Choosing the Right Body Shop

Choosing the right shop can be daunting. Asking the right questions and knowing what to look out for is important to obtain a proper repair. Ask for a tour of the shop. Is it organized, clean, well lit, and does the people working look clean and pleasant?

Questions to ask;

1. Is your repair shop on any DRP programs (contracted by insurance companies)?

• People have found using a contracted shop isn’t always in their best interest. The shop works to protect the insurance company’s best interest, not you. Their agreement with the insurance company is to never tell you how the repairs are being done or what types of parts are being used. Why would they? The insurance company steers work to them regardless of quality, Equipment, Training, or Ethics!

2. Do you have any OEM (original equipment manufacture) certifications?

3. Do you use junkyard and knockoff parts?

• Junkyard parts – Your vehicle could be repaired with these parts. The junkyard parts come off vehicles that, in most cases, were involved in an accident and then sold to body shops to use on your vehicle. They don’t always come off a vehicle the same year as yours and sit in mud and water in these junkyards until sold.

• Knockoff parts – These parts are made by companies other than the original equipment manufacturer (OEM) and are typically made overseas. They’re not safety tested. They’re not tested for fit or rust inhibitors. They are not the same as what’s on your vehicle and have proven to cause airbags to deploy late after a second accident. Typically body lines and uniform fit are not consistent with the original equipment parts.

4. Are your technician’s certified welders certified with aluminum?

• Today’s vehicles are designed with many different metals that take more skill to weld than in the past. If welds aren’t done right, so many things can happen. You may experience noises, broken welds, water leaks, and most importantly, not be able to withstand another accident and be as safe as it originally was. The skill of the welder/technician is very important.

5. Do you have a resistant welder, and what brand?

• There are many types of welders on the market, but only a few do the job of duplicating the original equipment design. These welders can cost upwards of $25,000; most shops don’t have one.

• Just having one of these welders doesn’t mean it will work as it was designed to. It also takes the proper current at the facility, and most don’t have separate outlets designed for this equipment.

6. Do you have pulsating bronze welders and aluminum welders?

• As I mentioned earlier, today’s vehicles are being designed with many different metals on a vehicle. This was for safety and to meet regulations for gas mileage and crashworthiness. If repairs are made with the wrong welding wire and not duplicating the proper areas of these welds, the vehicle will never be the same.

7. Do you have OEM training and certifications (not I-Car)?

• There is lots of different training available for technicians, owners, and managers. You will hear and see signs for I-Car training. This is basic training that helps technicians to understand just that, the basics. Having original manufacturer training is what’s best. Having the information from the OEM is even more important. Every vehicle today is repaired differently, and the reason why there are directions for each repair. Most shops don’t purchase the database to know how these repairs are done.

8. Do you sublet any work to be done to my vehicle? If so, to who and what?

• Alignments – Most shops will sublet their alignments to people that don’t understand doing an alignment after a collision. In most cases, a computer has to be connected to the suspension to do a proper alignment. There is a difference between having an alignment after purchasing new tires and after an accident. Having the proper alignment equipment and knowledge to do a post-collision alignment is not prevalent in most markets.

• Glass – most shops will sublet their glasswork. Today’s vehicle’s glass has GPS, Heads-up displays, Satellite and radio antennas, heat, and many other electronics installed in the glass that can be damaged from an improper glass job, not to mention damaging interior trim and paint.

• Electrical – Today, because of the extent of vehicle electronics, it’s not unusual for some type of electrical work to be done after an accident. Having the same technician that does the body repairs, paintwork, and electrical work is a thing of the past. The “jack of all trades” scenario doesn’t work on today’s vehicles unless you are driving an older model.

• All manufacturers recommend a pre-scan to be done to the computer system for fault codes that will not appear by a flashing light on the instrument panel but, if not detected, will affect the drivability, gas mileage, and how smooth the engine runs. After repairs, a post-scan needs to be done to be sure all repairs were made and no codes are showing up in the system. Some shops use cheap equipment that doesn’t work but allows them to go through the motions and get paid for this procedure. You, however, will still have problems after picking your vehicle up after repairs were completed.

• Dealerships – Shops sublet repairs to dealerships; in most cases, they don’t have the technicians with the knowledge to repair vehicles properly, particularly after a collision. This could be one of the reasons these dealerships are favored by insurance companies for your repairs.

9. Do you work off the insurance estimate and their recommendations?

• Photo Estimating – Insurance companies are now asking consumers to take a picture of their damage and send the picture to a person who prepares an estimate from the pictures. They are not accurate, typically delay repairs and cause you to be paid anywhere from 15% to 200% or 300% less than needed for a proper repair. This is a very bad thing to do and only saves the insurance company money. Beware of this tactic and companies that want you to do this.

• Independent appraisers – These people are hired by all insurance companies to look at your damage and write an estimate. Their estimates are not accurate. These people are given guidelines by insurance companies (against the law). They write basic estimates that don’t include everything that is necessary. Beware of these appraisers and companies.

10. Written warranties – a warranty is only as good as the company. Picking a shop based on the shop or the insurance company saying “we give a written warranty” is naïve, to say the least. It’s not unusual to have a problem with a repair, and the shop            doesn’t do anything about it. If they are a DRP contracted shop, the insurance company stands behind them because they work in conjunction with each other. Another reason why a contracted shop may not be in your best interest.

  • Insurance companies don’t give warranties on repairs. Only the shop that does the repairs can, and you need to look at that closely. Insurance companies will mislead you into believing they give warranties only to steer you to one of their contracted shops. They will say, “if you don’t use one of our shops, we can’t stand behind the repairs.” These companies are not trustworthy and make it a habit to mislead consumers.

• Look at customer reviews. If you don’t see any good ones or many at all, stay clear. Ask neighbors, friends, and relatives for a recommendation.

11. Do you keep me informed on what the insurance company doesn’t want to pay for? Do you keep me informed as to the progress of my repairs?

• You should never be in the dark when having repairs done. Daily progress reports should be provided.

• You should be informed as to what the insurance company doesn’t want to pay for. In most cases, it will affect what the end result looks and drives like or if the value of your vehicle is diminished.

• You should be told about OEM recommendations and if the repairs will encompass these types of repairs.

• You should be told if OEM parts are being used or not.

• You should be given a detailed description of the repairs done prior to them being done.

• You should be explained in detail any shortfalls in payments. Insurance companies are known for short-paying claims, so the shop only does what’s being paid for, not everything that is necessary.

Choose your shop carefully!


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