9 Things to Consider Before Choosing an Auto Body Shop?

If you have been in a car accident, you may need extensive repairs on your auto. Even if you don’t need a lot of repairs, you will still need to have your car looked at by a professional to make sure that your car is safe to drive.

While most shops can do the mechanical work required to make your car road worthy again, not all auto body shops can repair damage to the body of the car. This may include things like matching the paint in the new parts with the rest of the car, matching the panels and trim, and aligning the car properly. Don’t forget about the fact that the shop will probably also need to restore the electrical wiring and the electronic devices in the car.

There actually is quite a lot to do to repair your vehicle to the way it was before the accident and it takes an experienced group of technicians to do the work.It is very common for cars to need extensive diagnostic services before the repairs can even be done. For example, your car may need to undergo a special computer diagnostic in order to determine how extensive the damage really is and what needs to be repaired.

In order to correctly perform the diagnostics, your car will need to be hooked up to a special machine which will evaluate all of your car’s main systems. This means that a shop will need special diagnostic equipment in order to run the tests. Of course, not all shops will have the necessary equipment.

You may not think that it is necessary to do such testing if the damage in the accident was not that bad. Remember, not all the damage to your vehicle will be immediately apparent! In most cases, you will need to go to an auto body shop in order to get such repairs done.

Your insurance company may give you several shops to choose from, or you may need to find a shop on your own. You may even need to take your car to a special shop to get a repair estimate before getting the repairs done. In order to find a good auto body shop, you may want to check with friends and family. No doubt they have been in an auto accident and have found a good local shop.

You can also look online for a shop. However, before deciding on a particular vendor, you should do a little bit of homework. Here are some things to consider.

  • Is the shop certified?
  • Are the mechanics and other staff members certified in their field of expertise?
  • Are their certificates of qualification displayed in the shop?
  • Does your insurance company work with the shop?
  • Is the shop a member of the Better Business Bureau or other organization?
  • Does the shop offer warranties and money back guarantees?
  • Does the shop use new parts or used parts to repair the damage?
  • Does the shop offer a courtesy van or rental car for your use while they are repairing the damage to your vehicle?
  • Is the shop close to your job or home?

Remember too that you often get what you pay for. Don’t choose a shop simply based on price. Instead, choose a shop that is qualified to do the repairs.

Auto Body Repair 101

Most cars will need some type of auto body repair in their lifetimes. Whether its from a major collision or just a small dent from every day use, there’s a good chance your vehicle will need to visit the auto body repair shop at least once. If you do experience some damage to your car, it is crucial that you take it to a professional body shop for the repairs. Though most damage is easily visible, in some accidents, it is possible to have damage that is hidden. To get it done correctly and safely, it must be done by a professional.

The first step in the auto body repair process is to take your car in for a consultation. The repair specialist will assess the damage and prepare a detailed estimate. The estimate should be very detailed and list the cost for each part and the amount of labor charged. Original equipment (OEM), used, or after market parts may be used – it is important to know exactly which type of part they are planning to use in your repair. Auto body shops are also accustomed to working with insurance companies – they can handle your claim for you and contact the insurance company when needed.

Sometimes additional repairs are needed after they begin working on your vehicle. This shouldn’t happen often, but it is a possibility, even with a reputable and trusted repair shop. The shop manager should call you and explain in detail why the new repair is needed and why it wasn’t found during the original inspection and estimate. They should also offer to contact your insurance company with this new information and a revised estimate of the cost.

The final step in the auto body repair process is the paint job. A poor paint job will make even good repairs look bad. If you need only small areas painted, the auto body shop will carefully blend the new area with the old paint. Having only a small area painted saves big money, but you must have a professional do the job. Poorly matched paint will not blend with the rest of the car and affect the overall appearance of the vehicle.

Though we don’t usually think of auto body repair as important to the safety of the vehicle as we do when we think of engine repair. However, shoddy repair work can definitely affect the safety of the vehicle. Make sure to have your work done at a professional shop. Getting a referral is the best way to find a good auto body repair shop, but it also helps to look online for reviews and testimonials when selecting a auto body shop to do the repairs on your vehicle. Get the job done right and you’ll have many happy hours and safe hours of driving!

Auto Body Repair Estimates Demystified – The 5 Most Common Items on a Repair Estimate

So you’ve decided to get an estimate from a local body shop. These days, most body shops will use a computerized estimating software to write your estimate. If the shop you have chosen does not use a computer to write your estimate that should be cause for concern. This is not meant as a jab at those long time owners and technicians and I am not implying they are “backward” or “luddites” or ignorant. Its more for accountability. Computerized software is now standard in our industry and insures a more uniform, unbiased and accurate appraisal for how long things take to repair. For instance, I was talking to a shop owner just a couple days ago who was remembering with fondness the good old days when he would routinely get 15+ labor hours to repair frames on cars that nowadays he only gets 4-5 hours on. The truth is however that 4-5 is the more accurate and fair rate (depending on the job of course it could be more or less). And since consumers and insurance companies are billed by the hours on an estimate the old days of falsely inflating hours are gone.

When it comes to auto body repair the vast majority of line items on an estimate will be one of 5 things:

1. R & I. This is shorthand for “remove and install” and means to take something off your car and then to re-install it later. Parts that are not damaged may need to be temporarily removed to access another part that was damaged or more often so the panel it is taken off of can painted properly. For instance, say your electric motor for your window stops working. The interior trim panel will need to be temporarily removed for to gain access to the motor to see if it can be repaired (not likely!) or replaced. Or perhaps a molding needs to be removed from your door before it is painted only to be put back on later when the paint dries. One caution here is that if panels are being painted and you’re not being charged for R & I the shop may be taping them up which can actually cause peeling or flaking months or years later. So don’t be surprised if for instance a headlight needs to be removed to properly paint a fender. You should actually be more concerned if its not. FYI: R & I times are typically set to industry standards by estimating software and are not discretionary.

2. Repair. Repair (aka ‘Rpr’) is the most discretionary item on an estimate and typically the amount of time it takes to repair something will be underlined or asterisk-ed (*) to indicate this. This is where an insurance adjuster might say a dent will take 3 hours to fix and a technician might say it will take 4. There’s no hard and fast rule here and this needs to be negotiated between insurance adjusters, shop estimators and possibly even the technicians doing the job. My dad who has been in the industry almost 40 years taught me a long time ago that a dent which is about the size of a man’s fist should take about 3 hours to repair. From there you can adjust up or done for various things like a body line that runs through the dent (add an hour) or the dent has no creases and is accessible from the inside and therefore can be mostly popped out (subtract time). The reason these times are so important is that insurance companies are paying shops based on the number of hours on the estimate.

3. Replace. Replacing parts, sometimes shorthanded to ‘repl,’ is not a discretionary item on an estimate and is governed by industry standards or what shop folks call “book time.” If the book/software says it takes 3.5 hours to replace that bumper then that is what the insurance company will pay. No more and no less. It is pretty well standardized with only slight variations depending on which software is used and then it only differs by very little.

4. Sublet. Sometimes there are things that an auto body shop will send to someone else (typically a mechanic who takes care of more under the hood items) to perform and this is categorized as sublet. Popular things for shops to sublet out are air conditioner recharging and 4 wheel alignments when the suspension is damaged. The reason this is sent out typically is that the equipment and space required for these operations are not cost effective for a body shop. And when it comes to deeper engine repair, oil and paint don’t mix! Oil and grease can quickly ruin a paint job. So, shops that say they can do “everything” typically can’t do everything well.

5. Miscellaneous. Under this category will go small charges like “hazardous waste removal” (about once a month we pay someone to pick up and dispose of our hazardous waste in the safest way possible) and “car cover for overspray” which pays for paper, tape and plastic to cover the vehicle during the painting process so paint over spray doesn’t go all over the windows or adjacent panels.