Volume 13, Issue 1 - January-February 2011

Repair Round-Up
nwra reports

Should Insurance Cover Your Windshield?
by Kerry Wanstrath

Seems like a fairly straight forward question with a simple answer, doesn’t it? Most consumers think it is a nice benefit, and perhaps the only benefit, they get from their insurance companies, barring a collision with another car. So it seems nice that our insurance carrier is giving us something back for all the money we pay out year after year after year. For those of us that have never had an accident, it is their little way of saying how much they appreciate our business over the years—right?

Well, life as we all know it is not that simple and neither is one’s motive for doing something that seems nice.

“For every reaction there is an equal and opposite reaction”—someone smarter than I said that and I think it applies to the auto glass repair and replacement industry. How so? Well, what are the consequences (or the opposite reaction) of insurers handling a windshield repair claim? Does your premium as a consumer go up or down as a result of a claim? Every year, 30 percent of all comprehensive claims filed are for auto glass, so it is logical that auto glass coverage will increase the cost of all of our policies.

“Do people stop getting their tires repaired when they get a nail or a flat? Of course they don’t.”

An Idea
So, I am about to suggest the unthinkable. Here I go: why don’t insurance companies just stop paying for windshield repair? That’s right—insurers should just stop paying, let the consumer pay. Perhaps you think I have lost my mind, but not as it pertains to this subject. In fact, I’ll take it one step further; I think they should stop paying for replacement, too.

Do people stop getting their tires repaired when they get a nail or a flat? Of course they don’t. There is lots of life remaining in the tire, so you simply fix the affected area and you are good to go. I see no real difference in a windshield.

The Claims Process
Okay, now let’s move to the real meat of the issue: the claim itself. In part, insurers turned to third-party administrators because the cost of the repairs might have been close to the cost of processing the claim by the insurance company. This opened the door for replacement as well, and without getting into the evolution of the various claims processors and the creation of networks, independents now have the problems associated with processing an auto glass claim and complaints and the claims of steering associated with glass claims. In fact, even non-insurance claims (those that are not covered by the carrier and are paid by the consumer) are processed by a network as if they were claims. What is that about?

Why isn’t the customer being told that he should just handle the repair or replacement on his own and keep the claim off his record? With the $500 deductible becoming the norm, well more than half of all repairs and replacements are already cash jobs that are being processed as if they were claims.

I truly believe most (if not all) independent shops would be better off and have better market access to the real customer (the person who owns the car on which you are working) if all insurance companies exited the auto glass repair and replacement industry. Since State Farm stopped waiving the deductible for repairs, have State Farm customers stopped repairing their windshields? That has not been our experience.

Imagine competing based upon the merits of your work, service and a fair price. I know it is an idea foreign to some in our industry, especially looking at the past decade. But the only way to change the road on which you’re driving is to turn off and drive down a different road. The definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting a different result. Claims processing and steering issues are not going to change no matter how loud you scream, because there is no one out there to hear your complaints.

So, why not encourage insurance companies to save their money by exiting our business? Perhaps the tire industry would like them—or the “quick lube” industry. These are maintenance-related services similar to auto glass. I would suggest an industry-wide effort to contact all major auto glass insurance companies and encourage them to save their money by stop paying for the maintenance of a vehicle and let the consumer and free markets take care of the rest.

Kerry Wanstrath is the president of the National Windshield Repair Association. In addition, he serves as president of Glass Technology in Durango, Colo. Mr. Wanstrath’s opinions are solely his own and not necessarily those of this magazine.

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