By Tara Baukus Mello • Bankrate.com
It’s stressful enough having a car accident, dealing with your auto insurance company and worrying about how to get around. The last thing you need is to get the runaround from the auto body shop tasked with fixing your car. Like any business, auto body shops run the gamut of quality, so save yourself the headache by doing a bit of research before you choose an auto body shop to help ensure that your car repairs are completed correctly, on time and with no hassle.
Repairs from a car accident are likely to cost thousands of dollars, and it’s smart to use an auto body shop that comes highly recommended. If your car insurance is covering the majority of the repair costs, you may be inclined to go with the authorized repair facility closest to you, considering their list of facilities as a recommendation. Not so fast.
While an auto insurance company will remove a facility if it gets complaints, its list does not constitute a recommendation. Instead, get the info for several auto body shops from your insurance company and then ask friends and neighbors for feedback about any of the shops they’ve used. Take a few minutes to do an Internet search on each shop, searching for customer reviews.
When you arrive for your estimate, take a few minutes to learn more about the shop. Look for the shop’s business license on the wall and ask to see it if it’s not there. Ask how long the shop has been in business and if it’s always been in that location. Auto body shops that haven’t been in business for long or those that have moved from one town to another may indicate a less-than-reputable business. Find out how long the owner or general manager has been with the company and if he has skills in auto body repair as well as managing a shop. While the owner or manager doesn’t have to have a background in repair to have a great business, this knowledge certainly is helpful to ensure quality work.
Also, pay attention to the number of people working in the auto body shop’s office. The more office staff, the higher the shop’s overhead. Overhead costs also can vary widely in the same town, depending on the shop’s location. Auto body shops with higher overhead will sometimes tack on additional repairs that are in the gray area of the project to help increase their profit margin. In some cases, they may charge for these services but not actually complete them. For details, read “3 tips to avoid the auto body shop rip-off.”
Finally, when you receive your estimate, ask about the auto body shop’s warranty for its work. Look for a shop that provides a written warranty for at least one year on the parts as well as the work. A two-year warranty on the body work and three years on paint is ideal. However, be cautious if an auto body shop offers a lifetime warranty, as this type of warranty isn’t realistic and usually comes with many exclusions.
When you do choose an auto body shop to get your car repaired, read “Body shop blues: Getting the repairs right” for tips on how to ensure your car is repaired properly.