If you've ever been involved in a serious accident, then you know that one of the immediate concerns of everyone involved is the collision repair cost associated with the damages from that accident.
Understanding Collision Repair Cost
In this exclusive LoveToKnow interview with Robert Ashby of Apex Collision repair services of Mobile, Alabama, outlines what collision repair consumers should consider when looking for a repair facility and what sort of repair cost consumers should expect.
Finding a Reputable Repair Shop
LTK: When people first get into an accident and need collision repair, many people don't know where to look for help. Are there certain places you would recommend as being better for finding a reputable auto repair shop?
RA: The best place to start is with friends and family. Ninety percent of my business comes from repeat customers or referrals. Another person to ask is your insurance agent, his recommendation may differ from that of the insurance claims adjuster. I'd trust the agent first, he wants to keep you happy so he doesn't lose your business. Think twice before you take the word of the wrecker driver that tows your car from the accident scene, it is very likely he's getting a commission from the body shop he recommends. Oh yeah...and be nice when you're on the phone with insurance people. Almost everybody they talk to is having a bad day.
LTK: What tips can you offer for people who are trying to choose a collision repair shop - what criteria should they use so that they know they're getting the highest quality repair at the lowest possible repair cost?
RA: Trust your instincts. If you are not comfortable with the shop you are dealing with, shop around. Prices from different shops should be in the same range. If there is a large difference in price between shops, somebody is possibly leaving something out or padding their estimate. Whatever a shop charges, they should be able to justify the charge and provide the customer with an explanation of the repair process so expectations are set before repairs begin. When you shop around, be sure the price you are comparing is for the same repair (parts/labor/paint). Don't hesitate to look into the shop...is it clean? Do the technicians look busy? A bunch of wrecked cars out front doesn't mean the shop is busy. Good shops don't let cars sit around, they get them repaired and back to their customers. Don't be afraid to ask them to show you a finished job or two - and above all, ask if they have a written warranty.
LTK: When you perform an estimate of how much specific damage will cost to repair, is the estimation process fairly precise or do you find that it's difficult to get it exactly right?
RA: Any reputable shop that specializes in collision repair will use a computerized estimating system. This simplifies the process and ensures accuracy. If a shop doesn't have this basic tool, I wouldn't trust them to perform structural repairs on my vehicle. Our estimates are visual, so additional damage may be discovered upon dis-assembly. If additional repairs are needed, we notify the customer and insurer and get authorization before proceeding.
LTK: Are there certain parts of a vehicle (glass, fenders, doors, etc) that tend to dramatically increase collision repair cost?
RA: Of all things that contribute to repair costs, passive restraint systems are generally the most expensive. In addition to airbags, items that may need replacing are seat belts/ tensioners, sensors, and control modules. These items can easily increase the cost of a repair by several thousand dollars. One thing that scares many customers is "frame" or structural repair. More often than not, this type of repair doesn't add as much expense as people think it will. As long as the shop has proper frame repair and measuring equipment, this type of repair isn't necessarily a huge deal.
What Does Collision Repair Include?
LTK: Can most collision repair shops handle major repairs such as transaxles or frame damage, or does collision repair mostly involve only bodywork?
RA: Collision repair addresses all types of damage incurred in a collision. A competent shop will handle everything from start to finish. Some things like glass replacement or front end alignment may be sublet to a specialty shop, but the collision repairer will handle those transactions as well.
LTK: When you do large repairs such as body panels or doors, do collision repair shops replace with new parts or with used parts and why?
RA: Generally speaking, new parts are specified if repairing the damaged part would be more costly or isn't feasible for some other reason. Some larger shops choose to replace more often because they can complete more jobs and in turn increase production and generate a higher net profit. When it comes to selecting new O.E.M, used or aftermarket parts, most shops would obviously prefer the new O.E.M. part. However, the insurer may specify the use of alternate parts to cut costs. Check your insurance policy before you have an accident!
Additional Tips and Advice
LTK: Do people have to take the car to a repair shop the insurance company recommends? Will it cost more if they don't?
RA: No. It is the customer's choice where they have repairs performed. Regardless of other reasons that may be given, insurers recommend shops that offer the company a discount. If you have an estimate written by your insurer, just take it to the shop of your choice and they will work from there. If any additional damage is discovered the shop should deal with the insurer directly on supplemental repairs.
LTK: Do you have any tips or advice for car owners who are looking to reduce their repair costs?
RA: Ask questions until you are satisfied with the answers you receive. Feel free to shop around, mid sized shops often provide the same or higher level of quality but can be more willing to negotiate, while large shops are often fed work directly by insurance companies and may not need your business. Look at the estimate closely, cheaper doesn't always mean better. If a shop offers to save your deductible, ask them (and yourself) how they can offer such a deep discount. Saving a few hundred bucks on a repair isn't worth it if your family isn't safe.
Whether you're driving a new or an older used car, fixing car problems after an accident can be rather extensive and expensive. Always shop around and find a reputable collision repair shop using Robert's advice in this article before you have your damage car delivered to the repair shop.