There's a point in the process following a car insurance claim that often leaves drivers unsure of how to proceed. It comes after the decision is made on whether or not to file the claim in the first place and after the filing. It is essentially the last major thing that must happen before the process is complete. I am talking, of course, of the repair.
A car repair itself is not a complicated matter for drivers; they are not the ones doing the work. That burden falls on the shoulders of the repair shop. Where things can get complicated is when a driver has to decide between taking the car to the repair shop(s) recommended by the insurer, or bringing it elsewhere.
Nearly every auto insurer will have either one or several repair shops that it has established formal relationships with and refers customers to when they need work done (in some cases, they are even subsidiaries of the insurer). You are not legally obligated to use those shops, but doing so will be strongly recommended to you. Should you trust the insurer and follow its recommendation(s) blindly? Or should you take your business elsewhere?
It's hard to say for sure without knowing the specifics of the situation. An insurer's pick can end up being the right one, but it's also possible that you could make a stronger case for something else if you went out and compared them.
Regardless, there are definitely some known benefits associated with following the insurer's advice. Let's examine what those might be.
Going to a recommended shop can save you a nice chunk of time that would normally be spent having an adjuster go over a repair assessment. When the repair shop and insurer have that pre-established relationship, there doesn't need to be any extra verification and inspection, since the two parties already have each other's trust. Time is money and using an insurer-recommended repair shop is a way to save on both in that regard.
As mentioned earlier, it will be strongly recommended that you go with the insurer's preferred shop. If you're choosing to go in a different direction, you'll probably face some pushback. Whether that's in the form of administrative hassles, incessant suggestions, or something else entirely will depend on the insurer, but going with its pick does make things more straightforward.
Remember, the insurer and the repair shop have a mutually beneficial relationship. By sending the majority of its clients to a place it can trust to keep prices low, the insurer safeguards itself from potentially handling heaps of pricier claims; just as the shop serves its own interests by easily bringing in lots of clients that it probably wouldn't otherwise have. Because of this, both parties have a strong incentive to keep each other happy. If the repair shop starts doing a terrible job on repairs, customers will complain and make life difficult for the insurer. In fact, many of them even guarantee satisfaction and will send the vehicle back if that satisfaction is not achieved. In any event, you can at least have a reasonably good assurance that both parties are trying to keep each other—and by extension, you—happy.
Because you're working through the insurer, you shouldn't have to cover any of the extra payments that could spring up if you choose to work with a third-party repair shop, beyond what you regularly pay for insurance. These could be repair costs, such as those for unexpected parts that didn't make it into the original appraisal; or also secondary costs, such as extra time with a rental car that you're using in the interim.