Car Care Tips: Putting The Pieces Together After A Collision

Whether you've just had your first accident, or it's just been a long time since you needed to handle one, getting your car repaired after a collision can be somewhat of a tricky process. If you're unfamiliar with the best practices to ensure good, affordable repairs, then it may be a good idea to brush up on the ways you can get the most out of your insurance and your mechanic.

Make Your Insurance Policy Work For You

After an accident, the first thing any driver does is contact his or her insurance company to make a claim, especially if one or more vehicles was damaged in the collision. Once your claim is approved, your insurance company will furnish you with a list of auto body shops or general mechanics that work with the insurance company. However, you aren't obligated to use these shops exclusively. They're simply recommended for their low prices, good service, or partnership with the insurance company.

Depending on whether you rent or own your car, and your insurance policy, the company may simply write you a check for the value of the repairs, which means you might be able to keep a little of the money if you can find a mechanic who will work for less than the insurance-recommended auto shops. Getting multiple competitive estimates may help you to reach this end, but you should keep in mind...

Estimates Aren't Just About Prices

While you may already know the financial benefits of getting multiple estimates before committing to one shop, the side bonuses of going in for many estimates are not so readily apparent.

When you visit the auto shop's office to request an estimate, you can gauge the quality of their customer service by the way they treat you. You can also take the opportunity to ask important questions, like how long repairs will potentially take, whether or not OEM parts will be used, and whether the mechanic offers any sort of guarantee or warranty on the repairs.

The more estimates you request from different shops, the better your chance of finding not only a good price, but also quality service -- which is why it's important to get as many as possible.

You Can Double Check Your Mechanic's Work

Many drivers feel rude looking over their car after it's been repaired because they think it might make the mechanic feel insulted. However, from the body shop's point of view, it's important to catch mistakes early so as to prevent having to do free repairs on even more serious damage to your car.

Make sure all repaired panels are aligned correctly and the gaps are even. Wide or misaligned gaps in panels can be a sign of misplacement, which could lead to more severe damage in the event of an accident, and may also cause worse wear and tear as panels rub together. Be sure that your car's paint job is also satisfactory before you drive away.

Sometimes, cars can have problems that aren't readily apparent during collision repairs. Inform your mechanic if any warning lights come on when you turn on the car, or if it has any strange sounds that weren't there before the crash.

Mistakes happen, but a good auto body shop won't rest until your repairs are complete. As long as you inform them quickly of any problems, the mechanic should be more than happy to pop the hood of your car back open and figure out what's wrong. After all, a good shop knows that one thorough repair can sometimes be the gateway to a healthy business relationship for years to come.

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