We can think of a lot of times when the lowest price is the best choice … airline tickets, soap, gasoline (cellphone provider?).
At the same time, you probably do not want the cheapest heart surgeon anymore than you’d want the cheapest sushi, or two-for-one parachutes.
We’d add the cheapest repair parts to that second list. Sure, price is important. It’s just as important to understand a part’s availability and quality. Nail those down, then consider price. That’s the responsible route.
Consultants and software that suggest repairers default to the least expensive parts raise the risk that they'll be the wrong parts, and that'll increase friction costs.
When a part turns out to be less than insurance quality, or unavailable, repairers face two unappealing paths. The shop purchases another, more expensive part and loses money. Or the shop asks the insurer to approve a supplement order. Delays. Friction. Loss of face.
Everyone loses. The shop and insurer get saddled with increased cycle time—reworking the car; reworking paperwork; calling, calling, more calling. The supplier adds another turn for the same sale—deliver, pick up, restock, redeliver.
Most important, the policyholder loses. She’s stuck driving a rental car for twice as long as she aught to.
In a perfect world—let's call it APU-ville—the right part for the repair is found in seconds and rarely causes a return or a supplement. It comes from a premium network of suppliers, it’s closest to the repairer, and it meets every insurer part-use rule. It’s the highest quality, the right certification, and ranked on price only once all else is equal.
That reduces friction costs, supplements and cycle times. That’s also the road to more cars in and out of the bays, fewer claims touches, and happier employees, shops, suppliers and policyholders.
Did we mention that "right" doesn't = cheapest?