Wreck Expert Owner David Cowan reminds shop owners and managers that the consumer is with whom they have a liability and responsibility.Inherent diminished value on this damaged Tesla allowed Wreck Expert to help the client collect $12,500 after the repair was completed.Although post-repair inspections make up a small part of Wreck Expert’s business, repair deficiencies can be glaringly obvious, as illustrated by this panel that shows weld burns and leftover masking tape.

WreckExpert.com helps shops get paid for proper repairs

Owner says proactive shops look out for the consumer’s best interest

Olathe, Kan.—Do you work for your customer, or do you work for the insurance company? It’s a question that David Cowan, owner of WreckExpert.com, often asks shops. He provides post-collision services to consumers in Kansas and Missouri.

“Not all body shops realize who the real customer is. The customer is the person who signs the repair authorization and the insurance company’s job is to reimburse that person for the loss. Yet most body shops look at the insurance company as being the customer, because they think that’s where the money is coming from or where the referral is coming from.”

Cowan’s company, with more than 20 years of experience in collision repair, offers assistance with diminished value claims and post-repair inspections, and free total-loss reviews. He also refers customers to quality-minded shops “committed to doing proper repairs, that allow us to inspect those repairs, educate the consumer on what the insurance is not willing to pay for, and are willing to refuse a vehicle if they cannot repair it properly.”


Why should a shop educate the consumer?

“I think most shops think that when they complete the repair and give it back to their client, the claim is done. In reality, the repair is only part of the claim. Other expenses are collectable as part of the claim; just as rental is part of the claim, so is diminished value.”

Customers are not often aware they have any recourse to asssist them with assessements and collection, Cowan said.

“There are two kinds of shops, unfortunately. There are shops that look out for and educate the customer, and there are shops that care more about the insurance company, so they do not educate the customer. We love to work with great shops and to help good shops become great.”


What is diminished value, and when does it apply?

For a claim in which another party is at fault, another claim can be made to that party’s insurance company for a loss in value.

“Although there is a type of diminished value related to a poor quality or improper repair, most referrals I do are related to the vehicle’s wreck history stigma, which is called “inherent-related diminished value,” Cowan said.

“There are so many unknowns with a previous car repair that cause consumers to stay away from buying a previously wrecked vehicle. The car may not have its original warranty after a repair, the body shop warranty won’t transfer to the next owner, it may not have been repaired properly, and it may not be as safe as it was before the repair. Assuming the car was repaired properly, the car still has a stigma, and that has caused it to lose value. Most of what I do is for inherent-related diminished value, and for that service, we do not inspect all vehicles.”

Telling a customer they may be able to file a diminished-value claim is not a criticism of the quality of a shop’s repairs, Cowan said.

“The shop’s job is to restore the car, as humanly possible, to pre-loss condition. We like to say the shop is responsible for fit, finish, and function, but we all understand the shop is not able to restore the value of the car. A diminished value claim is the payment for that lost equity to make the client 100 percent again.”


When can an appraisal clause be invoked?

Whereas diminished value applies only when the other party is at fault, the appraisal clause can be invoked only for first-party claims, when the value allowed for the repair or for a total-loss settlement are thought by the consumer to be insufficient.

“We like to help shops get paid to fix cars properly,” he said, by collecting what is necessary for a proper repair.

Although insurance adjusters have the right to adjust the claim for the insurance company, the same does not apply for an estimator, he said.

“An estimator does not have the right to negotiate or agree with the insurance company on behalf of the client to repair the vehicle improperly. Most shops aren’t telling their customer that the insurance company only wants to pay for aftermarket or used parts, or they are not paying for this proper procedure or that required operation. A shop shouldn’t do any repair without written permission from their client and a complete understanding of what the shop is going to be doing.”


Quality control begins at the shop

For post-repair inspections that require extensive research, such as verifying that a shop followed the OEM repair procedures, reviewing the number of spot welds required in the procedure, and more, Wreck Expert uses the assistance of area body shops. Otherwise, he performs a repair quality inspection using a flashlight and mirror.

“We love it when we get to tell both the body shop that fixed that car and our clients ‘Hey, this looks like a great quality repair. Everyone loves having that peace of mind after an inspection.”

Shops often lack checks and balances that would catch common deficiencies, he said.

“I see cars that are fixed improperly, and the manager, estimator, foreman, body and paint departments, and the cleanup team don’t catch it. Yet a post-repair inspector can look at that car and in one minute say, ‘What’s this?’”

Parts & People

Parts & People is published monthly by Automotive Counseling and Publishing Company, Inc., a Colorado corporation, P.O. Box 18731 Denver, CO 80203, 303-765-4664. President-Lance Buchner. Founded by Lance Buchner and Dave Lucia.