Car insurance: Should I choose my own repairer or use the insurers?
There are pros and cons for both.
When you’re getting your car repaired, most Australian car insurance policies let you decide between choosing your own repairer or going with one of the insurer’s approved mechanics.
In both cases you will generally need to have repairs approved by the insurer ahead of time.
Which should I choose?
You should pick whichever you feel is best for you. This guide isn’t recommending any particular course of action, but if you’re having trouble deciding you might want to consider the following points.
Why choose your own repairer?
If you have a vintage car, a prestige vehicle or something that otherwise needs a special touch from an experienced mechanic, it’s probably best to stick with your own repairer, especially if you’ve been with them for a while.
If there’s any one workshop or mechanic who knows your car better than anyone else then that could be the place to go. There’s something to be said for familiarity, and they’re also going to have an idea of the car’s service history.
Plus, you’d be doing your good friends at the workshop a disservice by not taking a job to them when it comes up.
Most of all, it can be convenient. The insurer’s approved repairer might be further away or might have a big backlog. You could be stuck without a car for longer than you need to be.
Why choose the insurer's repairer?
If you’re pretty indifferent either way, you might choose to just go with one of the insurer’s recommended, referred or approved insurers.
It’s usually a lot easier and more streamlined. You won’t have to go back and forth with quotes and whether or not fixes are justified, and you don’t have to worry about your insurance knocking back certain repairs, or only covering partial costs.
If your chosen repairer has quoted a higher price than the insurer’s then the insurer might ask you to pay the difference. You generally don’t have to worry about that if you go with the insurer’s approved repairers. This is because insurers and their repairers contact each other directly, so you can be more confident that repairs have been approved before they’re carried out.
But the most important reason is that the “lifetime repair guarantee” you’ll find with many car insurance policies will only apply to repairers that have been recommended by the insurer.
It makes sense. The insurance company obviously can’t vouch for the quality of every repairer but will happily stand by its own.
If the repairs fail or are botched in some way, the insurer can make it right. If you choose your own repairer and then those botched repairs end up causing damage to your car, it’s safe to say you won’t be able to claim that subsequent damage under your car insurance.
At the end of the day…
Unless you have a compelling reason to choose your own repairer and are confident in their honesty and skillfulness, you might be better off going with whoever the insurer suggests, and let them worry about it.
Using your own repairer has risks and downsides that using the insurer’s repairer doesn’t, so you need to have a good reason before making that decision.
There’s a common perception that an insurer’s repairers are more likely to skimp on materials and perform a more cut-rate job than your own trusted mechanics, but if you think about it that doesn’t make a lot of sense.
- Thanks to that lifetime guarantee, insurers are financially responsible for bad repairs. If an insurer’s mechanic does dodgy work they’ll be costing the insurer a lot of money and will be dropped like a hot stone. If an independent mechanic does dodgy work they might just get some bad reviews.
- The insurer’s mechanics aren’t always direct employees of the insurance company; often they are standalone businesses whose quality has been confirmed by the insurer. The insurer sends work their way precisely because they know it gets quoted accurately and is going to be done well. That’s a more valuable arrangement to the mechanic than however much time or money they might save by doing a dodgy job.
- An insurer’s approved mechanic is probably under more scrutiny and has a clearer track record of their work. If one of them isn’t up to scratch, it’s going to stand out a lot more than a substandard independent mechanic.
Either way, the choice is yours. As long as you clear it with your insurer first.