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Auto direct repair programs reduce headaches

By Insure.com

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If you've ever been in an auto accident, you know that there are many bumps in the road before the end of the claim: You've got to arrange for a tow, obtain repair estimates, choose a body shop and secure a rental car. You deal with delays when parts aren't available, body shops are booked or insurance adjusters and auto repairers can't agree on the cost of damage done to your car. You deal with the claims process and paperwork. And you become very familiar, perhaps for the first time, with your auto insurance policy.

If it drives you mad, you're not alone: One in five people consider switching auto insurers after experiencing the collision claims process, according to a 2006 "Collision Repair Satisfaction Study" by J.D. Power and Associates.

The goal of DRPs is to improve customer satisfaction, reduce repair time and manage costs and reduce fraud for auto insurers.

Car Insurance companies have tried to lessen the inconvenience of collision repair with direct repair programs (DRPs), which eliminate a lot of work on your part. The goal of DRPs is to improve customer satisfaction, reduce repair time and manage costs and reduce fraud for auto insurers.

Through networks of designated repair shops, insurers seek to gain control of repair standards and pricing, and provide a speedy, seamless collision claims process to customers. The DRP repair facility often acts as the claims adjuster, reducing bickering and delays. While DRPs have grown by leaps and bounds in past years, your insurer may not have one available in your area.

In exchange for a continuous flow of work, DRP repair shops agree to discount their services so that insurers can keep their costs down.

 

Tips for dealing with direct repair shops

First and foremost, remember that your auto insurer can't require you to go to a certain auto body shop for collision repairs. States have "anti-steering" laws to prevent this. However, the body shop of your choice will have to come to an agreement with the insurance adjuster on the repair estimate and final costs.

Know your policy before you head off for repairs. If your damage cost is less than your deductible, you'll be paying the whole bill youself.

 

Top insurers' direct repair programs

Amica's Repair Assistance Program (RAP)

Amica scored highest among insurers in satisfaction among customers in the collision-repair process, according to the J.D. Power study. Amica currently has 685 RAP facilities and is adding more. Repair shops that are part of Amica's network pass pre-screening evaluations for state-of-the-art equipment and technician training. Locations have rental cars available in-house or nearby and will provide door-to-door service at a policyholder's request. Towing is also available.

Amica scored 821 out of 1,000 index points to earn the top spot in satisfaction. Other insurers who scored highest were Erie Insurance, State Farm and USAA.

Allstate's Sterling and PRO

Allstate's purchase of Sterling collision centers in 2001 gave it a network of body shops that now number 60 locations in 15 states.

Allstate customers who chose a Sterling shop for crash repairs get free vehicle pick up and delivery, rental car arrangements, regular updates on the repair progress, and a lifetime guarantee on parts and workmanship.

For Allstate customers not near a Sterling facility, Allstate offers a Priority Repair Option (PRO). This is a network of 4,500 independent repair shops recommended by Allstate that offer vehicle pick-up and delivery and the lifetime guarantee of workmanship. The shops provide the estimates and perform the repairs so there's no need for a separate insurance adjuster estimate.

GEICO's Auto Repair Xpress

GEICO customers can choose to meet with GEICO adjusters at designated repair facilties and leave in rental from Enterprise Rent-a-Car. The GEICO adjuster facilitates the repair process, updates the customer, and inspects the repairs. Customers then return to the shop to drop off the rental and pick up the repaired car. GEICO guarantees the repairs.

Progressive's Concierge Level

Progressive's "concierge level" of claims service starts at one of more than 50 Service Centers for Progressive customers or anyone who has been in an accident with a Progressive customer (known as a third-party claimant). Drivers who chose a Progressive Service Center drop of their damaged vehicle and leave in a rental car. Progressive claims representatives do the estimate and contact an auto body shop, which transports the vehicle from the Service Center to the repair shop.

When the work is done, the vehicle is returned to the Service Center where repairs are inspected. Progrssive then contacts the customer, who returns to inspect the repairs, too. Progressive guarantees all repairs.

In addition, "Total Loss Concierge," available in 26 states, provides extra help to customers whose vehicles must be totaled, including finding a replacement vehicle and arranging for financing.

State Farm Select Service

State Farm's designated repair facilities offer a guaranteed completion date for repairs, washing and vacuuming of the vehicle, and pickup and delivery of the vehicle. All work has a lifetime guarantee.

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