They are the bane of every fleet manager’s existence. They drive up your repair costs and throw off your budgets. No, I’m not talking about your challenged fleet drivers. I’m talking about accident repair supplements.

A supplement is an addition to an estimate sent to you by the body shop after you have already authorized a vehicle repair. The most common scenario involves the discovery of further damage after the work begins.

To be clear, there is nothing illegal or necessarily unethical about supplements. But they are a major source of frustration for fleet managers, particularly when you seem to receive at least one every time a vehicle goes into the shop. Let’s take a closer look at how repair supplements are generated and how you can cut them off at the source.

Hidden Damage

There are many contributing factors to the receipt of body repair supplements. Some are legitimate and some not so much. A supplement can be generated in one of three ways:

  • The body shop uncovers hidden damage not visible until after the teardown.
  • The original estimate is written or processed by an unqualified person.
  • The body shop purposely undersells the extent of needed repairs to obtain authorization to do the repair work.

That last scenario absolutely is unethical, and it can play out in a number of ways. A body shop could write up an estimate for a vehicle with front-end damage, for example, and not mention it will need an alignment. They can say they don’t do alignments. Maybe they don’t want to be bothered with the hassle of taking it to another shop, or maybe they didn’t want to go too high on the estimate. Either way, you’re out another $150.

A more common example is radiator damage. The body shop might not be able to confirm the radiator was affected until they pull the bumper off, but they won’t pull the bumper off until the repair is authorized. Once it is, and the teardown begins, they discover the radiator needs to be replaced, and a $350 supplement follows.

These costs can add up quickly. Worse yet, supplements can drive the total cost of repair higher than the point at which you would normally scrap the vehicle as it now exceeds its actual cash value (ACV).

Authorize a partial the Teardown

As an accident management fleet services provider, we have contractually required that our shops not do supplements. We simply don’t allow them. We give them an hour of teardown money and they give us a clean sheet. They might not be happy about it, but they know they will be paid for their work.

We feel this gives our customers a better basis on which to make their decisions. When we send out a repair estimate, the cost of the teardown (and the alignment) is included, and you know that’s the price you will pay to get the vehicle back. If it’s too high, and you don’t want the vehicle back, we can salvage it or sell it for client in as is condition.

A no-supplements policy makes sense for all sides, particularly as vehicles become more sophisticated. A minor collision can affect an array of airbag sensors, electronics and interactive components. There is no way to tell what needs to be replaced until you do a limited teardown.

So my advice is to sacrifice a little budget upfront to get the all the information you need to intelligently authorize your next repair. If your body shop or accident management vendor doesn’t like it, think about finding another one. You are in charge of your fleet and you are entitled to an accurate accounting of your costs.

Rich Tillotson is vice president of sales and business development for CCM Services and a 30-year veteran of the automotive fleet industry. Contact him at