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Some collision-repair specialists don’t mind using aftermarket parts, some do. For those who do mind, how do they deal with having to use them when an insurance company says
To find out, we asked shop owners and managers across the
country: Have you ever been forced to use aftermarket parts?
If so, how did you handle the situation? What do you tell your
customers? What do most customers think about aftermarket parts?
Does using aftermarket parts affect your warranty? What advice
could you give other shop owners to best handle the situation?
"Yes, I’m forced every day. We call and
order aftermarket parts, put two bolts in them, stick them on
the car, and call [the insurance companies] to tell them they
don’t fit; they come out and take a picture, and they say, ‘Go
ahead and order the original equipment.’ That’s the only way around
it. [Customers] usually already signed the forms saying it’s OK
to use them because they don’t know what they’re signing. We don’t
guarantee [aftermarket parts]. The only advice I can give is that
it costs a little bit of time and money to play their game, but
it’s the only way around it because [the insurance companies]
want to see them on the car. We don’t like using them, believe
me. They never fit, the quality’s terrible. This industry is so
screwed up from these insurance companies trying to dictate to
us how to run our business. There are so many slash shops out
there that just don’t care about the quality, and [insurance companies]
compare us to them. If we were all classed differently like we
should be, I don’t think we’d have this problem."
Matt Miller, Owner
Carl’s Body Shop, Inc.
"Some of the insurance companies will
take a position of simply, ‘This is what we’re going to pay for,
and if the customer wants to pay the difference, that’s fine.’
We ask [customers], ‘Did the insurance appraiser disclose this
and explain all this?’ We sort of take a neutral position. Some
[customers] don’t care, some will go back and fight their battle.
We used to call the appraisers ourselves for [customers], but
in the past years, most companies have told us, ‘Don’t call us
personally. If the customer calls us, fine, but we’re not going
to talk to you about changing it.’ Most [customers], to my dismay,
just roll over and play dead, and I think that’s what the companies
are banking on. I think in today’s hectic pace of life, unless
it’s one of those deals where your car is your life, [customers]
just want to take the path of least resistance. We’ll warranty
our work the same; the only thing I tell the clients and the customers
is [that] there’s only a certain point I can adjust and fool to
make these things fit. We try to walk a middle ground. I don’t
badmouth [aftermarket parts], but I do give [customers] an honest
opinion so they can try to make an intelligent decision as consumers."
Roger Boots, Owner
Boots Auto Body, Inc.
"We usually go after the customers and
see if they want to pay the difference, and if not, we put afterrmarket
parts on [the vehicle]. It all depends on the situation and what
kind of parts we’re talking about. If we’re talking aftermarket
sheet metal, we let them know the chances of it fitting are not
as well as OEM. No, [using aftermarket parts] doesn’t really [affect
the warranty]. Keep the customers informed, mainly. Let them know
what’s going on."
Eric Larsen, Office manager
Round Rock, Texas
"Sure, it’s requested. Sometimes we use
them, sometimes we don’t. Fit and finish, condition of the vehicle,
all sorts of variables [dictate whether we do or don’t]. More
often than not, the insurance company leaves it up to me to decide.
We explain to [the customers] what’s going on, and most of them
leave the decision up to us. [Most customers don’t mind] if it
has a proper fit and finish. Document everything. If you need
to return it, then it’s easy to get reimbursed for the proper
parts if you have return receipts from your aftermarket venders."
Karsten Shoening, Manager
Klaus Body Shop, Inc.
"We fight with the insurance company.
If they end up winning and we end up putting it on, then we tell
the customer straight out, ‘If you don’t like the way it fits,
this is what the insurance company told us we had to put on; that’s
all they would pay for. If you don’t like it, you need to take
it up with your insurance company. If they are willing to put
something different on, we’d be glad to put it on for you as long
as they pay us for it.’ A lot of insurance companies don’t explain
to them what they’re getting put on their car. Some customers
say they don’t really care as long as it drives, but others are
real, real picky about it. If they find out that something different
is being put on their car other than original parts, they will
fight it. We recommend they call the insurance company.
We try to stand behind the work we do. Aftermarket
parts don’t affect our warranty. We’ve had customers bring back
[their vehicles] and not like the fit of aftermarket parts, especially
headlights and fenders, and we’ll align them the best we can.
If it’s still not right, we tell them, ‘I’m sorry. This is what
your insurance company bid to put on your vehicle; it’s the best
we can get it to fit because it’s not corresponding with the other
parts on the vehicle.’
We work with the insurance companies, but
yet it’s not the insurance company’s car, so I work with the customers
as much as possible. If they want us to talk to the insurance
companies, fine. Try to do it the best that you can, but nine
times out of 10, the insurance company is going to want to talk
to the customer. The best thing [body shops] can do is start with
the customer and go from there."
Teresa Hale, Office manager
Wayne’s Body Shop
"I suggest that if they don’t fit, they
aren’t going on. It varies between adjuster. Some of them basically
back out of it. It depends on the company. They’re not pushing
sheet metal on us real hard; it’s headlights and things like that.
[I don’t tell my customers anything.] The warranty is only as
good as the warranty with the part. If [an insurance company]
tells you to use [an aftermarket part], they have to agree that
if it doesn’t fit, they have to pay the time that I wasted trying
to fit it, or they have to pay extra time."
Dirk Weber, Owner
Weber Body Shop
"We’ve got a really unusual situation
because we first tried to handle it by calling the customers to
make them aware of what aftermarket parts were and what our position
was on them. [The customers] had to make the real decision. A
lot of people couldn’t afford to pay the difference, so there
were times when we started out trying to use the parts. We started
having more and more problems with the parts, but [insurance companies]
would refuse to acknowledge there was a problem
[Customers] need to let adjusters explain
to them what aftermarket parts are and why they’re being used.
… As far as aftermarket sheet metal, we don’t guarantee it at
all. We know that, in the end, we are responsible for every repair
we make. If a shop [employee] can get parts good enough that he
feels comfortable with the job and he doesn’t mind putting his
warranty and his reputation on the line when that job rolls out
the door – and he feels that he is getting paid adequately – then
I would say use the parts. In our area, we haven’t been able to
get good aftermarket sheet metal or plastic trim pieces.
We shouldn’t knowingly put a part on a car
that we know isn’t up to factory standards, so we won’t do that.
I think that’s what every shop just has to look at. Do I feel
like I’m sending this car out in precrash condition using these
parts? If you [don’t feel you are], I think the owner of the car
needs to be involved."
John Mosley, Owner
Clinton Body Shop, Inc.
"[Attempts have been made] to force us
to use them, but we don’t. We proved to the insurance company
that the parts were not identical in quality and warranty. We
showed [our customers] that they were not the same, and [the customers]
fought also, and we won. [The fight] is on a case-to-case basis.
We give a five-year guarantee, but we cannot give a five-year
guarantee on repairs if we use aftermarket parts. Put together
some documentation, such as retaining a copy of the parts warranty
from the aftermarket manufacturer, and obtaining the parts warranty
from the original manufacturer so that you can show a comparison.
Most aftermarket parts distributors will furnish a warranty, but
in no way, shape or form is it close to what the original warranty
Louis Tommaso, Owner
Louis T Autobody, Inc.
"We have [been forced]. When that results,
we just tell [customers] that we don’t have any choice in the
matter; it’s between them and their insurance company. I don’t
give any [advice]. I’m in the middle; I’m just trying to repair
Ron Counts, Owner
Counts Auto Body
"In some cases, we have to use them.
It’s easier to use them than to fight with [insurance companies]
in some cases. I let [customers] make the decision. Some [customers]
don’t know the difference [between aftermarket parts and OEM parts].
I won’t warranty aftermarket parts."
Wade Allred, Owner
Jade Auto Clinic
"We use them if they’re good, if they’re
not good, we call [the insurance company] right away and change
them to OEM. It depends on fit. If they fit, they’re used. [I
tell my customers] that they’re aftermarket. Most [customers]
really don’t care. It’s kind of a situation where everybody kind
of walks on eggs. Basically, if they’re good, then use them."
George Bartnik, General manager
Gerber Auto Collision Center