Need to know
- Most car insurance policies have an option to choose your own repairer after an accident, but it may mean you'll pay a higher premium
- If you’re concerned about the quality of your insurer’s repair network, you may want to choose your own repairer
- Some insurers have strict limitations on the option to choose your own repairer
Many insurers have a preferred network of repairers they use to fix your vehicle if it's been in an accident.
But if you have specific requirements for your car, an existing relationship with a repairer, or you just really want to keep a close eye on what's being done with your prized possession, you may prefer to choose your own repairer.
What is 'choice of repairer' in car insurance?
Car insurance policies that offer a 'choice of repairer' let you choose your own repairer if your vehicle has been in an accident. Some policies may include a choice of repairer as a policy feature, others may not cover it at all, and some insurers will give you the option to pay more to have your own choice of repairer.
If you don't have a 'choice of repairer' option, the insurer will choose the repairer. There are good and bad points to either option.
Is it a good idea to have choice of repairer in your car insurance?
If you're like most people, you won't have car accidents too often, and you won't be a smash repair expert. You may have a regular relationship with your car mechanic, but it's unlikely you'll be on a first name basis with a smash repairer. So if you do have an accident, it can be helpful to have a car insurer take over the repair process for you.
The ACCC says insurers' preferred repairer schemes may offer the benefit of timely and efficient repairs, and be helpful in managing payments and recovery costs with repairers.
Pros of letting the insurer choose the repairer
Here's why it can be handy to have an insurer take over the repair process for you:
- You don't have to get involved, or talk with insurers and repairers about something that you don't know much about.
- The insurer will do the price negotiation with the repairer, not you.
- You should only be out of pocket the amount of your excess at most. (If you choose your own repairer, you may have to pay the balance between what the repairer charges and what the insurer thinks it should pay.)
- You'll have a lifetime guarantee on repairs with the insurer, instead of the repairer's guarantee.
Cons of letting the insurer choose the repairer
On the other hand, there may be some possible drawbacks to letting an insurer choose the repairer:
- Travel to and from the repairer may be further and more inconvenient than if you choose your own repairer near where you live.
- Long waiting times if there's a large backlog of repairs with the insurer's chosen repairer (although insurers will contend their repair networks are faster).
- You can't choose a specialist repairer that you trust with your vehicle.
- Motor trades associations express concern that insurers pressure repairers to skimp on repair jobs to save costs.
History of complaints
In a submission to a review of NSW's motor vehicle repairs laws, the Financial Rights Legal Centre said they had received many complaints of:
- Poor repairs that have needed the policy holder to go back to the insurer to rectify.
- Consumers having to hire independent assessors to prove repairs are poor.
- Repairs taking an unreasonable amount of time.
- Repairers leaving the car unroadworthy.
- Cars being determined as a total loss, but consumers not being told.
Car insurance policies that offer choice of repairer
The insurers listed below let you choose your repairer under their comprehensive policy. If cover is listed as 'optional', you'll pay extra to choose your own repairer.
Check the insurer's Product Disclosure Statement for any limitations on the choice of your repairer.
Limitations on choice of repairer in car insurance
Insurers often limit your choice of repairer. If you're in an accident, don't just select a repairer yourself and then tell your insurer about your choice – it could end up costing you money if the insurer doesn't agree with your choice of repairer.
Read the fine print of your policy and check with your insurer before choosing a repairer.
The most common limitations on 'choosing your own repairer' are:
- You get to choose a quote, but not the repairer. Under these conditions you get a quote from a repairer of your choice, but the insurer may only approve using your repairer if the quote meets the insurer's standards for 'safety, compliance and price'. You don't get to choose your own repairer so much as choose your own quote – which the insurer reserves the right to decline.
- You get a cash settlement. If the insurer doesn't agree with your choice of repairer, they may choose to cash settle your claim to the value the insurer determines is reasonable, leaving you to pay the remaining difference to the smash repairer out of your own pocket.
Lifetime guarantee for car insurance repairs
All insurers offer a lifetime guarantee for repairs, but the guarantee can vary:
- If you choose your own repairer, the lifetime guarantee may not apply.
- Sometimes the 'lifetime' guarantee may only be for as long as you own the car. The next owner isn't entitled to your insurer's guarantee.
Stock images: Getty, unless otherwise stated.