View Full Version : How to choose a body shop

Valentine One Radar Detector

11-24-2006, 08:18 AM
How to choose a body shop
By Eric Peters

Choosing a good body shop, like choosing a competent mechanic, involves doing a little research, asking the right questions -- and exercising some common sense.

As far as research:

* Check the shop's record with your local Better Business Bureau/consumer regulatory affairs office. If more than one or two complaints have been lodged over a period of several years, it's a clue to take your business elsewhere. Conversely, look for a shop that consistently wins local BBB awards for exemplary service. These will usually be posted prominently in the shop's window or office area.

* How long has the shop been in business? More than five years is generally a good sign; a newer shop requires closer scrutiny.

* What is the shop's reputation in the community? Often friends and family will have recommendations -- as well as warnings.

As far as questions:

* Ask whether the shop will guarantee its work in writing. Ask to see the warranty coverage offered -- and read the document carefully. A shop that does not stand behind its work -- in writing -- is a shop you'll want to avoid. Ask specifically about common issues such as fading and chipping. And: Will the shop guarantee a color match on repainted areas? (The re-sale/trade-in value of your car can be hurt if there's an area that's obviously been re-sprayed due to an accident, etc.) Modern shops have the equipment as well as skilled technicians needed to assure a virtual perfect color match. Don't accept anything less.

* Ask whether the shop has experience repairing your specific make/model vehicle. For example, if you have an import-brand car, it is usually a good idea to find a shop that specializes in imported cars. (Reason? There are sometimes repair procedures and expertise specific to certain types or brands of car; a shop not familiar with them or lacking experience with your particular make/model vehicle might end up doing a not-so-great job.)

* Ask whether the technicians working on your vehicle have any certificates/specific training in paint and bodywork. (The National Institute for Automotive Service Excellence's Conference on Auto Collision Repair, for example.)

* Ask whether the technicians are paid by the hour -- or by the job. (Be wary of shops that pay their technicians by the job as this may result in rushed/sloppy workmanship.)

* Ask to see customer testimonials and recommendations (or look around the office to see whether some have been posted; good shops usually display "thank you" letters, etc. sent in by satisfied customers).

* Will the shop give you a definite "complete date" -- in writing? (Letting the shop take its time is one thing; taking weeks or months to do a job that should have taken three or four days is something else again.)

* Ask to see some completed or almost-completed work on other customer's cars. If the shop is proud of its work, the manager will usually be happy to show it off. Inspect the cars he shows you closely for things like over-spray, runs, wavy bodywork and other defects or signs of sloppy workmanship. If you see any major flaws, it's a hint to consider another shop.

As far as common sense:

* Is the staff professional and courteous? (If they're indifferent or surly, leave as quickly as your feet will carry you. Poor treatment on the "front end" is not going to get any better on the "back end.")

* Does the shop seem modern and well-equipped? Look for a fully enclosed spraying booth (open-air spraying almost always leaves dust and other imperfections in the finish), frame-straightening equipment and a professional-appearing work space. A sloppy work area with tools strewn all over the floor is often a sign of indifferent, sloppy workers.

* Look at the vehicles being worked on. Are areas not being repaired carefully masked and protected from overspray? Are the interiors of the cars covered with protective plastic, etc? Are damaged vehicles stored under cover, indoors? A shop that isn't treating its customer's cars with respect isn't treating its customers with respect.

* Is the price quoted generally in line with the other estimates you got? (You did get other estimates -- right?) Be suspicious of any estimate that radically undercuts the estimates given by other shops; they may be using sub-par repair procedures and/or inferior parts -- or simply be shining you on, with a "final price" that ends up being a lot more than you were initially led to believe.

Finally, remember that in most states you have the right to choose the bodyshop -- not your insurance company. In most cases, you are also entitled to have the vehicle repaired using original-equipment parts, not lower-priced (and lower-quality) aftermarket (or used) parts. It's a good idea to read and thoroughly understand the terms of your insurance coverage today -- not the day after you had an accident. If you're uncomfortable with any aspect of the policy (including the amount of your deductible) change it now -- before you're stuck with what you've got.


11-24-2006, 01:58 PM
The shop that fixed my S80 guarantees their work for a long as you own your car. I thought that was pretty nice!

11-24-2006, 03:36 PM
The shop that fixed my S80 guarantees their work for a long as you own your car. I thought that was pretty nice!

It is; they sound like a squared-away place; was the work good, in addition to the guarantee?

11-24-2006, 05:08 PM
The work was excellent. The car had a clear 3M bra - they installed on the new hood. I was amazed.

11-25-2006, 07:30 AM
The work was excellent. The car had a clear 3M bra - they installed on the new hood. I was amazed.

Good deal; it's wonderful to find a solid shop you can trust. Be sure to spread the word about this place to your friends and others; sounds like the shop deserves the kudos!