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online technical resource

motor insurance: repairs to vehicles

This section of the website describes our approach to complaints where consumers are unhappy with how an insurer has handled the repair of their vehicle.

overview

When a consumer's vehicle is damaged, they may have insurance that will arrange and pay for repairs to be carried out. We see disputes where consumers complain that:

  • the repairs took too long;
  • the repairs failed to fix the damage;
  • the repairers caused additional damage; or
  • the vehicle should have been written off.

In most cases we can reach a decision about the quality or timeliness of the repairs by considering the evidence that is already available. But we might ask for additional expert evidence. Or we might encourage the parties to agree a settlement between themselves.

The following sections provide more detailed information about our approach when investigating complaints about repairs to motor vehicles:

who repaired the vehicle?

We will ask whether the repairer was chosen by the insurer or by the consumer. Where work is carried out by a repairer chosen by the insurer, we usually say that the insurer is liable for anything that goes wrong.

If the consumer chose the repairer, we will consider whether it had been explained to them that they could be liable if anything went wrong. If we are satisfied that the insurer did explain this to the consumer, we are unlikely to say that the insurer is liable - unless we find that it did something to take control over the repairer, for example by:

  • specifying what parts should be used;
  • negotiating over the cost;
  • providing advice to the consumer about which repairer to use;
  • certifying the repairs as satisfactory; or
  • overseeing the progress of the repairs.

repairs carried out by the roadside

We can usually look at complaints about insurers that provide "roadside assistance" cover, although there are some exceptions.

Where cover was provided by the AA or by the RAC, we will look at the type of cover that the consumer had - to decide whether we can consider a complaint about repairs. Because of the way these contracts are underwritten, we are often unable to look at complaints about repairs carried out under the basic cover provided by either of these insurers.

time taken to complete repairs

If the repairs were not carried out within a reasonable time, we may tell the insurer to pay compensation for any distress or inconvenience that the consumer may have suffered.

When we consider what length of time is reasonable, we take into account the particular circumstances of the case - including whether the repairer was responsible for the delay.

For example, if a delay was caused because spare parts were unavailable - and we are satisfied that the repairer made reasonable efforts to get them - we are unlikely to uphold a complaint that the repairs took too long. But in these circumstances we might say that the insurer should:

  • pay for bespoke parts to be made; or
  • write the vehicle off.

replacement vehicles

If the consumer hired a vehicle because the repairs took longer than scheduled, we are likely to tell the insurer to pay any costs the consumer has incurred, as long as we are satisfied that the consumer acted reasonably.

If we find that the consumer spent an unreasonable amount on hiring a vehicle, this does not mean that they forfeit all these costs - just those that are over and above what we would consider reasonable.

If the consumer did not hire a vehicle - but had been entitled to a courtesy vehicle that they did not receive - we are likely to tell the insurer to compensate the consumer for "loss of use". The amount will depend on the individual circumstances of the case, but is often linked to the daily rate of £10 currently used by courts. This rate is designed to reflect the average travel costs incurred by people without their own transport.

In deciding an appropriate amount for "loss of use", we will also consider whether the consumer could have remained mobile by any other means.

We are unlikely to uphold a complaint about the type of courtesy vehicle that was provided, unless the consumer:

  • had specific needs - for example, a type of disability that required a car with certain modifications; or
  • was not provided with the particular type of vehicle promised by any enhanced courtesy-car cover they had bought.

case study 1

Mrs A hired a car while the insurer took hers to be repaired. After several weeks, the insurer said it would write off Mrs A's car - and it refused to reimburse her for the cost of the car hire.

Following a complaint to us, we said that the insurer should reimburse the hire charges that Mrs A had incurred, together with an appropriate amount of interest to reflect the fact that she had been deprived of that money in the meantime.

case study 2

Miss B did not query the fact she had not been provided with a courtesy car until after she had incurred substantial travel costs. She then complained to us about her insurer's stance.

We said that the insurer did not have to reimburse Miss B's costs in full, because it was able to show that it could have provided her with more cost-effective transport, if Miss B had approached them at the outset.

quality of repairs

Consumers sometimes complain that repairs were faulty or incomplete. This might happen when:

  • the insurer refuses to pay to repair damage it says was done before the accident;
  • the consumer says the repairer caused additional damage to the vehicle; or
  • the repairs carried out were not of satisfactory quality or fit for purpose.

When we consider the condition of the vehicle, we look at all the available evidence - including anything provided by the consumer, the insurer and the repairer. But we normally give the greatest weight to independent expert reports.

When we find that the repairer has failed to return a vehicle to the condition it was in before the accident, we usually say that they should put things right. If the repairer is unable or unwilling to do this, we may say that the insurer should pay for one of the following:

  • the consumer's own choice of repairer to do the work;
  • the reduction in the market value of the vehicle; or
  • the total market value of the vehicle, if it is more economical to write it off.

case study 3

Mr C's car was damaged in a road traffic accident. The insurer's engineer inspected it and decided it could be economically repaired. So the car was taken to the insurer's approved repairers.

When the car was returned to Mr C, he discovered a number of faults with it. The insurer's engineer inspected the car again and agreed that further work was needed. But Mr C said that he didn't want the same repairers to do the work. Having been without his car for some time, Mr C complained to the insurer - and then to the ombudsman service.

We were satisfied that the approved repairers had failed to carry out some of the work properly. But the evidence indicated that some of the faults pre-dated the accident. We decided that Mr C acted unreasonably in not giving the repairers an opportunity to put things right - and that a large part of the delay was caused by Mr C's behaviour.

However, we also found that the repairers failed to give Mr C a courtesy car while the repairs were being carried out - even though the policy said he was entitled to one. We awarded compensation for "loss of use" for some of the period when the repairs were being carried out. And we told the insurer to provide Mr C with a courtesy car while the additional repairs were being carried out.

matching sets

Most policies require the insurer to repair, replace or pay for only the parts of vehicles that are damaged. This means there may be problems if a damaged item is part of a matching set (for example, alloy wheels) - and cannot be repaired or replaced with something identical.

Insurers may replace the damaged item with the nearest equivalent - but it may be difficult to obtain a match that is acceptable to the consumer.

In these circumstances, consumers sometimes say that the insurer should pay to replace the entire set. Generally, our approach is to require the insurer to pay for the damaged item plus 50% of the rest of the matching set.

would repairing the vehicle put it in a better condition than before the accident?

Insurers sometimes say that it would be unfair to pay for repairs, if doing so means that a vehicle would be in a better condition than it had been before the accident.

In these cases, insurers tend to offer a cash settlement instead - to reflect either:

  • the reduction in the vehicle's value caused by the accident; or
  • the cost of repairing the vehicle to the condition it was in before the accident.

We take into account the circumstances of the case, before reaching a decision on whether or not a cash settlement like this is reasonable.

On the other hand, if good quality second-hand parts can be used, we may say that this is reasonable in carrying out the repairs. But we are unlikely to agree to this, if it means that the consumer ends up with worn tyres or a used battery.

should the vehicle have been written off?

When a consumer complains that an insurer should have written off a vehicle, we will consider any available evidence - to see whether the decision to repair it was reasonable.

If we are satisfied that the estimated repair costs were reasonable - and would have been more than the vehicle's market value immediately before it was damaged - then we are likely to agree that the vehicle should be written off.

Consumers sometimes refuse to allow their vehicle to be repaired. Where we do not agree with a consumer in these circumstances, we usually say that:

  • the consumer can retain the vehicle; and
  • the insurer should pay the consumer only the amount that the approved repairers have said the repairs would cost.

When a vehicle is written off - but the consumer says they wanted it repaired - we are unlikely to uphold the complaint, if the insurer can show that the costs of safely repairing the vehicle would exceed its value before the accident.

case study 4

Mr D's car was nine years old when it was involved in an accident that caused extensive damage to the driver's side. The existing paintwork had faded over time, so the re-spray was unlikely to match the rest of the car. Mr D said that this would affect the car's value.

We initially said that the insurer should pay for a full re-spray. But because the insurer was then able to show us that the cost of the full re-spray would exceed the value of the car, we said the car should be written off.

help for businesses and consumer advisers

contact our technical advice desk on 020 7964 1400

This is part of our online technical resource which sets out our general approach to complaints about a wide range of financial products and issues. We would like your feedback on how helpful you found it. Please also use the feedback form below to tell us about anything you think we could clarify or explain better.

image: motor vehicle
  • The law requires us to decide each case on the basis of our existing powers and what is fair in the circumstances of that particular case.
    We take into account the law, regulators' rules and guidance, relevant codes and good industry practice at the relevant time.
    We do not have power to make rules for financial businesses.
    Our current approach may develop in the light of circumstances disclosed by further cases we receive.
    We may decide that fairness requires a different approach in a particular case.