Auto Body Repair – Are the Expensive Shops Worth the Extra Money?

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One of the most puzzling things about shopping for relatively expensive services (more than $500) like home remodeling, cosmetic surgery, and auto body repair is the wide range of price quotes you receive for essentially the same service. When I ran an auto body shop, we would see quotes from big name shops of $2000 for a front bumper and grille replacement. Sometimes, we could do the job for $1000 and still make a fair profit.

So, was the big name shop’s work better? Frankly, yes. Their painter could get a closer color match. Their body man could line up the bumper absolutely perfect…to within a millimeter of factory spec. But…was their work twice as good? Only a body man or painter could spot the difference. From a certain angle, in a certain light, he could see the slightest mismatch in paint color. And with a fine-grade ruler. He could check the gap between bumper and fender and find the slightest differences.

But could a customer perceive the difference between a $2000 and $1000 bumper job? No chance. If I could quantify the difference, it might be (an undetectable) 5%.

I’m not advocating that you choose the lowest bid every time (there are some bad shops out there), but as a former shop owner, I can tell you with confidence that it’s seldom worthwhile to choose the highest bid.

You’re going to want to choose the most affordable bid from a shop with a good reputation.

Here’s how to find that “just right” shop:

1. Get at least 4 bids.
2. Toss the high bid.
3. Do some research on the remaining 3 bids.
4. Check online reviews: Google, Yahoo, Yelp, etc.
5. Check with the Better Business Bureau.
6. Inspect the shop…is it clean and orderly?
7. What about the customer service? Do they answer the phone? Are they polite? Do they answer your questions? Does the manager/estimator create a good, knowledgeable impression?
8. Do they guarantee their work? You will want at least a 3 year guarantee from defects like peeling and discoloration.
9. Usually, the shop will have completed cars waiting for pick up. Inspect the work. Would you pay for that work?

After you’ve done your investigating, circle the shops you felt comfortable with trusting your car. Trust your gut instinct! Then choose the one with the lowest bid. You’ll get a repair that you will be very happy with yet spend hundreds if not thousands less.