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Dang. You dinged your car again. You want it to look as good as it did fresh off the lot, but you don’t really want to deal with taking it in to an auto body shop.
Do you ever worry that you’re going to get ripped off? When you learn how to choose the right shop, that’s a thing of the past.
In this post, we’ll cover:
If you have a vehicle, chances are good that you’ll eventually need a collision repair shop. The car insurance industry estimates that an average driver will file one collision claim about every 18 years.
That may sound like reasonable odds, but consider that you’re going to be driving for a lifetime. For most people that means about 3 to 4 accidents. And then, there are the minor fender benders that you don’t report to your insurance company (we won’t tell). Like the time you backed into that pickup truck in the Home Depot parking lot and only dinged your own bumper.
Filing a claim might raise your premiums more than you’d like, so many people choose to pay for the repairs on their own. Still, they’ll need an auto body shop.
And on top of any damages, you many need an auto body shop to perform any vehicle upgrades, like installing our premium side moldings, for example. And you may also need to repair weather damage like rust or hail or normal wear and tear (grocery carts send more people to the collision repair shop than most people realize).
Basically, if you have a vehicle, you should start thinking about where you’ll take it for body work. You won’t necessarily have to interview shops until you need them, but keep an ear out for when your friends have this type of work done. Listen to their experiences with various shops, so you’ll have a feel for their reputation.
Have you ever had body work done at a dealership?
Many dealerships offer body work in addition to general service, but is this the right option for you? The answer depends on your warranties. If you have any sort of warranty that covers your car’s exterior, the dealership is your best bet. However, these types of warranties are rare and limited. Typically, they may only cover paint protection.
In most other cases, auto body shops are a better option. Not only do they have experts who specialize in body work, but they also have the equipment to handle the job.
Just like with anything, you should expect to get what you pay for at an auto body shop. Shops that have rock-bottom prices may not have covered all the overhead costs of a typical shop, meaning they may not have as much insurance or staffing. This could spell disaster if something happens to your car while its in their possession. And short staffing may mean delays, regardless of what they tell you.
This isn’t to say that you should always pay top dollar. Those that charge the most aren’t always the best either. Price should never be your only consideration when choosing an auto body shop.
Regardless of what you’re quoted, always consider a shop’s reputation. You can reasonably expect that they’ll treat you the same way they’ve treated other customers.
We surveyed 250+ established auto body repair shops to find out why it’s so important to pay the fair price instead of the lowest price. Here’s what they had to say:
"Anyone can perform a cheap repair. Experience, training, top tier products, technical knowledge of damaged materials as well as products used to repair those parts correctly all come at a cost. To provide a lifetime warranty repair, all those items must come into play. Skip one and you create a weak link in the repair that will cause early material failure... In our business you get what you pay for, period."
“The cost to equip a shop with the tools needed to complete a safe and long lasting repair is very high and the cost of properly trained and dedicated employees is also very high, all of these are necessary to return a vehicle to its pre-accident.”
“Look at the estimate thoroughly, some may be willing to use poor or less expensive materials. A quality shop will never use cut rate materials to make their bottom line.”
Do you think you’ll have to travel far to get good service? Sometimes, the shop closest to you isn’t the best option and sometimes it is. The key is to find the best possible service in your local area.
Fortunately, this task has become a lot easier as more people take to the internet with their opinions.
Here are few ways to find the best auto body shop near you:
Example of an "auto body shop" search on Google Maps where you can find useful reviews:
Have you ever gotten the feeling you’re getting ripped off? It’s a terrible feeling, and that’s not how you should feel when you’re getting work done on your car.
But if you don’t know a lot about cars, it’s easy to be intimidated at a body shop. Don’t fret. There are a few ways you can tell whether an auto body shop is trustworthy.
We asked 250+ shop owners what makes the difference between a good shop and a bad shop, and here are some of the most helpful responses we got back:
“A good collision repair shop runs a true independent business with no 3rd party interference. They use signed repair contracts with the vehicle owner (the true legal customer) and does not allow insurers to dictate prices or parts used in those repairs. That shop will charge for what is required to properly repair the vehicle but will actually DO everything they charge for. A bad shop is one who allows insurer influence and commits fraud rather than charge a customer what it really takes and then repair the vehicle correctly. This is a common practice in our industry...shame on them.”
“Experienced employees, transparency, customer service and open/consistent communication between all parties involved. This includes communication between insurance companies, the customers, the body shops, the PDR [Paintless Dent Repair] facilities, windshield repair companies, rental car companies and even the lien holders.”
“Quality of the people working there. Attention to the details of the work being performed (Most important) And just truly wanting to put out good work and wanting the customer happy."
Two of the most important things you can find in an auto body shop are reputation and your own personal comfort level. Once you find a reputable place that you feel good about, you’ve found your repair shop.
We’ve covered all the ways to find the best auto body shop, but the bottom line comes down to two things: