Automotive Body Shops are everywhere. Most auto dealers have one, as well as most commercial vehicle dealers. Then there are the shade-tree body shop guys that repair cars in their garages in their spare time. Finally, you’ll find many independent body shops sprinkled throughout your area.
So, how does a person who is not an expert in automobile repairs determine what body shop to choose?
In the insurance claims field, the choice is even more complicated. Many insurance companies have relationships with certain body shops that they call “preferred vendors.” The insurers will try hard to steer you toward their favorite repair facility. Customarily, these preferred vendors have made a deal with the insurance company to repair vehicles at a discounted labor rate. They will also agree to use aftermarket auto parts in the repairs.
But remember...you own your car. The insurance company does not own your car. It is YOUR responsibility to make sure your vehicle is repaired correctly.
I recommend three important strategies in dealing with body shops.
1. Take your damaged vehicle to YOUR chosen body shop, not necessarily the preferred vendor of the insurance company.
2. Insist that the body shop write an estimate using Original Equipment Manufactured (OEM) Parts. Aftermarket parts, favored by the insurers, are characteristically inferior parts that do not go through the same inspection and screening that OEM parts undergo. So, while they may FIT your car, they can compromise your safety as well as the value of your car.
3. The insurance companies are required to return your vehicle to pre-loss condition. That is impossible using cheap aftermarket parts.
So here’s how to choose a body shop.
1. Seriously consider getting at least one estimate from a dealer of your make of vehicle. For example, if you have a Toyota, get a Toyota dealer body shop estimate.
2. Ask your friends, neighbors and business associates for referrals to body shops they’ve used in the past.
3. Use your computer search engine to find body shops in your city or zip code.
When you narrow it down to about three shops, interview them asking these questions:
1. Are you licensed in your state?
2. How many years have you been an Auto Body Repair specialist?
3. Do you have a specialty?
4. Can you provide a list of at least ten satisfied customers with phone numbers?
5. Do you have documentation of your success in insurance settlements?
6. Have you ever had a complaint filed against you with the Better Business Bureau or State Office of Consumer Affairs?
Once you get two or three estimates, negotiate with the insurance company based upon the HIGHEST estimate.
Based upon the information you glean from your interviews, you can make a choice of the best auto body shop to use.