As a consumer, you want to know what to expect when it comes to the “cycle time” of your repair.  In other words, “how long will it take to fix my car”?  And you’re not alone.  The insurance companies and repair facilities also have a keen interest in the answer. Indeed, the question has been asked, researched and argued over for years.

Unfortunately, there is no cookie cutter answer. It’s like asking, “how long will it take me to recover from surgery”?  Many variables affect the outcome.  Height, weight, age, overall health, athleticism, medical history… and the list goes on with each new variable causing another calculation that changes the answer.

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Each and every fix or repair is different.  There are many elements that might affect the amount of time estimated to complete your repair. Starting with, when does the clock start? Should repair days begin the moment a non-drivable car is towed to the body shop?  Or should we start the clock the day the car is dropped off for a scheduled repair?  Maybe it should start once an agreement has been reached with the insurance company as to the plan of repair.  Or perhaps the clock should start only after the parts have been delivered to the shop.

Unfortunately, there is no standard to even this most fundamental question.

Many have tried to figure out a formula to answer the cycle time question including Insurance companies and trade associations. Even rental car agencies are providing rental data to third parties to try to come up with some standard for days to fix a car.

Here is an example of what we consider to be a failed system of figuring cycle time that is currently in place, embraced by the insurance companies.

broken system

Repair plans (estimates to fix cars) generally have labor time associated with each operation.  Example—let’s say you need your fender replaced.  The time associated with taking it off the vehicle and re installing a new one might be 3 hours.  The fender does not come painted so to paint the fender the time associated with that may be also 3 hours. (In this example we are assuming there is no blending of the adjacent panels like the hood and front door for color match.  That of course would add more time). So our example totals 6 hours of labor.

Different insurance companies arrive at cycle time by dividing the number of labor hours by an inconsistent factor. Some say the number should be 6; others say 5 or even 4.  In our example of a 6-hour repair, let’s assume a factor of 5. (6 hrs /5 = 1.2 days).  Insurance companies generally round to the nearest whole number so this would be a one-day repair.  Keep in mind, this is a very simple example and while 1 day is not totally impossible it is certainly not likely either.

What is realistic?  Let’s take a look at some sources that have done in-depth research on the subject.  The opening line of an article published in May of 2014 by the Society of Collision Repair Specialists (SCRS) states the following:  “Industry-wide averages for estimated time for repair do not mesh with many expectations placed on shops by insurance carriers. The resulting calculations demonstrate the huge level of disparity between reality and expectation.”  SCRS did extensive research using data collected form Enterprise Rent a Car, Hertz and two Collision database/estimating service providers, Mitchell International and CCC Information Services Inc.  The article concluded with an interview with a body shop owner that found that using a factor of 2 worked best in his shop.  http://www.fenderbender.com/FenderBender/May-2014/SCRS-Study-Estimated-Time-for-Repair-Not-Consistent-with-Insurer-Expectations/

In 2014 article reporting on a panel discussion during the Collision Industry Conference the question about using this formula was posed this way:  “Do insurer formulas used to calculate the number of “rental days” on an initial estimate drive down cycle time? Do they set unrealistic expectations for consumers? Do they add friction and inefficiencies? Or do they do some combination of all of these things?”  Likely all of the above.  http://www.autobodynews.com/columnists/john-yoswick/item/8841-cic-committees-look-at-autonomous-vehicle-issues-impact-of-length-of-rental-formulas.html

In an article published by Auto Rental News in June of 2013, the author came up with averages by state.  In a chart provided in the article they show average labor hours and rental days associated.  The Colorado data shows average of 21.5 labor hours (across all repairs) and average rental days associated with that to be 10.9.  This information further suggests that using the factor of 2 is the best way to estimate repair days.  (21.5 repair hours / 2 = 10.7 days to repair).  http://www.autorentalnews.com/article/story/2013/05/average-length-of-rental-where-do-you-fall/page/2.aspx

Other items/operations that don’t get counted into the formula but adds to the time it takes to fix a vehicle are sublet items.  Items that a shop may sub out to other companies include alignments, clear bra, glass removal and re-installation, and paintless dent repair.  These items are generally listed on the fix or repair plan/estimate with a dollar value not a labor time.  So when an insurance company divides the labor time on a repair by ANY factor it does not take these and other sublet items into account when coming up with the days to repair.

Why would an insurance company use factor of 5 and not 2?  Let’s take a 30 labor hour job and divide it by 5.  That would equate to 6 days of rental expense.  If you take the same 30 labor hour job and divide it by 2, it would equate to 15 days of rental.  The insurance company views that calculation as an extra 9 days of rental.  Their primary goal is to reduce their own expense.

In our experience on the subject, saving the rental expense is far more important to the insurance companies than the quality of the repair.

The insurance company’s answer is no real fix – for you.

Their answer to this is simple.  If we can’t do the repair in the amount of time they feel is reasonable, you can take it to one of their “preferred shops” that will.  And even if they cant complete the repair within the designated time frame, because of their contract with the insurance company, the shop will pay the extra days.

Many insurance companies stick to these unproven and often unrealistic formulas to attempt to transfer their fiduciary responsibility and expense on to someone else.  Many times that ends up being the consumer, or even the body shop owners who clearly had nothing to do with the damage of your vehicle.

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So how long will it take to get your car fixed?  There is no iron-clad answer.  Our team of passionate professionals will move your vehicle through our repair process as quickly as possible but never at the expense of safety, durability and the resale value of your car.

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