It can be hard to choose the right auto body shop. Which ones are the good ones? Do you choose the low estimate or the high estimate? Do you ever really want to go for a low estimate? You love your car and want what is best for it. With more options than you can count, it can be confusing. John Mallette, who not only has 24 years of experience in the body shop industry but also owns Burke Auto Body & Paint in Long Beach, California, has his tips on separating the good from the great.
Listen to the word-of-mouth by asking around! Have any family or friends visited any body shops? This can be more valuable than a review as it is more trusted by most. They might even tell you about a shop that has an old school owner who does not like the internet. Just because a shop may not have a website does not mean that they don’t give great service! Some of these smaller shops may give your car extra attention not available in some larger, well-reviewed shops.
Ever wonder why some shops can estimate $500 while another estimates $2000 for the same job? The reason is labor hours. The amount charged per hour makes up for the big difference in estimates. Some shops can charge $40 per hour while others charge $60 and some even $90! This may depend on location and size. Not surprisingly, in more affluent places the estimates will usually be higher. The large body shops usually will charge higher rates to pay their staff who work in the front office. If your car is going to take some time to fix, then the price can really add up at these larger places.
In addition to labor hours, there is a book that gives estimates of all car troubles at each shop. This book lists each job and the projected hours it will take to fix it. Look for places that are straight forward with the job you need and the time required. Some places stick to the book while other higher-end shops might add on things that might have to do with fixing the problem, even if it isn’t clear that it will.
Get several estimates. Look at several different shops to get a fuller perspective of the situation. Get different estimates around town and then bring them to the other places to see if anyone will match or undercut them.
This does protect against being overcharged but throw out any outliers doing the job for crazy cheap. These guys can be the ones cutting corners.
Know what to ask. Don’t go into any situations blind. Ask the right questions and avoid getting overcharged. Does the shop provide a written warranty? If they do, how long is the warranty? What does it cover? Every shop should have a 1-year warranty. Some offer “lifetime” warranties that sound great but are not realistic. The terms and conditions in those kinds of warranties are so strict that they never apply to anyone.
Next, make sure you are protecting yourself. Always ask about insurance. Does the shop carry fire and theft insurance? Will you be covered if your car is burglarized or stolen while in the shop? Does the shop have a business license and how long has it been in business? All of these questions paint a much larger picture of whom you are dealing with.
Depending on the job needed, ask what materials they use. Some places prefer used parts to new and some even prefer aftermarket parts. While new parts are obviously preferred, aftermarket parts can work just as well while really undercutting the original price. When paintwork is needed, ask about how many layers of both paint and clear coat are needed. Basically, make sure you know what is going on with your car.
Trust your gut. If the place never has any customers, that may be because others are avoiding it. If the place is dirty and disorganized, this may reflect the level of work. If the owner is not able to field your questions well or treat you well, it may show the level of care given at the shop. If the first impression is not glowing, it is best to move on to the next shop. If a business owner treats their location and customers well, the chances are your car will be taken care of.
Visit our locations and talk to anyone of our professionals to see how we pass the test! Our team is well-trained and well-versed to field any questions you may have. See which location is nearest to you!