How to Choose an Auto Body Shop

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Choosing the right auto body shop will ensure you get good service for reasonable prices. (Photo: @photo.lara_ via Twenty20)
If you need to enlist the help of a mechanic, chances are you have a problem with your car — and a potentially significant bill on the horizon. For your own peace of mind, it’s important to be able to trust and respect the auto body shop you’re entrusting your vehicle to.
With so many options in any given location, the process of finding that perfect option can be frustrating. This article walks you through the process to make it less confusing for you.

Look up the Shops in Your Area and Narrow Them Down

Step 1: Look at shops online and offline. Taking your search for an auto shop online can give you a potentially extensive list of options. Yelp and other review sites are your best bet to get a comprehensive list of mechanics.
Step 2: Consider reviews carefully. The most important tool at your disposal early on will be the online reviews for a given business.
Immediately off the bat, you should be able to eliminate several from your search; you’re unlikely to be satisfied with businesses with consistently negative or lukewarm reviews.
On the other side of the equation, although there’s always the chance of paid or “fake” reviews on sites like Yelp, there’s still a lot to be said for the businesses that rake in consistently high marks across the board.
Step 3: Ask people for recommendations. Word-of-mouth recommendations should not be downplayed either; people you already know and trust should be able to recommend places based on their own positive experience.
In addition, your insurance company may have body shops they typically endorse for auto work. Especially if they are going to be footing the bill for the repairs, hopping on with an affiliate mechanic of theirs should make it easier for you to process your claim with them.

Ask the Right Questions About Parts and Service

Step 1: Ask questions about parts. Asking questions and getting information from a mechanic about the garage and its services is a great way to tell if you should entrust the shop with your car.
Make sure to ask whether they stock OEM (original equipment manufacturer) or aftermarket parts. Although aftermarket parts tend to function as well as the original parts, their usage may imply other things about the garage’s authenticity, as well as whether they cut corners.
The difference between cheaper aftermarket and pricey OEM parts should also be used to gauge whether they’re charging a fair price. If a sharp discount over OEM doesn’t trickle down to the customer, there’s a problem.
Step 2: Ask about a warranty policy. You may also want to ask if the shop has a warranty policy (to ensure you get successful repairs for your money) and whether they have insurance coverage (in the case their shop is broken into and something happens to your car).
While it may seem like overkill, it’s also good to make sure they have proof of a business license posted somewhere. A failure on the garage’s end to have the right authorization could put your insurance claim at risk.

Directly Compare and Contrast Body Shops

Step 1: Go to the shop in person. Checking out more than one body shop in person will enable you to branch out with your options. Of course, certain situations may preclude you from taking so much time to find the right shop, but if you have time to shop around a little, you can get multiple estimates and compare them.
This reduces the likelihood of being overcharged by one mechanic, and you may find that other mechanics will go out of their way to match or beat the prices of their competitors if they think it will earn them another customer.
Step 2: Get a minor repair done. If you’re interested in testing the waters with an auto shop, but aren’t yet willing to take the full plunge, you might want to get a minor set of repairs done first.
After getting a firm grasp of what the service experience is like, you may choose to move someplace else or give them your full business.
Step 3: Keep your eyes open for other shops. Once you find an auto shop that suits you, there’s a good chance you’ll want to stick with it for the long haul. This will mean avoiding the arduous process of finding a shop again.
At the same time, it is always good to scope out the market for changes every once in awhile. That way, you’ll be able to spot a more enticing deal once it pops up.

Pay Attention to How You’re Treated

Discussing things with a mechanic should give you a better idea of the shop’s business practices. It also gives you a chance to gauge the mechanic for who they are as a person.
Sometimes this is just a matter of intuition, but personal rapport and a sense of mutual understanding and respect can do a lot to alleviate the usual stress of losing one’s car to the body shop.
There’s a lot to process and think about when it comes to choosing the right auto body shop. While there’s no way to guarantee the best outcome, searching efficiently will likely get you where you need to be with less hassle.