Auto Body Hawthorne Announces Big Savings for Customers, and Shares Tips that Consumers Need to Know About Auto Body Shops

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No matter whose fault the accident is, make sure to choose an appropriate repair shop -- and ask for a second opinion.

Before and after.

Before and after.

That minor fender bender will be a major expense. For most peoples that are in an accident with insurance, the typical deductibleis $500 for a collision, kiss that money goodbye. A survey of repair shops in the Washington, D.C., area by Consumers' Checkbook, a consumer-information group, shows that replacing a fender on a 1998 Buick LeSabre can cost as much as $982. A new front bumper on a 2006 E-Class can go as high as $1,350. What insurance companies do not tell consumers is that most approved shops are beholden to tight-fisted insurers. Auto insurers contract with providers to repair vehicles for a prenegotiated rate (think of it as managed care for sick cars). And a car could be the victim of cost-cutting. Some practices, such as requiring low hourly rates and making the shop pick up the rental-car tab if a repair takes too long, could tempt shops to cut corners -- by, say, neglecting to align the wheels or using plastic filler in a dent rather than replacing the sheet metal. Insurers have wired the shops to give so many discounts that, to stay alive, the shops often do the bare minimum. Also not all replacement parts are created equal. Original-equipment manufacturer (OEM) parts are designed to match precisely and may be safer. But insurers prefer that shops use generic or salvage replacement parts because they're cheaper. If a consumer causes an accident, that consumer could be bound by wording in a policy to use aftermarket parts -- or pay the difference for OEM parts. When given a choice always, tell the shop to use OEM parts. The due date is most likely fiction. Mechanics routinely blame missed deadlines on delays in parts delivery. But the truth is that many of them take on more than they can handle. Before commiting to a shop, check the local Better Business Bureau and government consumer-affairs offices for complaints against it. Auto Body Hawthorne announces big savings for customers, from now until the end of the year.

A rented car will cost plenty of money. Renting a car for three weeks could cost $1,000 or more. Even with optional rental-car insurance (which costs $1 or $2 a month), the daily reimbursement may be limited to the cost of a compact car. The needs of the consumer are not important. The consumer looking for a minivan while the car is in the shop, make sure the policy has minivan-size coverage. Most cars needs a shop that speaks its language. Many European cars use aluminum and ultra-hard steel that require special equipment to repair. Plus, replacement parts for late-model European vehicles have to be fit with an especially high degree of precision. Shops should be certified by the manufacturer to do the work, meaning that they have specialized training and equipment -- and charge higher rates. Insurers won't necessarily recommend these shops, but insurance companies should be willing to pay the tab.The insurer's warranty isn't all it's cracked up to be. Insurers sometimes dangle warranties on the parts (for as long as the consumer owns the vehicle) to entice consumers to go to shops in the network. But the body shop's guarantee is the one that's important. Nearly all shops will guarantee work, and parts makers guarantee parts, making the insurance warranty all but worthless.

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Henry Wasserman
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