If your car needs fixing after an accident or incident, you don’t have to use your insurer’s approved repairer. But what are the implications of choosing your own?
If your car’s damaged in an accident or another incident, it can be a big inconvenience.
Whether it’s a minor scrape or a total write-off, you’ll probably want to get it repaired and back on the road as quickly as possible and most car insurance providers will offer to have your car fixed by an approved repairer.
If you take up their offer of using an approved repairer, that means using the insurer's own network of garages that they work with to get better deals and keep costs down.
But you might prefer to go for your own choice of repairer, because you trust them to do a good job, or simply because they’re local to you.
You have a legal right to choose who repairs your car, even if you’re making a car insurance claim for it.
According to legislation known as the Block Exemption Regulation, your insurer can’t force you to use their repairers and they’ll still pay out for the repairs if your claim’s accepted.
It means you can choose to use a garage you know and trust to do a good job, and saves you travelling to your insurer’s chosen repairer.
However, your insurance provider might impose extra terms if you don’t use their approved mechanics such as charging a higher excess, limiting the repair cost or not giving you a courtesy car.
There are a few drawbacks to going to your own repairer - check the terms of your policy to find out if you’re affected by any of these.
According to Defaqto, 95% of 350 comprehensive car insurance policies listed offered a courtesy car as standard.
However, only 6% would provide the courtesy car if the customer chose their own repairer.
Following a claim where a repair has been completed by an approved repairer, insurance providers will typically guarantee the repairs for a set period, such as three years or more.
If you use your own repairer you won’t benefit from this guarantee, although your chosen repairer might still offer their own guarantee.
Of the 350 policies checked on Defaqto, 88% would guarantee all repairs made by a nominated repairer.
Of the policies that offered a guarantee on repairs, the guarantee was three to four years for 45% of policies and five years or more for 42%.
You could be charged an additional excess for using your own repairer.
This can be as much as 100% added to the standard excess.
Check your policy documents carefully to find out if there’s an additional excess for choosing your own repairer.
The final issue with using your own choice of repairer is that your insurer may not pay out the full cost of the repairs.
This is because it might argue that it could’ve arranged the repairs for less through its approved repairer.
If this is the case, the insurer may only agree to pay out what it would have paid to have the work done with its approved garage, which may be less than what your own repairer would charge.
It’s a good idea to get a quote from your own chosen repairer before getting any work done so you can send it to your insurer and find out if it’s willing to bear the full cost.
If you do want to use your own repairer, the first thing you’ll need to do is check your policy documents for any conditions and additional excesses.
Remember, you’re highly unlikely to be provided with a courtesy car by your insurer, so if you need to stay on the road, find out if your chosen repairer can offer you a vehicle instead. They might even give you one free of charge.
Get a quote from your chosen repairer and send it to your insurer for approval - you might have to email it post it. Follow it up with a phone call if you’re in a hurry to get repairs done.
If your insurer agrees to the cost of the work, make sure you’re clear over whether you’ll have to pay the garage yourself and claim the money back, or if your insurer will pay the repairer directly.
After your insurer has processed your claim, it’ll send someone out to assess the damage to your vehicle and work out how much it’ll cost to fix.
It’ll then send you a list of its approved repairers.
If you decide to use your own choice of garage, your insurer might ask you to send it an estimate of the repairs instead.
If you attempt to repair your car before it’s been assessed, your insurer could refuse you a courtesy car and your pay-out.
Once your insurance company has all the details, it can decide whether it’s worth repairing the car.
If the damage is particularly bad, it’ll write off your vehicle and offer you its market value.
Chat to your insurer if you think any decisions it’s made have been unfair.
If you can’t resolve the issue with it, you can complain to the Financial Ombudsman.
Last checked 12 January 2021.