If your vehicle has been involved in an accident, you’ll probably claim for the repairs on your insurance. We hear from people who are unhappy with how their insurer has dealt with the repairs.
When we investigate these complaints, we’ll:
- look at both sides of the story and all the evidence available
- decide what’s fair and reasonable in the circumstances
Types of complaints we see
Under most comprehensive motor insurance policies, insurers usually arrange and pay for repairs to be carried out when a vehicle has been damaged in an accident. You might complain to us because:
- the repairs have taken too long
- the quality of the repair work is poor
- further damage was caused during the repair
- a replacement vehicle wasn’t provided
- you think the vehicle should have been written off
What we look at
When we're deciding how well the repairs were handled, we'll listen to what both you and your insurer have to say. In most cases, we can make a decision with the evidence that’s already available such as photos, claim notes, repair history and engineers' reports.
If this information isn’t clear or it’s unavailable, we might ask both sides for extra evidence, such as an independent expert view.
There can be confusion about who's responsible for what’s gone wrong with the repairs. If your vehicle’s been repaired by a garage that your insurer told you to use, then your insurer will be responsible.
But if you arranged the repairs yourself at your own garage with your insurer’s agreement, then we wouldn’t usually hold your insurer responsible for anything that’s gone wrong. Although we’ll look at whether your insurer explained to you that you’d be responsible if anything went wrong with the repairs. If we think they explained this clearly enough, we normally wouldn’t uphold the complaint.
You can read more about how we approach different types of complaints below.
If the repairs are delayed
A lot of complaints we see about vehicle repairs are about how long an insurer has taken to repair the vehicle.
If there’s likely to be a delay that’s beyond the insurer’s control, we’d usually expect them to tell you how long the repairs are likely to take or let you know what’s going on.
We'll look at any evidence to decide if the repair time is reasonable. For example, we might ask to see the repair estimate to understand the amount of work needed.
Sometimes, what may seem like a simple, straightforward repair can take much longer than expected. There might be a good reason for the delay, so we’ll check with your insurer to find out what’s behind the problem. For example, certain replacement parts may not have been available so it wasn’t possible to carry out the repair more quickly. In this case, we’d check whether your insurer made a reasonable effort to get the spare parts.
We’ll also look at whether the insurer or repairer knew there’d be a delay with parts before they booked the vehicle in. If the vehicle was still considered legally safe to drive, your insurer should have made sure all the parts were ready before it was booked in. If they didn’t, and this meant you were unable to use your vehicle for longer than expected, we’ll consider compensation for the ‘loss of use’ of your vehicle.
If we think the delay is unreasonable
We'll check whether your insurer did anything to reduce any inconvenience that the delay might cause you. For example, did they offer you a replacement vehicle? We might also tell them to compensate you for not having the use of your vehicle for a period of time.
If you're unhappy with the quality of repair work
We hear from customers who say the repairs that have been carried out on their vehicle:
- aren’t satisfactory
- didn’t fix everything that was damaged in the accident
- have caused additional damage to their vehicle
When this happens, we’ll ask for evidence about the condition of the vehicle before and after it was damaged. This might include documents and photos, as well as reports from independent experts, such as engineers.
If something’s unclear, we might suggest that you or your insurer get an expert view. While we listen to both sides, we often find independent expert reports most persuasive.
If the repairs haven’t been carried out to an acceptable standard, we’ll usually tell your insurer to do one or more of the following:
- arrange for the repairer to correct the damage
- let you choose your own repairer to do the repairs and they pay for it
- write-off the vehicle and pay you its pre-accident market value
In some rare cases, we might tell the insurer to pay the reduction in the market value of your vehicle as a result of the poor repairs.
If repairs mean your vehicle doesn’t look how it did before the accident
We see complaints where damaged parts of a vehicle have been replaced with something that doesn’t match or isn’t identical.
Most policies only state that an insurer will replace the parts that were damaged. You might feel that your insurer should replace a whole set – for example, a set of alloy wheels – so that they all match. Or you might say your insurer’s replacement isn’t a close enough match.
We don’t think it’s fair to leave you with parts that look significantly different. We’ll check that your insurer tried to find matching parts, or if this wasn’t possible, a reasonably close match.
If they can’t find a suitable replacement, we often decide it’s fair for both sides to meet halfway – so you and the insurer each pay half the cost of replacing the rest of the set.
If your complaint is about a replacement vehicle
You may have had to hire another vehicle while yours is being repaired, but your insurer won’t cover the costs. If your insurer has caused a delay to the repairs of your vehicle, we may tell them to cover the costs of a replacement vehicle as long as we think:
- you’ve acted reasonably
- you’ve hired a like-for-like vehicle and the price you’ve paid is in line with standard commercial rates
If we think you spent an unreasonable amount on alternative transport or hiring a vehicle, we wouldn’t expect your insurer to cover the full cost. For example, if you live on a bus route, but took a taxi each day that you didn’t have your car, we might not agree it’s fair for your insurer to cover all the costs. We’d usually say it’s fair for them to cover up to a certain acceptable amount.
If you were entitled to a replacement vehicle but didn’t get one
We’ll look into any inconvenience you’ve experienced and we’d usually tell your insurer to pay you compensation for the ‘loss of use’ of your vehicle.
Replacement vehicles of a different standard to your own
You might be unhappy because the replacement vehicle you’ve been offered is different to or a lower standard than your own. However, most policies don’t promise that a replacement vehicle will be the same make and model, or equivalent, to your vehicle. For example, some insurers provide smaller hatchbacks as they’re cheaper. We’d normally say this is reasonable as it’s what the policy provides.
We’ll probably only uphold a complaint about the type of replacement vehicle you’ve been offered if you:
- had specific needs which the replacement vehicle didn’t meet – for example, a type of disability that means you need a vehicle with modifications
- weren’t given the type of vehicle promised by any enhanced replacement vehicle cover you’d bought
If you think your vehicle should have been written off instead of repaired
You might be unhappy because your insurer decided to repair your vehicle, rather than writing it off and giving you the money instead.
We’ll need to know more about the vehicle and the repairs to decide whether their decision was reasonable. We’ll look at the condition of the vehicle before it was damaged, and how much the repairs were estimated to cost.
It’s industry practice that an insurer will consider writing-off a vehicle if the repairs costs are around 60-70% of the pre-accident value of the vehicle. So if the cost of the repairs was more than this, we’d usually agree that it’s reasonable for your insurer to write-off your vehicle. Although we wouldn’t necessarily say it was unfair if your insurer chooses to repair your car when the repair costs are higher than this.
Some customers don’t want their vehicle to be repaired. If we think your insurer’s decision to repair the vehicle is fair, we might suggest that they give you money they’d have paid their repairer to get the repairs done yourself, to resolve the problem. This is sometimes called a ‘cash in lieu’ payment.
Read more about vehicle valuations and write-offs.
When repairing a vehicle puts it in better condition than before
Your insurer may feel it’s unfair to have to pay for certain repairs as it will put the vehicle in a better condition than before. They might want to use second-hand parts for the repair, or offer you a cash settlement – based on what they consider to be a reasonable amount to carry out the work using second-hand parts.
You may be unhappy because you think they should repair your vehicle with new parts, but this isn’t always possible.
We’ll look at what the policy says and whether there are any terms specifying what parts the insurer can use. We’ll also think about the part that’s being replaced.
If your vehicle is very old or a classic or limited edition, we might agree it’s fair for your insurer to pay or use second-hand parts.
How to complain
You’ll need to speak to your insurer first to give them a chance to put things right. They have to give you their final response within eight weeks for most types of complaint. If you’re unhappy with their response, or if they don’t respond, let us know.
Find out more about how to complain.
Insurer makes admin mistakes which led to unreasonable delays
Insurer fails to arrange courtesy car during a lengthy delay
Insurer is reasonable in refusing to fix pre-existing damage
Insurer fails to tell customer they’re not covered if they use their own garage
Insurer repairs car rather than writing it off