CBS Shines Spotlight on Lowball Estimates - BodyShop Business

CBS Shines Spotlight on Lowball Estimates

CBS 6 News out of Albany, New York recently focused on what one body shop owner called "lowball’ estimates relating to a recent hailstorm.

In response to a customer’s dissatisfaction with the estimate Allstate wrote for hail damage to his 1996 Lincoln Town Car, Robert Ensign, owner of Ensign’s Auto Body in Albany, said lowball estimates are a growing trend.

"[Insurance companies] are taking advantage of consumers," Ensign said. "They’re trying to manipulate every little five-dollar deal all the way through the car."

According to Ensign, the damage to the customer’s car will cost at least $9,000 to fix. But Allstate only offered to pay $2,400. Since the independent estimate exceeds the car’s worth, the vehicle is considered to be a total.

According to the CBS 6 News report, an Allstate spokeswoman said that the customer’s situation had changed and that he would be "satisfied’ with the result but didn’t say he would be reimbursed in full.  

Ensign said that when a consumer calls his or her insurance company to report a low estimate, the insurer will often recommend its own direct-repair shop. The New York State Auto Collision Technicians Association alleges many of those shops provide subpar work.

CBS 6 reported earlier this month that the New York State Insurance Department is investigating those claims.

When CBS 6 contacted John Capuano, associate examiner of the New York State Insurance Department, he said what all collision repairers know and constantly tell their customers — that insurers cannot steer consumers toward a particular shop. "[But] the insurance company has to provide the consumer — upon [his or her] request — with the name of a repair shop that will do the repairs for the amount of their estimate."

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