Accident repair centre threatBritish motorists face an “unprecedented” shortage of accident repair centres as a big decade-long decline in capacity is predicted to continue into 2020.

Industry analyst Trend Tracker has revealed the number of bodyshops in Britain have fallen by a third since 2004 – and numbers are expected to plunge a further 9 per cent by 2020.

This will take the number of accident repair centres in Britain down to little more than 3,000.

It means there will be an 11 per cent shortfall in car crash repair capacity by 2020, something that’s going to leave car owners frustrated, and also increase costs for the car insurance industry.

Robert Macnab, lead analyst at Trend Tracker, said: “As recently as 2004 there as a repair capacity excess of nearly 50 per cent. Insurers were spoilt choice in terms of who to give work to and could dictate terms.”

Now, the tables have turned and it’s quality bodyshops who enjoy the stronger bargaining position – which is likely to dent car insurers’ profits.

Car insurers ‘loss-making’

Indeed, things could be even worse for the car insurance industry, as Trend Tracker reckons it’s going to emerge as loss-making in 2014, with crashes costing them 109 per cent of the premium revenue they bring in.

A competitive marketplace means car insurers are unlikely to put up prices for customers, either: “Passing on these expenses may not be an option for insurers,” said Macnab.

The shortfall in car repair centres comes after a decade-long decline in bodyshop profitability. Trend Tracker says a modern insurer-approved bodyshop earns just £13.52 profit on the average insurance repair cost of £1,380 – 86p per repair hour.

A predicted increase in car accident repairs, from 4.2 million this year to 4.3 million in 2020, means the repair market worth is set to rise 5 per cent to almost £5 billion.

Trend Tracker also revealed that, despite much-publicised increases in personal injury claims, accident repair costs still account for two-thirds of all motor insurance claims.