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Thursday, December 16, 2010

Car Insurance, the New Big Brother?

Insurance companies get a bad rap. Everybody hates auto insurance until they need to file a claim, and all of a sudden they’re all friends. A week later they go back to hating their insurance company. It looks like some insurers, like The Hartford, want to just skip the part where you pretend like you’re friends and just stick to being hated. They have a new plan over there called Direct Repair Provider, or DRP. It’s basically a network of pre-approved repair shops that are authorized to work on your car if you make a claim. Sounds innocent enough, right? It could even be a good idea, letting your insurance company find the shop and do the legwork for you. The problem lies in the future implications. If your car is sent to one of the Preferred Provider shops, you’re essentially letting the insurance company repair your car. Since the repair shop is in the pocket of the insurer, who’s side do you think they’ll take when a repair is up for debate? I’d also be willing to bet that in exchange for the steady stream of business that will come when a shop becomes a DRP, they agree to lower rates. This can mean lower quality work and less attention to detail.
The issue is heating up in the industry, but it will be up to consumers — the ones paying for car insurance — to tip the scales in the direction of independent repair shops and no direct oversight by the insurance companies. If your insurer is offering these packages, be sure to think long and hard before you sign up.

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