So you’ve been in a car accident. You’re not pleased to say the least, but at least you’re okay. First thing to do: see a doctor. Your next step: get your car repaired as quickly and painlessly as possible. You may be in a hurry to get back on the road, but taking your car to the first body shop or collision center you find is never a good idea. To find a reliable and reputable shop, take the time to do your research and ask questions. This way, you’ll get a high-quality, drama-free repair guaranteed.
I've been writing about the collision repair industry for more than 12 years, and I have interviewed more than roughly 1,200 body shop owners during that time. The shops I write about are among the country’s best—so I can safely say I know what they’re doing, and how they’re doing it.
So, when you are searching for a great shop, you should interview them the same way I do. Here's a series of questions that I would ask, and things you should consider before allowing any shop within 100 yards of your car.
First, before you call the shop, learn more about it by asking around and going online. Read lots of reviews, but try to take them with a grain of salt; only some websites, like AutoBody-Review.com, include only verified customer reviews from real customers. Sites such as these can be a great resource for your search; you can immediately get a sense of the quality of their work based on customer reviews and ratings.
When you look at a shop's website, see if there is a warranty page and find out its parameters--how long does it last and what it will cover? Any body shop of merit will cover all its repairs for as long as you own the vehicle.
Does the body shop offer rental cars on their lot, or do they provide loaner cars for the duration of the repair? If a shop gives you a rental, they are more likely to repair your car as fast as they can to save money. Being without a vehicle for any significant amount of time is a major hassle, so you’ll need to make certain that you have a rental, loaner car or courtesy vehicle while yours is in the shop.
How long will the repair take? There are so many factors that determine the time of a collision repair, including the extent of the damage to your vehicle, how busy the shop is at the time and the availability of the parts required. As a result, even the finest body shops in the world may not be able to give you a specific completion date until they do their research, so be as patient as you can.
Is your vehicle covered while it is being worked on in the shop? Ask the shop if they carry fire and theft insurance. You would assume that they do, but ask anyway and make sure you get it in writing. You want to be certain that you’ll be covered just in case your vehicle is damaged while it’s in the shop.
Will the paint exactly match the rest of the vehicle? In almost every case, cars have a unique paint code on a plate that is located either inside a door jamb, under your hood or in your trunk. This paint code will give the shop an exact color of the carmaker's paint. Make certain that the body shop will be using the same exact color of paint and not a similar color by giving them the code prior to the repair. If not, ensure that they have the proper tools—such as a spectrophotometer—to accurately match your car’s paint.
Does the shop have any O.E. certifications? Certifications, such as I-CAR and ASE, are always a good sign of a trustworthy shop. A certification means that they have the skills, experience and knowledge needed to safely perform high-quality work.
Ask these questions, do your research online and talk to your friends, colleagues and associates and you will find a good shop in your area that you can rely on for a quality repair.