masked some significant and unsafe damage behind the cover.
What was damaged?
The damage that you could see immediately included the damaged license plate, a scratch on the grille, a dent in the bumper, and incorrect gaps between the hood and a headlight.
After digging a bit deeper and performing a partial disassembly by removing the bumper cover, it revealed a large dent into the bumper reinforcement. The impact also deformed the power steering cooling tube, tore the air conditioning condenser, and damaged the radiator.
Not only were the bumper brackets pulled, demanding reinforcement, but one of the brackets also pulled the lower rail inward, indicating frame damage. What appeared to be a simple and very minor cosmetic repair is now a structural repair since the frame rail was compromised, and the vehicle is now unsafe to drive.
Using a fairly industry standard rate of $50 an hour for labor, the cost is more like $5,000 to repair this damage at most shops across the country. However, if we were to tell the customer that this is easily a $5,000 repair when the photo estimate from the insurance company says it is just under their deductible we often get accused of trying to overcharge the insurance company when in reality it is the insurance company who is trying to underpay you for the loss.
This example is exactly why it is important to perform a partial tear down to determine the extent of damages beyond what we can see from the outside. It is also essential for us to do this so that we can give you the proper estimate for cost and time it will take to repair your car so you get the full value of your claim. It is the legal responsibility for the insurance company to reimburse you for the total amount that it takes to return your vehicle to the pre-loss condition.
If you are comparing two estimates: one from Autotech Collision, and one from our competitors, pay close attention to how many lines are written, how specific the parts and materials lists are and the labor times. If there is a huge discrepancy from one body shop’s estimates to anothers , chances are the cheaper estimate is missing crucial OEM procedures that are important to the safety of the vehicle post repair. If you have any questions about any of our estimates, we are certainly happy to walk you through them.
Here at Autotech Collision, we are Sewell’s premier choice for collision repair because we know what it means to repair your car the right way. Too many body shops, especially in New Jersey, will jump right on a repair based on a photo estimate, neglecting necessary steps to do a completely safe repair.