Auto Body Repairs Guide
What to look for when selecting an auto body shop
Usually the measure of a collision repair shop's quality is only apparent after the job has been done. Unfortunately, this means it's important to do your homework before you choose a collision repair centre.
There are many repair shops to choose from - with just as many promises. When evaluating whether a facility is up to the task of repairing your vehicle, it is important to investigate and ask questions, or rely on a recommendation from someone you trust.
Here are some tips to help you find the right auto body shop for you:
- Make a list of places in your area that suit your needs. Locating one close by has its advantages. While you shouldn't have to invest time watching the work being done, you should be available to check up. That way, you can ensure good progress is being made.
- When making your list, ensure each location has a positive referral.
- Find out if the shop guarantees their work.
CAA has developed a collision repair partner network that serves the needs of CAA Members. A rigorous screening of candidates and thorough application process, followed by on-site inspections and ongoing monitoring, ensures identification of facilities that demonstrate a dedication to performing quality repairs and achieving Member satisfaction.
CAA considers many elements when evaluating potential shop partners, including:
- Written, computerized estimating
- Ability to go online with insurance companies to facilitate claims approvals
- Knowledgeable repair advisors can explain estimate, repair process and provide updates
- Written lifetime warranty on repair and paintwork quality
- Uniformed, professional staff
- Trade group affiliations that demonstrate a facility is held to a higher quality standard
- Ongoing training, technical and education programs
- Trade awards/recognition for quality and customer service
- Community involvement
- Assistance with providing alternate transportation solutions (e.g., partnering with local rental vehicle providers and/or offering shuttle service)
- Customer service initiatives and satisfaction measurement/tracking
- Shop is clean, well-lit, organized, and laid out for efficient work-flow
- Completed vehicles are cleaned, inspected and quality-checked prior to customer pick-up
- Customer follow-up is conducted to ensure complete satisfaction with the repair
CAA is proud to recommend a select group of facilities that have made the grade. We call this group our CAA Recommended Auto Body Repair and Paint Facilities. This network of collision repair facilities features dedicated professionals and technicians committed to performing top-quality repairs and ensuring Member satisfaction.
When you choose a CAA Recommended Auto Body Repair and Paint Facilities, you will receive:
- A written lifetime warranty that backs the vehicle repair and protects your investment
- Preferred pricing for CAA Members for collision and paint repairs
- Discounts on original equipment parts at participating facilities
- CAA's assurance that in the unlikely event of a concern or dispute, we will act at the Member's request to investigate and help resolve any issues
For peace of mind in knowing your vehicle has been restored to its 'before' condition, and knowing your satisfaction is their primary concern, you can rely on CAA's trusted CAA Recommended Auto Body Repair and Paint Facilities
Find a CAA Recommended Auto Body Repair and Paint Facilities near you »
Visually inspecting prospective auto body shops
A shop's speed and accountability in performing good work are key things to consider when choosing a body shop. As you create your list of auto body shops, drive by each location and take notice of the condition of the shop.
Things to look for include:
- Number of cars on the lot waiting for repairs
- Number of repair bays
- How busy the workers are
You may want to drive by a few times in a week to see if the cars waiting for repairs are getting worked on, and also if the shop stays open during its posted hours.
If you see cars collecting dust or workers distracted from their jobs, then consider that auto body shop off the list.
Visiting each shop on your list
Once a shop passes your visibility test, visit the shop to ask questions - while also getting a quote for the work that needs to be done. Make sure the person giving the quote knows you are shopping for quotes and that the work needs to be done within a specific timeframe. This will ensure the quote remains competitive.
The person giving the quote should be doing a thorough inspection of each spot in need of repairs. If he is only giving your vehicle a quick glance, then his time estimate may not be accurate. This could be a red flag when it comes to delays and extra costs.
If you've seen other cars on the lot, which have been sitting for a while, ask if they are also current projects. Also find out if the repairs are done on location. Sometimes tasks are outsourced to a third party if the location isn't equipped. This might also be a red flag in terms of timing and costs.
During your visit, take note of the office and repair bays. In the office, do you see supplies randomly strewn about or piles of unorganized receipts? This could be a sign the shop is buying whatever parts are available at the best price. In which case, they might not be the best parts for the job. Disorganization can also be a sign of delays in service. Trust your instincts. You probably don't want your vehicle repaired in a shop that appears disorganized.
Working out a price
Once you've narrowed your list down to one shop, it's time to determine the cost of the work that needs to be done.
You can suggest how you would like the work to be done. For example, if you have many things that need repairs, suggest they work on them one at a time versus all at once. Since smaller jobs can be finished faster, the shop gets paid faster - which is a nice incentive for getting the work done.
You can ask the shop to quote each job separately and handle the repairs one at a time. That way, you pay for each repair one at a time. The garage gets paid faster. And, you have the flexibility to take your business elsewhere if you're not satisfied with the work at any stage of the repairs.
On the other hand, if you're dealing with a large body shop that guarantees quality work, it might make sense to have all the work done at once. In such situations, schedule the repairs at your discretion.
Getting the work done
Before the work begins, agree to a short-term timeline with a specific date for payment of the first task.
For example, your back bumper needs repairs and you both agree the work will be completed and paid for by end-of-day Friday. If on Friday you see that the work has not been done - or has been poorly done - you should not feel obligated to uphold your end of the agreement unless the problem is corrected. At that point, you should also take your vehicle elsewhere for repairs.
When you're agreeing on the work to be done, be sure to have everything in writing. Never sign a blank work order. Do a bit of research on the terms used by mechanics and the types of materials they use. In some cases, you can research beforehand to find out if it's the best way to do the job. In other cases, the auto body shop will present different options and prices. This is a good sign, as it shows they are aware of best practices and they are giving you more choice.
Show a genuine interest in the work being done. Take pictures for before-and-after comparisons. And, mention that you're excited to see how it looks when it's completed. This may motivate the shop to assign their most talented workers to your vehicle.
Before leaving your vehicle in the hands of any auto body shop, remember to remove accessories or expensive items. That way you can always be sure your valuables are safe.
Picking up your vehicle
When the time comes to pick up your repaired vehicle, ensure the work order fully details the work that was done. This detailed receipt of repairs may be needed for business, insurance or legal purposes.