In this e-mail, we're going to discuss choosing the body shop that's right for you as well as differentiating between top notch vs. mediocre work. When choosing a body shop, the one criteria which not to use is whether they can save you your deductible. This is a tactic many shops use to get you in the door; but remember, nothing is free. The money has to come from somewhere and usually it's from the quality of the work. The first criteria to look for is someone who has your best interests at heart. Whether it's fighting with the insurance co. to get paid to do the correct job, getting you reimbursed for any aftermarket parts or getting you a rental car, they have to be on your side. That is the reason why I try to dissuade customers from going to a shop which the insurance co. recommends; it's an inherent conflict of interest. The second criteria is whether the shop performs the repairs to "industry standard" or "commercially acceptable" standards vs. "like new" or "OEM" standards? Most insurance policies are written for the repair to be "commercially acceptable" standard which is a fancy way of saying "pretty good". Personally we demand "like new" standards for our customer's cars. One needs to have a very good relationship with their body shop for them to agree to that. The third criteria is technically how the work is performed. This is constituted of numerous items:
- Does the shop use OEM or aftermarket parts? Are the parts new or used? Obviously, you always want new OEM parts, but if cost is a consideration, you have an alternative. Whether you or the ins. co. is paying for new OEM parts, just make sure there isn't a bait and switch. This is especially relevant to windshields. Remember that in most of the newer cars, the windshield is a structural part of the car.
- Does the shop fight with the insurance co. to get paid for blending the color onto the adjacent panel when it is necessary (i.e. metallic/pearl paint or damage being close to the edge of the panel)? Insurance co.'s prefer the shop to "panel paint" because it saves them money. But if the color is even a little bit off (even from fading), you may see a difference. This is an instance where the body shop should be in your corner.
- Does the shop blend clear-coat on a panel? This is a no-no! This is usually done on the quarter panel where the roof is adjoined in one piece. Even if the shop did a good job hiding it, the blend mark will eventually show up.
- Does the shop remove the bumper cover before repairing? It should always be (as well as disassembled of any grills, foglights, etc.) to eliminate any overspray on the rest of the car as well as have complete coverage with no tape lines. This is the way it is done at the factory.
- Does the shop remove the handles, trim, lights, etc. or just tape them off before painting? This is something that should always be done to prevent a "hard edge" that can eventually start flaking off. Again, this is the way it's done at the factory.
- Does the shop "back-tape" the jambs and then properly sand/polish them so there is no hard edge? When cars are painted at the factory, they are just a skeleton with no interior, so the robots spray the door jambs with the doors open so it's an even transition from the exterior of the car into the jambs. At the body shop, they don't have that luxury. So they have to properly tape inside the jamb and then sand/polish to replicate the OEM finish.
- Does the body shop purchase new OEM emblems/decals or do they put some new double-stick tape on and re-use the old ones? Again, you have an option is cost is an issue, just make sure you get what you pay for.
- Any paint protection film (AKA "Clear Bra") should be reimbursed in full by the insurance co.
- Finally, this is a pet peeve of mine. Do not let the body shop give you a "free" detail. That free detail is usually going to cost you money when you have to pay someone to polish out all the swirl marks they put on your paint. Leave the detailing to the professional detailer of your choice. The shop should polish the panel(s) they repaired though.
One final thing to worth researching is whether your insurance co. will pay for a new wheel if it is damaged or insist on getting it repaired by one of the overnight wheel places. Most of the low tier companies won't pay for a new wheel unless it's heavily damaged.
Now that you're a little familiar with the world of body shops, hopefully you won't ever need one. Now I know this is a lot of informantion to digest at once and if you're ever find yourself needing a body shop and feel over-whelmed, please feel free to give us a call and we'll help in any way we can. If you have any follow-up questions, again, feel free to call us. Until next time, may the wind be always at your back!