No one likes to be in an accident. Aside from the damage accidents do to your car and your body, the aftermath can be a hassle, as you haggle with your insurance company and find the right body shop to properly fix your car. To get the best work at the best price, what should you look when choosing a body shop?
In addition to turnaround time, affordability and quality of work, also be sure to find out the following from the shops you’re considering: how long they’ve been in business, what type of cars they specialize in repairing, what type of guarantee they have, and whether they offer supplementary services you need, such as rental cars or loners.
Referrals Are Often The Best Source For A Competent Collision Repair Shop
If possible, check among your co-workers, friends and relatives for a recommendation for a shop that has done a good job for them. Some shops, especially small family shops, don’t even have an internet presence because they have built a successful business on referrals alone. Check Google for reviews. If a shop has plenty of reviews and the majority of them are raving, there’s a good chance you’ve found a keeper.
Assessing The Price
Whether you are paying for repairs yourself or your insurance company is picking up the tab, you want to make sure that you are paying a fair price for the services you will receive. You probably don’t know what a reasonable price is, so always get several estimates before making a decision. With an estimate in hand from three or four different shops, you may find a big difference in price. How can you tell whether the shop that offers the lowest price will do quality work? How do you know that the highest priced vendor is worth it?
A low price shop may use cheap aftermarket or salvage parts and fewer coats of paint and clear coat on your vehicle than a higher priced alternative. On the other hand, the parts used might be OEM replacements and the shop just happens to have lower overhead costs so they pass the savings along to the customer. This is why it’s important to compare each section of the estimates side-by-side to see how much is allocated for parts, labor and other costs.
Be wary of any other factors that might make a “cheap” shop too good to be true. For example, a shop may not have fire and theft insurance, which works in your favor in the form of lower prices. However, this also means that if a fire or burglary should occur when your car is in the shop, the liability falls squarely on you (or your insurance company if you’re covered for those features).
Labor Cost As A Factor
The biggest line item on a collision repair estimate is labor costs. This figure not only reflects the amount the shop owner pays his workers in the shop, but also the amount of overhead he pays. If the shop is located in a pricey area or if there is a big front office staff to support, the hourly cost you pay might be higher than elsewhere.
Also, you might be charged more hours for the same job. Shops tend the use a reference manual of standard hours to estimate what a particular job should take. Some shops may add on “gray” charges by allowing for steps they might have to take in the worst case scenario or by itemizing the various components of the job. This can be confusing to the consumer, and unfortunately some unscrupulous shops will capitalize on your uncertainty. Your best protection is to carefully compare estimates, and don’t be afraid to ask very specific questions about the costs until you are satisfied with the answer.
Making Your Decision
If you don’t have recommendations to go on, take factors into account such as the length of time the shop has been in service, the way the shop looks and if they have the latest in auto body technology, how busy it is, and your gut feelings. Check with the local Better Business Bureau and look for online reviews to guide your decision, too. Quality is not cheap, and in shopping for a body shop, you want to balance paying the right price with excellent workmanship.