The Investigators: Body shop owner says State Farm forces him to use recycled car parts

The Investigators: Body shop owner says State Farm forces him to use recycled car parts
Published: Aug. 12, 2015 at 9:46 PM CDT|Updated: Aug. 13, 2015 at 12:06 AM CDT
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BATON ROUGE, LA (WAFB) - A body shop owner is warning drivers that if you get in a wreck, your car insurance policy might only pay for after-market or recycled parts.

A 2014 Kia Sedona has been at the Miles Paint & Body Shop in Baton Rouge for three weeks after the driver ran into the back of another vehicle. It now needs a new condenser and radiator, and the front bumper was also damaged.

Body shop owner Tim Elkins said the car owner's insurance, State Farm, is not allowing him to use original replacement parts, but instead they are pushing after-market, or recycled, products.

"They force these parts on us. They make us use them. They've gotten to where now they tell us where to buy the parts and who we have to buy them from," said Elkins.

Elkins said the damaged parts in the vehicle are necessary in running the brains of the car.

"When the insurance company wants us to use reconditioned parts, that's a part that's already been damaged, already been broken and fixed. That's not what was on this car when it came in here. I mean for that matter, I could fix what was on it. I mean that's not what we should do. We should replace these parts with new parts. That's what was on it when it came in. That's what should be on it when it leaves," said Elkins.

Elkins said after-market parts depreciate the value of the vehicle, and he said the law states it could potentially affect the vehicle warranty as well.

Kia, the dealership in the specific case, cannot legally void the 10 year, 100,000 mile warranty, but they can deny the warranty saying any damage was caused by the after-market products.

"Any subsequential damages caused by these parts will be void, and I mean the dealership is going to look for reason not to repair something under warranty. That's just something they do," said Elkins.

In his push to get new parts approved for his customer, he said he called State Farm and recorded the conversation.

In one recording he provided to the Investigators, the State Farm representative told him, "Her policy does allow us to use non OEM parts or recycled parts on her automobile, but we do tell her if she does want to use OEM parts, she does have the option to pay the difference."

Elkins said he's eating the difference. He said he orders original parts even if it costs him more, but State Farm only pays for what a recycled part would cost.

Elkins showed the Investigators receipts where he ordered new parts. A new condenser cost him $539.62, but State Farm only compensated him for what an after-market part would cost with $133.99. Elkins paid $368.12 for a new radiator, and State Farm paid him $204.29.

Sam Pleasant with the Louisiana Attorney General's Office said they filed suit against State Farm last year in August.

"State Farm has a pattern of deceiving consumers and also repair shops and primarily deceiving the consumers by not allowing them to choose which parts they are going to use to have their autos repaired," said Pleasant.

She said consumers are deceived, but in the recorded conversation with State Farm, the representative told the body shop owner that they gave the customer a choice of paying more for original parts.

Pleasant said the body shops have contracts with State Farm where they're forced to use cheap and often unsafe parts. She said they've found they often use junkyard parts or overseas parts that do not meet manufacturer standards.

"Case after case, we found that insurance companies are putting cost and getting these repairs done quickly over consumer choice and safety," said Pleasant.

State Farm sent a statement:

A vibrant, profitable auto collision repair industry is in the interest of State Farm.  At the same time, we are advocates on behalf of our customers for reasonable repair costs.  We believe repairer profitability and proper auto repairs that are reasonably priced can both be achieved.

Claimants and our customers choose where their vehicles are going to be repaired.  We provide information about the benefits our Select Service program offers while at the same time making it clear they can select which shop will do the work. Safety: The State Farm mission is to serve the needs of our customers, and we have a long, proud history of achievements in advancing research in vehicle safety.  (To learn more, go to

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