Vehicle write off: Repair or replace?

If you are in a car 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, or even worse – if your vehicle is a write off.

Last month, the Competition Commission published draft guidelines hoping to allow consumers to choose where their car is repaired. If the guidelines are passed, consumers would also be able to choose their car service and car maintenance provider. Richard Green, national director of the South African Motor Body Repairers’ Association (SAMBRA), says the proposed guidelines also prevent insurance companies from using ‘road blocks’ such as indemnity forms as a tactic to convince their clients to use specific service providers.

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. SAMBRA members are responsible for repairing over 80% of all insured repair claims in the country and they are required to follow strict service deliverables in order to maintain their SAMBRA accreditation.

Regardless of who you choose to carry out your car service or car maintenance, as a responsible driver it’s important that you’re prepared financially for the costs associated with the upkeep of a vehicle. A Service Plan or Maintenance Plan through MotorHappy allows you to manage your vehicle expenses with fixed, affordable monthly payments. This offers you a convenient way of budgeting so you can spend less time worrying about your vehicle costs and more time staying focussed on the road.

The decision to repair or replace, depends on several factors. 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. 

 There is no doubt that credible service providers are well placed to repair metal and plastic panels but there are certain watch points you should look out for:

  • A responsible repairer/insurer will insist on using 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”
  • 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.”

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