Windshield Replacement: Are the Steaks Worth It?

You may have seen the TV commercial that offers a box of Omaha steaks in exchange for your windshield repair business. If not that exact commercial, you’ve probably heard other promotions luring you with free carwashes, oil changes, or cash rebates just to have your windshield repaired. With auto glass repair companies courting customers so assiduously, you might wonder what they’re really after, and if those steaks are really worth it. Unfortunately, you may have to revert to Plan B for dinner tonight because windshield repair fraud is rampant in the industry. If you are caught unawares by an auto glass swindler, you may end up with a box of steaks, but you also risk higher insurance premiums and possibly even having to foot the bill entirely on your own.

The Basics of Glass Coverage

Some states have auto insurance policies that offer a glass coverage option, for which you pay a slightly higher premium. Depending on your insurer, replacing your windshield usually has little to no deductible, and repairs are typically free. However, if you don’t have glass coverage, your windshield is probably only protected by your collision and/or comprehensive coverage. In this case, replacing your windshield would still be subject to your deductibles, which are $500-$1,000 for most people. In other words, your deductible is probably higher than the cost of replacing your windshield would be. Typically, though, most insurers cover windshield repairs (e.g., for small cracks or dings) for free. This will depend on your insurer, of course. Always call your insurance agent to inquire about your coverage before you make any decisions.

Free Steaks & Other High-Stakes Scams

After every windshield repair company and/or windshield repair mystery guy at the carwash seems so eager to shower you with free gifts and possibly even cash, you get a little suspicious about possible ulterior motives. Basically, there is only one motive: most windshield repair operators are con artists pushing a scam because it is a cash cow for them. Here are some of the most common fraudulent activities some windshield repair companies engage in:

  • Replacing undamaged windshields. Scam artists will usually convince you that your windshield needs repaired by dangling free steaks, car washes, etc. in front of you when your windshield is actually fine. They then defraud your insurance company by telling them that the windshield was heavily damaged and in need of overpriced repairs.
  • Embellishing real damages. Unscrupulous windshield repair companies might replace your entire windshield for a small crack that could be easily repaired. They also sometimes bill your insurance company for the repair of multiple cracks when they only fixed one.
  • Fly-by-night repair people. Chances are, if you are approached about windshield repair by an overbearing stranger in a parking lot, gas station, or car wash, you want to head for the hills. These so-called repair professionals usually work out of pick-up trucks in parking lots and perform overpriced, shoddy repairs.
  • The freebie gimmick. Like the free Omaha steaks, windshield repair companies love to give customers an enticing incentive to take part in their scam. They describe the transaction as harmless, easy, and free of risk. However, you may want to stay away from customers that try to reel you in with movie tickets, car washes, or tasty meats.

Risky Business for Policyholders

Most insurance companies, even if you have full glass coverage, still want you to do business with one of their authorized windshield repair companies instead of some guy at the carwash. In fact, your claim might be denied if you don’t go through the proper channels, which means you will still be stuck with the overpriced bill. But, hey, at least you’ll have your steaks. Here are some other possible risks that come with windshield repair scams:

  • Safety risks. More than likely, the windshield repair person who accosted you at the carwash will not do quality work on your windshield replacement or repair. He might use substandard glass, which could easily shatter or distort your view of the road. What’s more, few of the fly-by-night operators offer a warranty with their work, which leaves you with no recourse if things go wrong.
  • Your insurance premiums can increase. Most insurers do not count a windshield repair or replacement as a claim that will raise your premiums. However, there are some companies that do. Again, this is why it’s important to talk to a representative from your insurer before doing anything.
  • You can lose your auto policy. If a windshield repair con artist charges several bogus claims to your insurance policy, that could be grounds for the cancelation of the policy. The onus would then be on you to try to clear it up with your insurer, and the windshield repair “professional” you used will be long gone by that time.
  • You could go to jail or be fined. If you file a claim that you know is spurious with your insurer, it is considered insurance fraud. You may face hefty fines or, even worse, jail time.
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