Why do Collision Repair Shop Estimates Differ Between Shops?

Chances are, if you’ve been in an accident or if your vehicle was vandalized or damaged by weather, you’ve been shopping around for repairs. You may have noticed that lots of the advice online recommends comparing estimates at different repair shops. But, if your car has the same damage, why would different repair shops give you different estimates? Which one should you trust?

There are a lot of reasons an estimate may vary from shop to shop, and understanding what they are can help you make an educated decision about which shop should repair your car.

The materials used can vary.

Different shops use different tools, different materials like paints, plastics, screws, welding, etc. and different hardware and software in their computer systems. All of these can add up to varied estimates.

Not all replacement parts are created equally.

There are several different options when it comes to materials used for replacement parts, and some are better than others, depending on your needs. The cost of these replacement parts varies too! Usually, your options are OEM (original equipment manufacturer) parts, non-OEM parts, or recycled parts.

Different locations cost different amounts.

If you’re taking your car to the middle of town, rent prices or taxes or general overhead for your repair shop are likely to be higher, as is the cost of hiring employees who can afford to live nearby. Taking your car to a less expensive area means the shop will have lower overhead costs.

Experience and the need to get your business.

More experienced shops with loyal customers and an established reputation can afford to charge more because they have too many clients, while newer, less experienced or less established repair shops may need to take any business they can get at any price.

Estimate qualities aren’t always the same.

There are a lot of debates going on in the automotive industry at the moment about how to correctly estimate and perform repairs. Most of this is due to the rapid evolution of automotive technology, but the standard hasn’t yet been set. Some shops may perform a more thorough repair that requires them to dismantle your vehicle, some may have fancy equipment and use sensors, some may base estimates on photographs, and some may rely on insurance company regulations more than others. Some shops may tend to overestimate while others tend to underestimate. It’s always a good idea to ask questions so that you understand exactly how your estimate was done and how it could change as repairs start.

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Understanding Your Car Insurance Policy

Car insurance is a legal requirement for drivers in most states, but understanding an auto insurance policy is not an easy task. It’s important to know what your coverage includes now whether you’re choosing a new policy or you have one that you’ve never (or rarely) used, before you’re in an accident, so we’ve put together a basic explanation to help you get started.

Liability Coverage

Generally, liability coverage is the minimum required insurance. It covers accidental damage to property or personal injury caused to an accident to the other party involved in a crash but not for you, your vehicle, or your passengers.

Injury and property damage can include medical expenses, lost wages, property in addition to a damaged vehicle, or court costs, depending on your policy.

Collision Coverage

When your vehicle is damaged in a collision with another vehicle or an object, this covers the cost to repair it, up to your policy limit.

Comprehensive Coverage

If your vehicle is damaged from something other than a collision with another vehicle or an object, this covers the cost to repair it, up to your policy limit. Comprehensive coverage includes things like vandalism, theft, floods, or storm damage.

Personal Injury Protection (PIP)

Sometimes, PIP is required by law. It covers your medical costs if you’re injured in an accident.

Uninsured Motorist Coverage

If you’re in an accident with an uninsured driver and they can’t afford to pay for things like your medical costs or repair bills out of pocket, this covers it. It’s meant to cover what the other driver’s liability insurance would have covered if they had it.

Underinsured Motorist Coverage

Similar to uninsured motorist coverage, underinsured motorist coverage covers what the other driver’s liability insurance is unable to cover. If the other driver is underinsured, it means that the money they owe you is beyond their policy limit, and this policy kicks in there to make up the difference.

Other Kinds of Insurance Coverage

There are many kinds of auto insurance coverage available, and you can often choose to combine them in personalized ways. Your insurance provider can help you to understand them better!

If you are in an accident, remember that your insurance policy may or may not cover the cost of the damage, and the other driver’s insurance may or may not, depending on the policies and on the accident. However, your insurance company can never tell you where to have your vehicle repaired – that’s always up to you.

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How to Handle an Out of State Road Trip Car Accident

Car accidents are stressful at any time of the year, in any weather, no matter where you’re driving. But during the summer, with so many more drivers on the road, driving in unfamiliar places, an out of state car accident is much more likely!

Do you know what to do when you’re in an accident out of state? Do you know if your insurance covers you when you’re out of state? What about finding a new auto repair shop, or visiting a doctor?

Auto Insurance Check-Up

Before you embark on a road trip, call your auto insurance company to verify that they cover you where you’re going. Most policies cover you in the 48 contiguous states. Your insurance company can provide you with out-of-state policy details.

Traffic Laws Check-Up

Do a quick google for the states you’ll be driving through and verify that the traffic laws are the same. It is unlikely that they’ll be much different, but some states do have varied laws. Keep an eye out for road signs while you’re there!

Document your Accident Thoroughly and Immediately

You are in a new place, you’re not a local, and it won’t be as easy for you to get information and documentation later as it would if you were home.

  • Call the police and make a police report. Make sure to get a copy or have one sent to you as soon as possible.
  • Get the contact and insurance information from the other driver and make sure it is accurate. Write down their license plate number and vehicle make and model.
  • Take photos of the scene, including the street signs, the vehicles, the location, and any people who are nearby.
  • Talk to anyone who witnessed the accident and get witness statements, names, and contact information.
  • Write down what happened as best as you can remember it.

Do you need a doctor?

If you need to go to the hospital, go. If you are concerned that you might need to see a doctor, do it now. Don’t risk your health because you are in an unfamiliar place.

Consider a Lawyer

If you think you might need a lawyer, you’ll need one in the state where the accident occurred. You can ask for references or you can ask a lawyer in your home state for a referral, but don’t give an official statement to anyone except the police if you’re considering a lawyer, even if an insurance adjuster shows up.

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Green Car Tips for an Eco-Friendly Driver

Whether your car is old or new, built to be green or not, we can all make our vehicles and our driving habits a little more eco-friendly. If you’re trying to minimize your footprint, these are a few things you can do without giving up your car or shelling out for a new hybrid or electric version.

Stay on top of regular maintenance.

The more well-maintained your car is, the better it will run. The better it runs, the more efficiently it uses fuel and minimizes the pollution it emits. It’ll also help your car last longer! So, what kinds of maintenance are we talking about?

● Replace your air filters regularly,
● Change your oil regularly,
● Make repairs quickly when things go wrong,
● Don’t ignore dashboard warning lights,
● Check your tire pressure regularly
● Check your spark plugs, and
● Attend your regular check-ups!

Drive better to maximize fuel efficiency.

Believe it or not, with any car, the way you drive can affect your fuel economy and how eco-friendly your car is. It may seem like being green is more expensive, but in this case it’s saving you a lot of money at the gas pump! These are some better driving tips for being green.

● Follow the speed limit,
● Don’t accelerate or brake quickly,
● When you can, use cruise control,
● Park in the shade so your car doesn’t get too hot in the sun,
● Use your air conditioning only when necessary, and
● Drive with the windows down only at speeds under 40 mph.

Make better choices when it comes to using your vehicle.

There are a lot of things you can do to use your car better, making it more efficient.

● Consolidate your errands into fewer trips, grouping similar errands together
● Don’t store things in your car; the more weight you add the more fuel it requires to move
● When you fill your gas tank, stop when the nozzle turns off the first time

Ask your mechanic the right questions.

Your mechanic might have some tips that are specific to your location, your vehicle, and your driving history. Don’t be afraid to ask!

● What can I do with my car to help the environment?
● Where can I take used materials like oil and other fluids for safe recycling?
● Is there material in my car that isn’t environmentally friendly that could be replaced with one that is?

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Car Interior Cleaning Basics

When it’s time to change the oil in your car or you need to have the muffler replaced or you’ve been in an accident, there are tons of things to consider, from where to have the work done to what kind of parts to use to how the repairs or upkeep will affect the value of your vehicle.

Everyday wear and tear and regular use of your vehicle wears down all of its parts, inside and out. One of the best things you can do on a regular basis to maintain your vehicle’s value is to keep it clean, inside and out.

Keep your seats clean.

The best way to keep your seats clean is to cover them, especially if you have cloth seats or children. If you prefer not to use seat covers, regularly wiping and vacuuming your seats should keep them in good shape.

Use floor mats and clean the carpets.

Cars come with floor mats for one reason: to make them easier to clean. Simply shaking the dirt and debris off of the removable floor mats on a regular basis is a good way to keep them clean. If you can vacuum once a month, clean spills immediately, and remove stains as soon as possible, your floor will be in much better shape.

Dust and wipe the dashboard.

After the floor, one of the most noticeable kinds of dirt in a car is dust, especially on the dashboard. Wipe it down monthly to keep your car looking (and smelling) new. Leaving dust on the dash means you probably also have dust in the ceiling and on the floor, which can also trap smells from smoke, fast food, moisture, and more.

Keep the cup holders clear.

Cup holders tend to be where we store things from drinks and change to trash and lip balm. Cars can be exposed to extreme temperatures inside, and it’s easy to end up with a big mess on your hands.

Keep things smelling fresh.

All of the cloth in your car’s interior is a trap for smells, which can build from dust, dirt, mud, food, smoke, moisture, and your gym bag that lives in your trunk. After vacuuming all the cloth, spray it with a mixture of one part vinegar to two parts water and leave the windows and/or doors open until it dries. Your car will be scent-free in no time.

 

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Why Are Accidents so Common in the Summer?

It may seem like there are reasons why each season is more full of car accidents than any other, but the truth is that the changing of the seasons leads to more accidents than anything else. Each season brings new weather and changes in the behavior of people, plants, and animals, all of which can affect things like visibility and the safety of road conditions. So, what changes in the summer can make accidents more likely than at any other time of the year?

School is Out!

When school gets out for the summer, it means there are lots of youngsters running around, whether they’re behind the wheel or playing outside. Younger children and their families may be walking in neighborhoods, playing at parks, and kicking balls that end up in the street, so watch out for extra distractions. Older kids, on the other hand, may be old enough to get behind the wheel, populating the road with a higher number of inexperienced and easily distracted drivers.

Construction Season Begins

The more road construction there is, the more likely it is that drivers are taking unfamiliar detours, temporary signs and signals are in place, and traffic lanes are shut down. Keep your eyes peeled for these new road rules that you (and other drivers) may not be used to.

Summer Heat

The heat of the summer can bring all kinds of changes, from overheating cars and an increase in tire blowouts to more motorcycles and bicycles on the road. Keep an eye out for hard to see cyclists! Summer heat is also more damaging to your vehicle, so make sure that your tires are properly inflated and your fluid levels are where they should be.

Vacation Season Begins

Summer is the most popular tourist and vacation time of the year all over the world. The chances are higher now that there will be foreign drivers, out of towners who don’t know the local roads, people relying on GPS navigation systems and trying to operate phones while driving than at other times. Keep an eye out for distracted or lost drivers, and make sure not to drive distracted!

Vacation season also means people are more likely to stay up late, drink more alcohol, and let loose. Driving under the influence is never a good idea, but keep an eye out for those who start earlier in the day or who may be tired from the night before.

 

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A Basic Guide to Automobile Fluids

Automobiles are made of lots of moving parts, but they can’t run without liquids to fuel them, keep them lubricated, and help them work. This is a basic guide to the fluids your vehicle depends on and the importance of auto maintenance.

Engine Oil

After fuel, which is absolutely necessary for any non-electric vehicle to run, engine oil is the next most important fluid in your car. It has several purposes: it keeps things cool, it keeps them lubricated, it prevents friction, and it cleans the engine.
Most cars have a stick that allows you to easily check the color, consistency, and level of the engine oil. It’s important to keep enough in your car and to change the oil and its filter regularly.

Brake Fluid

Brakes are one of the most important systems in any car, especially when it comes to safety. Modern brakes are hydraulic, which means they only work because of the fluid in the system. Over time, brake fluid can be contaminated or the system can fail, so if you notice your brake fluid leaking or your brakes aren’t working properly, it’s time to have them checked out.

Power Steering Fluid
This fluid helps make steering, especially at lower speeds, much easier. Without power steering fluid, every time you turn the wheel you’d be fighting the friction between the rubber tires and the road, which are designed to grip!

Windshield Wiper Fluid

Although you can drive your car safely without windshield wiper fluid, it still plays a role in helping you see where you’re driving. It’s easy to maintain and inexpensive to buy, just make sure it’s full so you have it when you need it.

Coolant

Coolant, or antifreeze, is a special kind of liquid designed to absorb heat and prevent the engine from overheating. There are several ways that coolant can work in the engine, but without enough coolant, your engine is likely to overheat and stop working properly.

Transmission Fluid

Transmission fluid plays a role in the transmission similar to that played by engine oil in the engine: lubrication, cooling, and reduction of friction. While transmission fluid shouldn’t require upkeep, if you notice issues with your transmission, errors in manufacture, contamination, or damage caused in an accident could be to blame — check your transmission fluid.

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Steps in the Collision Repair Process

If you haven’t been in an accident before, the process, from collision to paid and repaired vehicle, can seem confusing. We’ve put together a simple list to help un-complicate the process for you.

The Accident

At the accident, make sure you do the following:

 

● Take photos of the scene, preferably before any of the vehicles have moved. If possible, you should clear the road soon after.
● Make sure everyone is okay. Call an ambulance.
● Exchange contact and insurance information with the other driver. This includes name, address, phone number, email address, insurance name and policy, etc.
● Contact the police. Get witness contact information and statements – the police may do this.
● Give your insurance company an unbiased account of what happened.

Towing

If your car is badly damaged, it may not be drivable after the accident. If you need a tow, it saves time and money to already have a repair shop selected. Remember – you don’t have to go to the shop your insurance company suggests! They are obligated to work with any repair shop of your choosing.

Estimates

An estimate will give you an approximate cost for repairs to your vehicle. Your insurance company may decide that your car is totaled if the cost of repairs is more than the value of the vehicle. An estimate shouldn’t take long, and you shouldn’t need an appointment.

Repair Appointment

Once you, the repair shop, and the insurance company have agreed on repairs, you can schedule a repair appointment at the shop of your choosing. You’ll have to sign a form to authorize the repairs, and you may owe your insurance company a deductible depending on your policy.

The cost of repairs will depend on the insurance policy you have. Damages caused in the accident should be covered by a collision policy. If you’re in a state that assigns fault and the accident was your fault, you will need collision coverage to cover the cost of your vehicle and not just the other vehicle. If the accident wasn’t your fault, the other party’s insurance company should pay for your repairs. If their insurance doesn’t cover enough, or if the other party doesn’t have coverage, you’ll need to pay out of pocket or have an uninsured/underinsured motorist package included in your policy. Check with your insurance company if you aren’t sure. Your insurance policy may also cover a rental car during repairs, but it depends on the policy you have.

Car Pick-Up

Don’t be afraid to ask questions about your repair. When you pick up your car, it should be in the same condition it was in prior to the accident.

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Preventing Pothole Damage

After each winter, the number of potholes on the road seems to multiply. Unfortunately, the damage a pothole can do to your vehicle is potentially devastating, so it’s important to be on the lookout for potholes and learn how to minimize the damage. Believe it or not, there are several things you can do to prevent pothole damage from destroying your car.

Leave plenty of space between you and the vehicle in front of you on the road.

While this is good safe driving advice and required by law in many places anyway, leaving space between you and the car in front of you gives you time to spot a pothole as you approach it, and if possible, avoid it. Never swerve suddenly to avoid a pothole; you may cause a much worse accident hitting another vehicle, person, biker, oncoming traffic, or a solid object.

Drive slower.

This may not seem like an ideal solution, but you’re more likely to suffer damage if you hit a pothole going fast than if you hit it going slowly. Ultimately, you’ll make it to your destination faster if you don’t have to stop and check out pothole damage.

Look out for puddles.

A puddle might be a small divot in the road that you hardly notice, or it could be a car-killing foot-deep pothole, just hiding under a pool of water. Be careful, slow down, and think of your poor tires.

Avoid sudden braking.

If you don’t have enough time to slow down before hitting a pothole, resist the urge to swerve out of the way sharply or brake too suddenly and harshly. Braking quickly compresses the front suspension, lowering the front of the vehicle, which can force the wheel deeper into the pothole and make it harder for it to come out the other side, rather than allowing it to glide over the top. While not ideal, gliding over the top is better for your vehicle in the long run.

Keep your tires properly inflated.

If you hit a pothole with under-inflated or overinflated tires, they’re less likely to hold up and more likely to suffer damage. Flat tires are a common result of hitting a pothole.

If you do hit a pothole, stop and check for damage as soon as possible.

The longer you drive a damaged vehicle, the more likely it is that the damage will grow. Check your tires, be aware of your steering and alignment, and if you are uncertain, have a technician take a look.

Pay attention to your steering.

One of the first things a pothole can affect is your steering and alignment, so make sure not to swerve when you hit a pothole, and pay attention to your alignment following a hit.

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Small Changes to Drive Green

Going green, eating green, and protecting the environment are terms we hear all over the place now. It may seem like the latest trend, but do you know how easy it is to do?

Benefits of ‘Going Green’

Not only is green healthier for you and for the environment, it can save you some green by keeping more money in your pocket.

● Reducing the amount of fuel you use can improve air quality. This isn’t only important for the future of the earth – you’re breathing the same air that vehicles pollute right now.

● Increasing your gas mileage, meaning you get more miles out of every gallon you purchase, can help you save money. On average, getting 30 miles per gallon instead of 20 can save about $1,000 a year.

We’ve put together a list of a few simple things you can do to drive green.

● Check your tire pressure. Low pressure can cost you an extra tank of gas every year.

● Don’t carry extra things with you. Take only what you need – every additional 100 pounds reduces your gas mileage by around two percent.

● Change your oil regularly. If you notice your mileage dropping, you may be due for an oil change – that’s how much of a difference it can make.

● Slow down. Driving over 60 miles per hour reduces your mileage, even if the speed limit is over 60. The more you speed, the lower your mileage.

● Take your time to stop and go. Stopping and starting abruptly is one of the best ways to decrease your mileage. According to the North Carolina Department of Transportation (NCDOT), it can affect mileage by 40 percent.

● Don’t idle unnecessarily. It’s better to turn your car off than to idle, in addition to wasting fuel, it can wear out your engine faster.

● As the weather warms, stay cool the right way. According to fueleconomy.gov, it’s best to use your air conditioning on the highway only, and roll down the windows at lower speeds.

● Avoid rooftop cargo if you can. Summer sports and vacations may call for equipment that won’t fit inside your car, but it’s better to mount them on the back than on top to reduce wind resistance. Remove it when you don’t need to use it!

● Use cruise control. Maintaining a constant speed, especially on the highway, will save fuel by minimizing the time you’re accelerating.

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