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Insurance companies using dangerous aftermarket parts in car repairs

A recent car crash that killed two Oregon teenagers and injured two others ignited a conversation about the dangers of using “aftermarket” parts on cars and trucks.

“Aftermarket” parts are any parts added to a vehicle after the original sale, usually for cosmetic reasons— or to replace damaged parts after a car accident.

Some aftermarket parts are improvements on the original equipment manufacturer (OEM) parts: perhaps the OEM part was defective, or the design has improved since the car was built.

But many aftermarket parts used for repairs are just cheaper, inferior versions of the OEM parts.

Aftermarket parts in car repairs

If you are in a car crash, the at-fault driver’s property damage liability insurance is obligated to cover the cost of restoring your car to pre-crash condition, or pay to replace it.

The insurance company gives you an estimate for the cost of your car repair. Then, the insurance adjuster tells you that they have a “preferred service center” that will fix your car for that price.

It sounds like the insurance company has already done the hard work of finding good mechanics and repair shops to fix cars properly, and for a reasonable cost. When in reality, the insurance company’s  “preferred service center” is probably using cheap, salvaged, or counterfeit aftermarket parts in your car.

You could be driving a very dangerous car.

Oregonians are talking about the aftermarket car parts because of last week’s tragic crash, but a lawsuit against insurance companies may bring national attention to this safety issue.

More than 500 auto body shops in 36 states—including Oregon, Washington and California—recently filed a lawsuit against insurance companies that require mechanics to use low-quality aftermarket parts to repair vehicles.

Auto body shop owners say insurance companies would remove them from “preferred service center” lists if they refused to use these bad parts.

Shop owners lost business for asking to repair vehicles safely.

Vehicle owners were funneled to repair shops that would happily install inferior, aftermarket parts.

Despite the lawsuit, and the fact that US Senator Richard Blumenthal has asked the US Department of Justice to investigate this practice, this issue is unlikely to be resolved soon.

In the meantime, a repair shop could be fixing your vehicle with aftermarket parts—and you could be driving a very dangerous car.

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