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.”
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,
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.
© Copyright 2011 Key Communications Inc. All rights reserved.
No reproduction of any type without expressed written permission.