• How to Choose a Car Body Repair Shop

    While most drivers will carefully shop for cars, they often don’t put much care into choosing the car body repair shop they use. Stories abound about car engines that were ruined by careless or inexperienced technicians. If you’re car’s body needs repairing, it pays to be as diligent in choosing a repair shop as you were when you purchased your vehicle in the first place.

    Of course, even the most highly rated auto repair shops and well-trained technicians aren’t perfect. Mistakes happen every day. But there are fairly easy ways to minimize the risk to your car when you take it to a car body repair shop. Consider these ideas to protect your car and your bankbook:

    • Ask the experts. The American Automobile Association (AAA) is one of the oldest and most respected motorist assistance organizations in the U.S. Founded in 1902, the AAA is a membership organization but there are many services available to non members including a list of “approved” AAA shops. Basically, those shops have passed AAA reviews which ensure they are licensed and fully insured facilities employ skilled service staff and offer a minimum 12-month/12,000 miles limited warranty on all repair work. Although insurance companies aren’t allowed to steer their clients toward certain car body repair shops, they often offer lists of shops which they’ve deem reputable. Again, these lists aren’t fail proof, but they may offer a good place to start when looking for a shop that will provide your car quality service.
    • Use the Web. Try a Google search with the name of the shop you are considering. You may well find praise and pans about the shop either in various news stories or in specific Web sites. Of course, be sure to consider that information as just a tool in your arsenal. You should also contact the Better Business Bureau and any consumer protection agencies in your area to see if they have information or ratings that may guide your decision.
    • Know your technician. Technicians in auto body repair shops have different specialties. Generally someone that changes an auto’s oil won’t then work on complex engine repairs. Those that work on the auto body generally don’t work on an engine. Those at repair shops located at auto dealerships generally have intense training provided by the manufacturer. Ask about technicians training. Also find out how many technicians are in the shop. The fewer technicians, the longer you will likely wait to have your car repaired.
    • Don’t assume you know what parts are used. It’s a fairly safe bet that shops affiliated with dealerships and large chain repair shops use new parts. But that might not always be true. Ask if the parts are new, taken from junkyards or other sources. Some car owners don’t mind if junkyard parts are used because the lower cost is reflected in the price. You owe it to your self to know what you receive, though.
    • Try before you drive. Recently I took my car into a shop affiliated with a dealership for a minor repair. Before driving away, I tried out several functions and realized the radio didn’t work. The fix was an easy one and cheerfully made. Still, checking before I left saved me time and aggravation. On the other hand, the dealership’s prompt, friendly fix assured me I chose a quality shop.