When you take your car in for collision repair, you want it to come out looking like there was never any damage to your car. Poor work can mean mismatched paint, large panel gaps, a poor quality finish, and even untreated structural damage that could make your car unsafe. You also need to be able to get your insurance to pay for the damage, and hopefully get your car back in a reasonable time period. What do you need to know about an auto body shop to find the right one for the job? Here are some things to ask when you’re looking for a shop to do some repair work.
1. What Certifications do they Have?
There are two main certifications to look for when shopping for body repair: The National Institute for Automotive Service Excellence’s ASE certification and the Inter-Industry Conference on Auto Collision Repair (I-CAR) Gold Class certification.
To become ASE certified, a technician has to prove their work experience and pass written tests for each area they specialize in. ASE certifications cover a wide range of repair specialties; body work categories include painting & refinishing, non-structural analysis & damage repair, and mechanical & electrical components. Technicians have to take the tests every 5 years to keep their certification.
I-CAR is an organization that works primarily on studying collision repair and educating body work professionals on the latest tools and techniques as they become available. For a shop to be I-Car Gold Class certified, their crews have to pass classes each year, learning about new techniques as they become available. If training lapses for any reason, the shop will lose their certification.
Many car companies also have their own in-house certification systems. These certifications aren’t always as reliable as ASE and I-Car because they may have limitations on which shops can apply. Quite often, just one shop in a given service area can be certified even if there are multiple shops that can meet the company’s requirements.
2. Have they Worked on your Type of Vehicle Before?
Each manufacturer has their own way of putting a body and chassis together, and there are plenty of unique materials that require special techniques, whether it’s the aluminum bodies used in European cars and new Ford trucks, the fiberglass panels on Corvettes, or the carbon fiber pieces showing up in high end sports cars. Ask the shop if they’ve worked on your type of car before and if there are any issues they may have with it.
3. What is Their Guarantee?
Shoddy work can lower the value of your vehicle, or worse, make it unsafe to drive. Before you have them repair your vehicle, find out what happens if the work isn’t up to par? Will they stand behind the work they do? Find out how they cover their work and if there are separate warranties on paint and parts.
4. What Parts Do They Use?
There are three options when buying replacement body parts: OEM, salvage and aftermarket.
Original Equipment Manufacturer (OEM) parts are made by the manufacturer of your car, which means they should be an exact fit.
Salvage parts are used parts that came off a salvaged vehicle of the same make and model. While it may seem like a bad idea, it will still be a factory part with the right fit for your vehicle. Usually, this is the best option if OEM parts aren’t available.
Aftermarket replacement parts are made by a third party manufacturer. Quality can vary, and the fit usually isn’t as good as a factory part. Although the cost of the part itself may be lower, it can sometimes be more expensive to make the repair because it takes a lot more work for the technicians to get it to fit correctly on your vehicle.
The type of parts that will be used for a repair depends on what’s available, what your insurance company will pay for and what the body shop wants to use. Your best bet is to find a shop that tries to use OEM and salvage where they can, resorting to aftermarket replacements only when necessary.
5. Do they Offer Services to Help You While your Car is Being Repaired?
Sometimes it’s the extras that can really make a difference between an easy repair and a difficult one. Some shops have a towing service, while others will need you to arrange the towing. Some shops can give you a ride after your car is dropped off, while for others you’ll need to arrange for someone to pick you up. Some shops might be able to loan you a car for a couple days while your car is being repaired. Most importantly, some shops work with insurance companies directly to speed up claims, while others may act through a third party.