- by Montgomery Miller
- July 6th, 2017
Finding the Best Body Shop for Your Vehicle
Just over a year ago, we published our first blog, How To Choose A Collision Repair Shop, to help our followers understand the importance of choosing wisely when it comes to the repair of your vehicle following a collision. Today, this subject is more relevant than ever so we have decided to update our original message with some additional pointers to help you sort through the many options you’ll face should your prized vehicle require collision repair services in the future.
There are many reasons for needing a collision repair facility. An accident, a minor fender bender, a parking lot mishap, an unexpected hail storm, striking debris on the highway — whatever the cause, you may suddenly find yourself in need of bodywork and paint repairs for your vehicle.
If your vehicle is less than 5 years old you’ll want to consider the importance of having the repairs done only with OEM (Original Equipment Manufacturer) replacement parts. Safety is the primary reason for this since OEM parts are made to perform to the exact safety standards as established for that specific vehicle by the original manufacturer. Aftermarket parts and used or reconditioned parts that do not comply with the original manufacturer safety standards have a higher failure rate than OEM parts and the results of such a failure can be catastrophic. It should also be noted that the use of aftermarket or salvaged parts can reduce the value of your vehicle at resale.
My wife’s Hyundai Santa Fe was rear-ended a few months ago and the other driver’s insurance company was quick to send her to their “preferred” collision repair partner. The estimator looked over the damage, without removing the damaged bumper, and immediately cut a check to cover the damages they had assessed. I advised her to take the car to Autocraft Bodywerks, an OEM only shop, for a second opinion. They removed the bumper exposing the true extent of the damage to the frame which was far more extensive than would have been covered by the initial check the insurance company so readily issued. After reviewing the original estimate from the “preferred” collision repair partner, we discovered the estimate called for a used bumper from a salvage yard. Since the bumper is designed to protect the occupants in the event of a collision I was not at all comfortable with the repairs being done with a salvaged bumper that may not perform to original manufacturer specifications for safety. Beware, not all collision repair facilities use OEM parts so when you are searching for a facility to repair your vehicle, it’s important to ask if they always use OEM parts.
If you’ve been in an accident your insurance company may suggest a “preferred” body shop that they have a contract with. This recommendation is all about saving the insurance company money and has little to do with the quality of the repairs that will be done to your vehicle since in many cases, the “preferred” shop will use salvaged or aftermarket parts that are cheaper than OEM parts. It is perfectly legal for your insurance company to suggest their “preferred” shop for the repairs, however, they should also tell you, although this is often forgotten, that in the state of Texas, you have the right to choose where your repairs will be done. That is the law here in Texas.
Regardless of the brand or model of your vehicle, you’ll want to know what kind of credentials the shop has earned. Only 10% of all collision repair facilities in the US are I-CAR Gold Certified. The I-CAR certification indicates that the technicians at that facility have received specialized high level collision repair training and education over and above that received by the other 90% of collision repair facilities in the US. Training and education will make a huge difference in the quality you can expect from a body or paint technician. You wouldn’t trust your healthcare to a poorly trained, cut rate doctor and you shouldn’t place family’s safety in the hands of poorly trained, cut rate body technicians.
If you own an Acura or Honda vehicle you’ll want the shop to be ProFirst Certified by American Honda. Owners of Infiniti or Nissan vehicles will want to use a shop that is Certified by Assured Performance. These certifications require a significant financial and time commitment by the body shop to insure the technicians working on these vehicles have the proper training and education to conduct the repairs in compliance with the manufacturer’s original performance and safety specifications.
Tesla owners should only look for a shop that has been Tesla Approved for a variety of important reasons. Tesla vehicles are designed for high performance that is enhanced through the use of lightweight automotive aluminum, not only for body panels, but throughout the structural components of the vehicle. All aluminum repairs must be conducted in a dedicated facility that is separate from where steel welds and repairs are being done. If your vehicle has aluminum body or structural parts, you’ll want to be sure the shop is qualified for aluminum repair work.
The quality and experience of the paint technicians and the paint used are essential to a quality repair. Many manufactures today are using hi-tech paints in a variety of colors unique to the make and model of every vehicle. Does the facility have the latest in paint booth technology? Is it a truly dust-free environment? And what about the lighting? The newest LED lighting technologies illuminate the tiniest flaws that would be missed under standard lighting systems. A paint master with many years of experience and training, that understands color matching and specialized blending techniques will deliver the best results.
Consumer reviews on Yelp and Google+ can be a good indicator of the kind of customer service you can expect from a collision repair facility. Take some time to read the reviews and check with family, friends and social media contacts regarding the reputation of a shop. Advice from friends can be helpful but should be taken in consideration of other factors discussed here.
Before you make your final decision, consider the proximity of the shop and the customer focused services they provide. Are they willing to assist with making the arrangements for a rental car? Will they work directly with your insurance company? Will they provide updates throughout the repair process? Will they take the time to explain the process to you clearly? Some shops are reluctant to take the time to answer questions and articulate their process and may even make you feel rushed.
Another distinguishing quality of a superior body shop can be found in the detailing department. Will the final detailing include the inside of the vehicle? What about the engine compartment? How much time will be spent detailing your vehicle when the bodywork is completed and the paint is ready? At the end of the day, you can have your vehicle repaired to the minimum acceptable standards or you can choose to have it repaired and restored to showroom condition and to the original safety and performance standards as set by the manufacturer.
Finally, choosing a locally owned and operated business to do business with can be a wise choice. If the owner lives in the community he or she will be sensitive to the reputation that is earned by the business and more motivated to resolve issues that may arise. A locally owned and operated business will have roots in the community and will often support local charities while keeping the profits from the business in the community. Should you find yourself in need of a qualified, collision repair professional, remember the choice is yours and all body shops are definitely not alike.