No matter what insurance companies say, you can choose your own repair shop.

When your car is involved in an accident, you and your insurance company have opposing priorities. You want your repair done well. The insurance company wants it done at the lowest cost.

That’s why your insurer might try to steer you to certain preferred repair shops that do a volume business, pushing as many jobs through the shop as quickly as possible. They typically work on a flat rate and use after-market parts.

“Customers don’t realize they have the right to go wherever they want,” says Robin Miller, co-owner of Livermore Collision Center. “But they do.”

Many people also think they need three estimates, possibly because they were told so by the insurance company. Again, says Ms. Miller, they have no such obligation.

Another misconception: You don’t need to drive your vehicle to your insurance company's office to make a claim for repair. You can leave it with your repair shop and ask your insurer to inspect the vehicle there.

Ms. Miller recommends using a repair shop that pays its workers by the hour. Freed from any incentive to work quickly, these shops can stick with a job until it’s done right. Also be aware that while aftermarket parts are less expensive, they also tend to be inferior, particularly in how they fit the vehicle. Ms. Miller suggests using factory parts for high-quality vehicle repairs.

Auto paint varies in quality. Many people opt for less expensive paint jobs if they plan to sell the car and want it looking good for potential buyers. If you own an expensive car that you plan to hold on to, consider investing in higher-quality paint.

Ms. Miller also suggests seeking out auto body shops that guarantee their work and have strong customer service. “When an auto body shop is Diamond Certified, that makes a huge difference in the quality, since it's basically guaranteed the customer service is going to be there,” she says.