Car Repairs Costs and Affordable Auto Insurance

Rats! You just smashed up your two-year-old car. You have a good car insurance policy with comprehensive and collision, and a fairly low deductible. After notifying the police and your insurance company (remember, you’re contractually obligated to do that), here’s what you can expect.

You’ll be contacted by a claims adjuster. The faster you two hook up, the sooner you’ll get your claim processed. He or she may have a few questions about the accident, will schedule a time to inspect your car and review your policy coverage with you. Since this was a pretty simple accident that didn’t involve another car or any bodily injury, you should get a settlement offer fairly fast. In the meantime, you can start getting car repair estimates so you’ll know whether or not you want to accept your insurer’s offer. If you feel there is a big discrepancy between what’s offered and your repair estimates, you can negotiate further with your insurer.

If you accept the offer, your next step is to decide which repair shop you’ll use. You have two basic choices: your dealership or a private mechanic/auto body shop. The dealership will use original equipment manufacturer parts, or OEM in industry terms. The private mechanic may use aftermarket parts, something that has been legal since the 1970s. So which is the better choice? In terms of affordable auto insurance for everyone in the long run (and possibly a more affordable car repair bill for you in the short term), statistics seem to favor the private mechanic and aftermarket parts.

Research from the Property Casualty Insurers Association of America (PCI) released in 2009 indicated that OEM parts are said to cost about 60% more than aftermarket parts. The same report claims that prohibiting the use of aftermarket parts would result in an additional $3.25 billion in insurance costs per year. It’s doubtful that those costs would be 100% absorbed by the car insurance companies. More likely, they would be passed along to consumers in the form of higher premiums. On average, about $35 per insured car, according to PCI.

In case you’re concerned about the safety or quality of choosing aftermarket to save a few bucks, there’s also no data to support the assertion that aftermarket parts are inferior to OEM, according to a spokesman for the Automobile Aftermarket Industry Association.