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Washington Post offers readers tips on choosing a body shop

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Announcements | Business Practices | Collision Repair | Insurance
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The Washington Post has offered its readers a list of seven points to consider when choosing an auto body repair shop, offering guidance to consumers on “cutting through the hype to find a reputable business that can restore your car to its original condition.”

Written by Laura Daily, a writer who specializes in consumer advocacy, the list was developed with the help of Brian Haggerty, owner of Cross Island Collision in New York.

“Remember: You are an amateur, and you need a professional. Proper repair and the integrity of the car is most important — not the price of the repair,” Haggerty tells readers.

The seven tips, and some additions and observations offered by Society of Collision Repair Specialists (SCRS) board members contacted by Repairer Driven News, appear below.

While we’re on the subject of advice, don’t forget to check out the customer-focused quick tips offered each week on the SCRS YouTube channel. This week’s episode, hosted by Database Enhancement Gateway Administrator Danny Gredinberg and CEO Mike Anderson, covers what consumers need to know about what a supplement is, and why it might reflect additional costs.

The Washington Post story can be read in its entirety here. Note that it may be behind a paywall.

1: Get recommendations

Daily suggests that consumers ask a neighbor or friend, check networks like Nextdoor, and look at online reviews. If there are negative comments, consumers should check with the shop to see how the issues were resolved, suggests Julie Bausch, managing editor of Car Talk.

“Note how long the shop has been in the community. Does it have a good reputation? Word of mouth is still the best marketing for small-business owners,” Daily says. She also suggests that the car owner’s insurance company might be a good resource because they conduct “background checks” on shops and can verify OEM and industry certifications.

2: You don’t have to use your insurance company’s recommendation

The article correctly notes that consumers can choose where to have their vehicle repaired, even if their insurer has a direct repair program (DRP) or preferred partners “that can expedite the process.” Bausch told Daily about her own experience when her vehicle was struck by a delivery van. “Their insurance carrier wanted me to go to a dealership. Instead, I found a local, long-standing independent shop with positive reviews that provided a seamless experience, from towing to insurance to repair, and restored the car to brand new.”

Kye Yeung, an SCRS Past Chairman and owner of European Motor Car Works in Costa Mesa, California, added a couple of important questions for consumers to ask: “Who pays the difference if the shop I choose charges a higher rate? How long do I have to wait for their appraiser to review the shop’s repair plan if I choose not to use an insurance DRP shop?”

3: Ask questions

Daily presents this list:

  • Are technicians I-CAR certified?
  • When will the work start?
  • How long will it take?
  • Are the required parts in stock?
  • How often will you receive progress reports?
  • Does the shop offer a loaner car, or is there a rental service on-site or nearby?
  • What kind of security is provided at night and on weekends?

She adds Haggerty’s recommendation to look for a shop that offers a lifetime guarantee on workmanship. That’s one pointer endorsed by SCRS board member Todd Hesford, general manager of Mission Viejo Auto Collision in Mission Viejo, California.

“I hear constantly from consumers, ‘My insurance company said if I choose their preferred vendor the work is Guaranteed,'” Hesford told RDN. “I quickly remind them that the insurer said ‘Guaranteed as long as you own it right?’ and they agree. My question to them is always the same: ‘If you fixed the vehicle correctly, what does it matter who owns it?’ Then I present them with our lifetime warranty… regardless of who owns the car.”

Yeung offered RDN a number of additional questions a consumer should ask:

  • Does the shop use ASE-certified Technicians and OEM-trained technicians?
  • Should the car owner pre-order parts to expedite repairs?
  • Will the insurance policy’s rental coverage run out before repairs are completed?
  • What are the differences between OEM, used, and aftermarket parts?

Rob Grieve, owner of Nylund’s Collision Center in Englewood, Colorado and an SCRS board member, encouraged consumers to ask whether OEM or aftermarket parts will be used in the repair. He also suggested they find out how any necessary ADAS calibrations would be done — in-house, by a dealer, or not at all.

4: Find a manufacturer-certified shop

Daily suggests that owners use a shop that’s been certified to be able to repair their vehicle correctly, and that uses OEM parts, rather than aftermarket. “You want a place that is certified to work on that specific vehicle, with the right equipment, training, and parts,” Ryan Marrinan, a senior application engineer at 3M and a collision repair specialist, told the Post. Not mentioned in the story is the insurer’s role, and how disagreements are resolved when a carrier refuses to pay for an OEM part, something consumers might want to ask about.

Yeung adds a clarifying question for consumers: “Is the OEM-certified shop a real certified shop or is it a pay-to-play certification?” He suggests that consumers ask about what kind of training and testing the technicians have undergone.

5: Get an estimate in writing

Daily advises that estimates should be given freely, and in writing. She cites Marrinan’s advice that the vehicle be washed first, to make sure there isn’t damage hidden under dirt and that the car be examined out of direct sunlight, to avoid missing damage. A good estimator will take detailed notes and photos, and provide them in a file to the owner and the insurer, she says.

6: Ask for a tour of the shop

Consumers should look for OEM-specific certifications on display in the reception area, and ask for a tour of the shop to see if it’s messy or organized.

Hesford offered RDN some details that owners should be looking for on a tour. “If you do not have any automotive background, you may not know if you were in a collision center or a chop shop,” he said. “You see cars, check. Parts, check. Technicians, check. I would offer that as a consumer they should be looking to see if the facility looks organized. Is it clean? Is the lighting adequate? Ask to see some examples of their finished work. Are color matches seamless? Do the panels align properly?”

Yeung added, “I’d look to see if they have like kind vehicles” under repair. “If I have a Honda, and there are no Hondas in the shop, I’d be kind of worried.”

7: Be prepared to wait longer than you think

Haggerty suggests that the average repair takes 10 working days, thanks to the complexity of modern vehicle design. He lists unibody construction, parts shipping, and the possible need to recalibrate a vehicle’s advanced driver assistance system (ADAS) as factors.

Hesford suggested to RDN that “The ‘How long will the repair take?’ question is a bit loaded, as no one truly knows or will know until the vehicle is completely disassembled.”


Featured image: A tow truck moves a damaged vehicle. (iStock/cliffsman)

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