When you are looking to have your car fixed after an accident, you may feel overwhelmed by the number of auto body shops that are available in your area. It can be tough to know which one to choose, especially if this isn’t the first time you’ve had to do this. Fortunately, there are some things you can keep in mind when hiring an auto body shop that will help you make the right decision. These tips can help you get back on the road in no time.
Auto Repairs Should Not Be Taken Lightly
Anytime you take your car to a mechanic for repairs, there’s always a chance that something could go wrong—but that doesn’t mean you should be afraid to bring your vehicle into a shop. Just make sure you do your research and get as many estimates as possible before letting anyone work on your vehicle. Here are four things to keep in mind when hiring an auto body shop. ● Research: Call around to different shops and ask questions. How long have they been in business? Are they part of any professional organizations? Are they certified by state law? And what kinds of problems have people reported with their services? Reading reviews from other customers is also a good way to evaluate whether or not a business deserves your trust. ● Written Estimates: Get at least two written estimates from different businesses; all repair shops should be willing to provide you with one at no charge. The estimate will give you a rough estimate of how much it will cost for them to repair your car, but remember that these costs may change once further inspection has taken place. If all options seem fair, try contacting some local insurance companies and see if they can offer a referral discount. ● Liability Insurance: Liability insurance protects you in case a repair shop makes an error that results in property damage or personal injury. Ask about your deductible (or lack thereof) and how quickly repairs can be done under normal circumstances, then decide whether or not you feel comfortable enough to move forward with working with that particular garage. ● Warranty Information: Does the company include parts warranty information on its written estimates? What kind of coverage does it extend over standard components and mechanical issues? There’s nothing more frustrating than spending hundreds of dollars on repairs only to find out that they didn’t cover anything related to wear-and-tear. Asking these questions up front can save you valuable time and money in the long run.
Don’t Get Ripped Off
Check prices in at least three different body shops and don’t be afraid to ask for a better price—the worst that can happen is they’ll say no. If you’re being quoted on parts and labor, you want to make sure both are justified; if they aren’t, ask why. You should also look into any warranties or guarantees—this way, if there are any issues down the road, you won’t be stuck with repair costs. Ask how long they’ve been open, where their shop is located (you may feel more comfortable dropping off your car at a shop nearby), whether or not they have insurance, what kinds of services/products/etc. they offer, etc. Make sure to negotiate discounts up front, as well—many body shops will give free estimates but only if they know you might need additional work done. Finally, make sure you get everything in writing: date and time of estimate, date and time when work will begin/is estimated to finish, etc. All too often, people leave without these details written down, only to discover later that things were handled differently than originally agreed upon. This usually happens because some internal process had changed during the estimate phase; it’s always better to minimize those variables upfront.
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Before picking up the phone, do your homework. What do you really want done to your car? How much will it cost? Many insurance companies can tell you which body shops their customers have been happy with; an independent review site like Angie’s List is another helpful resource. Once you’ve determined who would be a good fit for your car and budget, call around and talk to some shop owners before deciding where to take your vehicle.
Having Insurance is Important
It’s a good idea to let your insurer know what you’re planning to do. This is especially true if you are paying for repairs on your own and not through insurance. It’s also important to let them know when you are involved in an accident, even if it was not your fault. That way, they can make sure that they pay out any coverage they may have owed to someone else. Otherwise, they could deny your claim and end up making you responsible for more than necessary.
Consider an Estimate Beforehand
Auto body repair is expensive, which means that you want to be sure you’re hiring a trusted professional. That said, most repair shops are happy to provide an estimate before work begins—but it can sometimes be hard to get ahold of a shop and schedule an appointment for one. If you know you’ll need an estimate in advance (for example, if your car insurance company requires it), set up a meeting with a shop or call in advance so they have time to fit you into their schedule. Alternatively, you can bring your vehicle into a shop once; if they do an acceptable job at an acceptable price, feel free to bring them all of your business. After all, word-of-mouth is perhaps the best type of advertisement around! And remember, if a quote seems too good to be true, it probably is. Be wary of auto body estimates that fall well below what you expect—it may just mean there’s something wrong with your vehicle. Your best bet is always going to be working directly with a qualified auto technician. They’ll tell you exactly what needs fixing and why—and how much it will cost. Of course, if you go through insurance, then your insurer will likely handle some aspects of body work for you—the whole process still applies to you though. Simply put: If a line item sounds fishy or doesn’t seem like something that would actually fix damage, question it! It might end up being more important than anything else on there.
Research the Brands/Products They Use
One of the most important things you can do when searching for a body shop is to find one that focuses on your make and model. While an auto body shop might specialize in any number of makes, it’s best to avoid shops that aren’t intimately familiar with yours—you want a team that knows exactly how your car was put together so they can match its original look as closely as possible. Always ask if a shop uses OEM parts (Original Equipment Manufacturer). These are manufacturer-made components designed specifically for your vehicle. Many repair shops use aftermarket parts, which may look similar but tend to be less expensive than OEM parts; these often come from overseas and don’t undergo extensive testing like OEs do before going into production. Stay away from them if you can—especially when opting for repairs that involve critical safety features like airbags or braking systems. Also, some independent garages have begun using recycled parts; while there’s nothing wrong with used car parts, it’s difficult to know their history. Often, those pre-owned elements will be re-refurbished and rebranded as new products. If you have doubts about where your used product comes from, discuss them privately with your mechanic rather than bringing up in front of other customers.
Beware of Upgrades and Extras
If your insurance company recommends a certain body shop, that doesn’t mean they recommend all services that are offered at that facility. Be sure to research their recommendations and ask questions if you don’t understand something. It’s always best to go into a body shop appointment with knowledge of what will happen. They may provide some options for extras, but be cautious of anything expensive or involving upgrades. Take your time and read over every document you sign carefully so there are no surprises later on. Remember, if you’re in an accident there is already stress involved; you shouldn’t have to worry about hidden fees popping up when it comes time to pay your final bill.
Know Who Will Do the Work
It is critical to know whether you are hiring a repair shop or an auto body shop. Many garages will offer both services, but not all can do both well. Also, some shops might specialize in certain types of repairs. Even if you hire a full-service garage, it’s a good idea to know exactly what kind of work they’ll be doing so you don’t end up with questions about why your car isn’t ready when you were told it would be.
Read Reviews, Ask Questions, be Safe
Before you hire a body shop to work on your car, you should do some research. Read online reviews to see if anyone has had a bad experience with them. If so, find out why and determine whether it was just an isolated incident or something more systemic. Also ask around to see who in your area has worked with body shops before and what they thought of their experiences. Plus, don’t forget to read all documentation related to any repairs that were done and get a detailed explanation about any extra charges added onto your bill at checkout. You can also take pictures of your vehicle before handing it over to make sure no changes are made without your knowledge.