It happens quickly. You’re driving through an intersection and someone tries to run a red light. Cars collide. Cars get damaged. Hopefully, no drivers are injured. Police authorities are called and an accident report is completed. Too bad, that’s not the end of the story.

What do you do next?

Repair experts agree that you should call your insurance agent or company to report the incident as soon as possible. More often, the immediate concern is whether the vehicle is safe to drive from the scene of the accident.

“I suggest that if it looks okay, but doesn’t feel okay, then you shouldn’t drive the vehicle,” said Sherry Lavoie, location manager for Moody’s Collision Centers on Main Street in Lewiston. “If you feel unsafe, most insurance companies will pay for a tow.”

As the repair process begins, every insurance company has their own guidelines. Some will have the vehicle owner visit a drive-in claims center before bringing the vehicle to a repair center. Others may have their own adjusters look at the vehicle to determine the amount of damage while others may encourage one or more repair estimates.

“A collision center can help sort out details with the insurance company and help the process run smoothly,” said Wayne Williams, marketing and advertising coordinator for DNK Select Cars & Trucks in Farmingdale.


According to the Federal Trade Commission’s website, “Before you arrange to have any work performed, ask how the shop prices its work. Some shops charge a flat rate for labor on auto repairs. This published rate is based on an independent or manufacturer’s estimate of the time required to complete repairs. Others charge on the basis of the actual time the technician worked on the repair.”

“Many insurance companies have preferred providers that they recommend for service,” noted Williams. “I always suggest that customers consider that option, but they should shop around for a repair shop that they feel comfortable with. Often, this can be a dealership where the person purchased the vehicle or a place that’s been recommended to them.”

“While the process might be streamlined by going with a shop recommended by your insurance company, remember you have the right to choose where to go,” said Lavoie. “Your insurance company cannot require you to go to a particular shop.”

Also, the FTC tells consumers, “Find out if there will be a diagnostic charge if you decide to have the work performed elsewhere. Many repair shops charge for diagnostic time. Shops that do only diagnostic work and do not sell parts or repairs may be able to give you an objective opinion about which repairs are necessary.”

Consumers are often confused by repair estimates that can vary considerably from one collision center to another. Local experts recommend getting at least two or three estimates for repair work to be done.

“Differences in collision repair estimates are common,” said Lavoie. “An estimate is written to the specifications of the individual insurance company. It may be very different as to whether a company allows used parts or if it requires only new parts. The specifications are very clear on what they will allow or not allow.”


Lavoie noted that a used fender might cost about $125 while a new factory-parts fender might be over $500. That could be the difference from one estimate to another.

“Some insurance companies allow recycled parts,” said Lavoie, “others don’t. Just don’t get hung up on the numbers. And remember that they are just estimates. You never know what you will find until you begin the repair.”

“You should do your research on prices and hourly rates,” said Williams, when comparing repair estimates. He said that usually customers ultimately choose a place for repair work because they have the experience to do the job and the customer trusts them to do the repairs.

In order to get a repair estimate the vehicle owner should remember to bring their vehicle registration and insurance information. Many collision centers now offer arrangements for a rental vehicle while a vehicle is being repaired. It is important to know that not all insurance companies cover car rental costs.

“A lot of folks think they have full coverage, but that does not include rental,” said Lavoie who added that people are more stressed about paying out-of-pocket expenses for a car rental than they are about paying an insurance deductible. “The average rental premium for a small car for up to 30 days coverage can be only $20 a year. It is the best ‘bang for your buck’ you can have on your policy.”

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