Repair or replace – which is best?

If you are in an accident, you’re probably thinking more about the speed of repair than the parts the shop will use to fix your vehicle. You also usually just go to the repair shop your insurer stipulates and don’t give too much thought about which parts should really be repaired rather than just totally replaced.

The publication last month of draft guidelines by the Competition Commission seeking to increase transparency and allow consumer choice in relation to the service, maintenance and motor-body repairs of their motor vehicles, may change all that however.

Richard Green, national director of the South African Motor Body Repairers’ Association (SAMBRA), whose members are responsible for repairing over 80% of all insured repair claims in the country,  says the proposed guidelines clearly state that the insured client has the right to choose its service provider based on the clients prior experience, and secondly,  that the insurers may not preclude the clients from making that choice by the introduction of commonly used ‘road blocks’ such as indemnity forms.

Green says in future, if the guidelines are approved, it will be worthwhile for consumers to take more control over how their car is fixed, particularly in these tough economic times.  “Developments in repair technology have had a significant impact, dramatically improving the ability of our accredited SAMBRA members to repair metal and plastic panels on a motor vehicle,” he says.

The decision to repair or replace, depends on several factors though. Green says before deciding to have parts repaired, you need to think about the age of the vehicle and the amount of mileage it’s done. Issues such as safety, cost, resale value, upfitting requirements, vehicle downtime, and the availability of a replacement vehicle all need to be taken into consideration and you should take guidance on this.

Green says there is no doubt that credible service providers are well placed to repair metal and plastic panels but that said, there are certain watch points you should look out for. “For example, a responsible repairer/insurer will insist on utilising original manufacturer parts during the warranty period of your vehicle. It’s a good idea that you check that these are, indeed, genuine manufacturer parts”. He also points out that, if an insurer insists on writing off your vehicle, it’s wise to approach a SAMBRA member, who can work with the manufacturer to save the car. This is especially important if your car is an old classic.

Your SAMBRA accredited Motor Body Repairer will also be able to inform you of any limits imposed by the insurer in terms of labour rates. “Some insurers prescribe labour rates that simply do not allow the use of quality materials and technical staff, and this could negatively affect the quality of your repairs,” Green explains, adding that SAMBRA recommends an industry base rate of R400 per hour.

“Finally, remember that your vehicle’s value can be dramatically, and negatively, affected by poor repairs – which is why it’s vital to check that anyone to whom you entrust the repairs to your vehicle, has been accredited by SAMBRA.”