Every car-insurance commercial promises better rates and faster service. These are the things consumers consider first when shopping for insurance, so this is where little green geckos and supremely intelligent cavemen and Dennis Haysbert feed.
But Anthony Dimola, fixed operations director at Hassett of Wantagh, warns drivers that there are factors just as important as cost and convenience, or more so, when it comes to insurance plans.
Everyone wants to save money. Everyone wants to know that their needs will be promptly addressed, in case of an accident or some other insurance-related matter. But according to Anthony, motorists will lose out in the long run – and are risking their personal safety, and the safety of their passengers – if they don’t read the fine print on their insurance contract.
It all has to do with crash parts, more specifically aftermarket crash parts. Crash parts are interior or exterior sheet-metal or fiberglass panels that form a vehicle’s structure – fenders, bumpers, door panels, roofs and wheel wells, among other critical parts. Aftermarket crash parts are replacements not produced, authorized or approved by the Original Equipment Manufacturer (OEM) – that hood may fit on your F-250, but it wasn’t manufactured by Ford.
Anthony considers the use of aftermarket crash parts dangerous, and not only because this practice often voids whole chunks of a vehicle’s warranty. It’s more serious even than that, he says, and the magazine Consumer Reports agrees: An article in its October issue warns that the use of certain aftermarket parts may interfere with proper deployment of airbags during a crash.
“If, God forbid, you get into an accident and you have the right parts on the car, then the car is going to behave like it’s supposed to,” Anthony says. “If you have aftermarket parts…”
He lets that sentence trail off there, but you see where it goes. The Consumer Reports article goes on to suggest that insurance companies have pressured both auto-repair shops and the motoring public to use aftermarket parts as a cost-savings tool, and urges consumers to check repair invoices to make sure OEM parts are used to fix their vehicles.
Anthony favors a more proactive approach. “When people shop for insurance, they ask the same basic questions,” he says. “‘What’s my premium? What’s my rate?’ But people are not aware that they’re insurance company is going to use aftermarket crash parts, because it’s never part of the conversation.”
If it can save them money, he adds, consumers can rest assured that insurance companies will do it … and don’t blame your local body shop for using aftermarket parts, either.
“The body shops will go either way,” Anthony notes. “From what I’ve learned in 15 years, I think the shops would prefer to use OEM parts – they’re a perfect fit for whatever vehicle they’re repairing. But body shops are going to do what the insurance companies tell them.
“They’re not going to put a $400 fender on a car when the insurance is only paying for $150 fender,” he adds. “If the insurance company is paying the bill, they’re going to do whatever the insurance company says.”
Sticking with OEM parts is, of course, good for business at Hassett, which is not only Long Island’s No. 1 Ford, Lincoln and Mercury dealer but one of the largest wholesalers of OEM parts between the East End and the Verazano Bridge. But it’s not just about good business, according to Anthony. “It’s good for business,” he says, “but it’s really important for everyone else.”
“It’s better for safety, it’s better for the life of the vehicle,” he says. “OEM parts are what the car was built with originally, and they’re the only parts that can return the car to perfect status. When it comes to their automotive insurance, people need to understand what’s covered and what’s not.”