Insurers Cut Out The Middleman, Open Own Repair Shops

Insurance companies are opening their own in-house repair shops to avoid haggling with your local mechanic. Local mechanics consistently complain that insurance companies are cheapskates that would rather save a buck than authorize the repairs needed to safely return a car to the road. By opening their own shops, insurers have found the corporate equivalent of sticking your finger in your ear while mouthing “I can’t hear you!”

Rather than putting the onus on customers to find a body shop, get an estimate and arrange a rental car, Progressive, Geico and others are setting up one-stop service centers to handle every aspect of the claim.

Progressive and Geico guarantee their repairs for life, though it’s difficult to trust someone who has a direct interest in keeping the repair bill low. Two customers interviewed by the Times found obvious defects in the insurance companies’ workmanship. Still, the customers left happy, not because their cars worked, but because they were treated well by smiling insurance company representatives. — CAREY GREENBERG-BERGER

One-Stop Car Insurance Service, Body Work Included [NYT]
(Photo: Michael (mx5tx))

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  1. Mr. Black says:

    At least now when I get screwed it’ll take less time & paperwork.

  2. Crazytree says:

    let them. you don’t have to use the insurance body shops.

    and if they try and change language to force you to, I’m sure the state AG would be all over them.

  3. notallcompaniesarebad says:

    Houston art car parade!

  4. BuddhaLite says:

    Allstate owns Sterling Autobody and it’s the last place we bought our car when it needed work done. Not only was the work done in a timely manner but it also made working with the insurance company a non issue.

  5. Chicago7 says:

    Ha. How about that? Somebody actually something nice to say about Allstate. It’s a first, in my experience.

  6. invaderzim says:


    In the last 10 years I have had body work done at 3 different repair shops. It was the AllState ‘get 3 estimates’ and the lowest gets to do the job type of thing. I was only happy with 1 of the repairs… the other 2 required return trips and once even a fight with the service guy.

    A few months ago my wife had someone barely brush the back bumper of her Elantra. All it did was scrape the paint a bit. The estimates – $400 to $500. This is crazy… body shops are getting as bad as doctors and health insurance. The insurance agent even told me to name drop her agents name and tell them to give me a deal – they thought $400 was deal.

    So… bring it on… I’m happy insurers are cutting these body shops out. They have done nothing for me.

  7. JennaLewis says:

    Progressive Insurance is not opening their own “in house” repair centers. When you have claim, they give you the option of dropping your claim off at their service center or use your own repairman.

    If you choose the repair center, you drop the car off. They estimate the repairs and send it off to a neighboorhood repairman. You fill out your paperwork and pick up your rental car at the same time. When the car gets back, they re-evaluate the repair job and you pick the car up.

    If you choose your own repairman, then that works too. You pick up your own rental car on your own time. You evaluate the repair on your own time. This works too.

    http://claims.progressive.com/concierge_service.aspx

  8. LatherRinseRepeat says:

    No way. A couple times in the past, I’ve used the body shops recommended by my insurance company and the quality of work was lacking. The paint color was off by a couple of shades and there was overspray here and there. Plus, they used aftermarket parts for the headlight assembly other plastic parts.

    I can only foresee poor quality workmanship from these all-in-one repair shops. If you’re not a car fanatic, then it’s probably no big deal.

  9. Rider says:

    Wow wait Car repair shops are trustworty and don’t run up bills? My local shop walks down the block to Advanced Auto Parts and then charges 500% profit on parts. Not to mention what they do when a single woman walks in off the street. If they gurantee the repairs for life seems like enough of a motivation to fix it right, more so then my local repair shop.

  10. kenposan says:

    First I’ll say that American Family has allowed me to get work done wherever I’ve wanted and paid the bill without hassle.

    This guy http://www.3cbodyshop.com/ is going make one hell of a rebuttal commercial out of this. He constantly rips on insurance companies for low-grade parts, using cheap shops, etc.

  11. EtherealStrife says:

    @LatherRinseRepeat: Ditto that. In my case the ballsy bastards went so far as to refuse a repaint after they put my license plate on wet paint. And left it there. For 3 days. “you’re required by law to have a license plate on at all times, so it won’t matter.”
    AAA recommended has come to mean they screw you at every opportunity. And same as lather, the place I went to used cheapo plastic parts to replace metal in the headlight assembly. FixIt sucks.

  12. Roundonbothends says:

    Nineteen months ago, after being a Geico customer for two years, I got my newly purchased pickup truck in a cluster-truck in the middle of Nowhere, GA. The Dodge dealer twenty miles away came and towed the truck in. We called Geico from the dealership on Friday. On Wednesday, the adjuster came. The dealership had the truck disassembled with a multi-page repair proposal. They talked, and agreed to continue with the repair. On that Friday, they discovered more damage, sent pictures to Geico, and the adjuster agreed.

    Two weeks later, the truck looked and drove like new again. I ended up paying nothing because GA has a “dimunition of value” law that covered the deductible.

    All the folks at Geico I was in contact with were professional, considerate, helpful, and prompt.

    If they hold to the standards they have dealing with other shops, in-house shops may not be such a bad idea.

    And yes, the repairs came with a lifetime warranty.

    I was impressed by the way Geico handled the claim.

  13. bob9 says:

    No no no…

    Take your car to a GM, Ford, Chrysler, Honda etc… certified body repair shop. You don’t want to end up with a used sway bar in your front end.

  14. swalve says:

    I’d rather have a used OEM part than some reverse engineered piece of junk. The trick is to INSIST upon proper OEM parts no matter where you go.

    Independent repair shops are in business to make money. So is the insurance company. Their goals are at odds. That’s why the local guys say insurance companies are cheap- they want to make more profit. So they use the cheapest parts they can get their hands on and work fast and shoddy. As long as the insurance company is somewhat honest, their in-house repair shop is going to be a better deal for them, and for you. I see no problem with it.

  15. enm4r says:

    I’ve needed to take my car for major repairs after accidents twice, and both times I used the USAA recommended shop near me. After the first experience, I would have gone back anyway. But the work is guaranteed for life since it’s at a shop they approved of, and all of the paperwork was taken care of. I paid the shop my portion of the deductible, and never worried or spoke to USAA about anything again. It couldn’t have been easier, and I’d do it again in a second.

  16. Crazytree says:

    I got into an accident once, the other party admitted fault, so I was in the driver’s seat… so to speak.

    Found the best place in the area. Told them I wanted it fixed there. No problem.

  17. critical_matt says:

    Progressive’s service centers are not repair shops, and they don’t plan on ever opening their own shops. They have you bring in the car and have a network of local body shops available for the repair. They check the shop against their volume and send the car to the place that can get the work done the quickest. You leave the car, get your rental, and they get the car to the shop. I’m not cheerleading for them. I worked there and hated it.

  18. Mr. Gunn says:

    It’s like an HMO for your car! What could possibly go wrong?

  19. protest says:

    my friend borrowed my car and wrecked the front end, progressive still covered the damages but convinced me to get it repaired through them and not the independent shop who towed it for me. the car ran perfectly but the paint job on my hood was crap, there was a perfect hand print of dust on it. i took it to a progressive office and told them i wanted the paint redone, they agreed. a few months later the paint was chipping off, i could flake it with a fingernail! this time progressive said it had been too long since the paint was redone to blame them, they said it was due to driving “wear and tear.”

  20. full.tang.halo says:

    Having just had my BMW repaired from an accident that was my fault, and the my dad having his Explorer fixed from being backed into by a box van. I can say that there is a difference between progressives’ altitude in having cars fixed. When the Explorer was fixed at the other companies expense they insisted on all OEM parts. With my BMW they tried to stick me with non OEM ever thing under the sun. I had to have the crappy parts ordered in and then fitted, go to my shop, recommended from the main BMW Dealer in Tampa, and look at it. It would not look right, then have it taken off and OEM parts ordered and fitted. The amount of money and time wasted was amazing. What should have taken one and a half weeks to get fixed ended up taking 3 weeks. All over less than 600 bucks in OEM parts.

  21. TinaB says:

    I was recently in an accident with a Progressive customer who admitted fault. I took it to a Progressive service center, got a rental at the same location, and a week later my car was fixed. The Progressive service center just took it to one of their body shops to get the work done. It supposedly has a lifetime warranty on what they did (pop out a dent, paint, labor yadda yadda) but I’m already noticing that the paint job on my quarter-panel looks like crap. It’s starting to fade, and it’s been about a month or two. So while it was super easy to do everything at the same place, I’d recommend an authorized dealer repair shop.

  22. couriergrrrrl says:

    I WAS a Progressive customer until I was in an accident which was in no way my fault and sent my truck to their shop to be repaired. When I picked up the truck I noticed right away that the plastic insert under the wheel well was missing. I told the poeple at the shop and their response was “That could not have come off in this accident. There isn’t enough damage to that part of the car and that piece was missing when you brought the vehicle in.” I explained that yes, it was missing when I brought the vehicle in, because the firemen had to pull it off so I could move the truck from the roadway. After 2 weeks and several conversations with various supervisors I finally got my truck fixed, but I had enough and switched over to Nationwide.

  23. Tonguetied says:

    Is it the law in all 50 states that you can choose who you want to repair your car? I know it is in Texas but don’t know about the rest of them.

    Every time I’ve had the insurance covering a repair I have selected which shop I wanted to do the work. I never even had the insurance company make a recomendation.