A recent post on Twitter from an account that posts images and videos from Tesla vehicles recently shared some bad news out of Phoenix, Arizona. Many of the people who submit video to “Wham Baam Teslacam” share videos of accidents, so it makes sense that their social media channels and YouTube channel would know a lot about what happens when Tesla owners are involved in an accident. After all, they talk to a lot of people who were involved in accidents.
So, news that Tesla owners are having trouble getting their collision repairs paid for is probably legitimate.
Warning; none of the Tesla-certified body shops in Phoenix will take @GEICO customers because GEICO will not pay what it costs to repair a Tesla. So Tesla owners who aren’t even at fault need to use their own insurance for the body shops to even help them. pic.twitter.com/jFhAUnlkgd
— Wham Baam Teslacam (@WhamBaamYT) September 27, 2022
Obviously, insurance companies like GEICO don’t make money from writing checks. They get as much money in premiums as they can every month, and try to spend as little as possible when there are claims. This is how insurance companies profit and stay afloat. To bring more money in than they put out in a market where customers could jump ship if they charge too much, they’ve got to be very careful to estimate the risks and charge the right amount of money to more than cover what the cost of providing insurance will be.
But, the desire to keep payouts as low as possible often puts them at odds with the people who file claims. If an insurance company’s customer hits our car, we want the car to be as good as it was before the incident, but the insurance company wants you to get help from the cheapest body shop, and it doesn’t really care if that means you might not get the best repair as long as you don’t notice and take the insurance company to court.
For most cars, a repair that’s cosmetically good and structurally sound that won’t fall apart again for the next 5–10 years is probably okay. Insurance companies and their “gold star,” “preferred,” or “certified” body shops can deliver that in many cases for bottom dollar. It may even be a decent repair with good parts and skilled labor they can deliver for cheap, because body shops have competition, which drives prices down. So, just because it’s cheap doesn’t mean it’s necessarily bad.
However, electric vehicles and connected vehicles with ADAS features like Autopilot and FSD Beta aren’t “most cars.” For example, the use of high heat to cure paint on a gas-powered car isn’t a problem at all, but when done to an electric vehicle, it could damage or degrade the battery pack. Sensitive electronics, the need to keep cameras properly aligned and calibrated, and a number of other things can also make it a bad idea to drop your Tesla off at a cheaper shop that doesn’t know what they’re doing.
Fortunately, there’s a good way to know if you’re going to get a good repair that doesn’t damage your EV: go to a manufacturer-certified shop. Tesla describes its shop program like this: “Tesla-Approved Collision Centers are external partners that undergo rigorous training and are held to a high standard of excellence. Please contact your local center directly to schedule an appointment.”
This means that going to a Tesla-approved shop will get you a better repair than going to some other non-certified shop. It will know the best practices for repair, and it will know how to avoid harming the battery pack, among other things. But, for a body shop to get its people and facility approved, well, that costs something. The body shop needs to pay staff to get the training and do what it takes to get the manufacturer to approve the shop. And the shop’s not going to just do all of that for free.
So, this means the cost of going to a certified shop (for Tesla or for any other manufacturer) is naturally going to cost more. Plus, the extra time needed for paint cure and ordering some parts means there’s more cost involved there, too.
Sadly, it seems from what we’ve seen here that GEICO’s people in Phoenix can’t come to an agreement with the certified body shops on a price. Naturally, GEICO doesn’t want to pay any more than it has to, and it doesn’t want to pay what the Tesla-approved shops are asking. So, the insurance company is just refusing to use those shops (allegedly).
If This Happens To You
What you have to know is that there are laws in every state governing insurance payouts for vehicle accidents. I’m no lawyer, but I do know that in most places this includes being able to pick your body shop and have a voice in the repair process. So, it’s probably illegal to just refuse to repair a car that got smashed up that the insurance company is supposed to repair.
The great news is that you don’t have to hire a lawyer in most cases. Why? Because your insurance company has lawyers. The insurance company for the other person involved in the accident isn’t in charge of the process, and can’t boss you around, and you don’t have to talk to its reps at all.
If you go to your insurance company for your repairs, it will make sure you get taken care of in most cases, and then it’ll recover the cost of fixing your car from the insurance company of the driver at fault. Your insurance company’s lawyers will talk to their lawyers if there’s a dispute, and they’ll work it all out, probably without bothering you any more about it.
Do keep in mind that your insurance company’s lawyers aren’t your lawyers, though. They work for your insurance company and work to recover costs for them if they paid for your repairs. Relying on them is probably only good for when there’s no bodily injuries, no dispute over who was at fault, and no other unusual circumstances that could lead to disputes. If there’s any room for doubt or error, getting your own lawyer is probably the right call. They’ll take a cut of any payouts, so you don’t need to be well off or dip into your savings to get a lawyer who represents you with both insurance companies. (If your own insurance company is GEICO, though, and it is presenting barriers to getting your car into a certified body shop, then things get stickier and you may need to seek outside legal help.)
Whatever you do, don’t let the other insurance company boss you around or tell you that it can’t fix your car the right way. That’s definitely not something these companies allowed to worm their way out of.
Featured image: A screenshot from Wham Baam Teslacam’s tweet.
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