Direct Repair Programs: We Don’t Do Them. Here’s Why.

In our ongoing discussion of auto insurance issues, today’s topic is DRPs, short for “direct repair programs.” In case you’re not familiar with the term, a DRP is a relationship formed between an insurance company and auto body shop in which the insurer guides business to the shop in exchange for adherence to certain service guidelines involving, among other things, labor rates and limits and replacement parts.

The benefits to both parties are self-evident: the insurer is able to control costs, while the shop receives a steady stream of customers. The benefit to those customers, however, is less clear.

The biggest problem is quality. Many shops find the rate structures and labor limits of many DRPs to be incompatible with doing the job right. The same holds true for OEM replacement parts, which few DRPs require.

Another problem is the estimating process. We’ve already covered the inadequacies of photo-based estimating, which nearly all major DRPs rely on. But beyond that is the practice of systematically underestimating work in order to land a given job – often at the direction of the DRP insurer. According to a recent article in Body Shop Business, many shops will write artificially low estimates to “get the keys.” In other words, they are focused on getting your car in your shop and then upping the cost.

That’s not to say that all DRPs are inherently unethical or incompatible with quality work. But we’ve found most to be incompatible with our way of doing business, the caliber of cars we work on, and customers we serve.

Which is why GCAB does not participate in any direct repair programs that in any way compromise our ability to deliver the best possible work at a fair price. We simply want to do every job right – not as defined by a third-party insurance company, but according to the standards of auto manufacturers, our technicians, and of course, our customers. It’s not the easiest way to do business these days. But it’s the best.