We all want to have the best auto body shop that we can rely on for great work at a fair price.
However, most people will attest that it can be challenging to find a mechanic you can trust.
Your vehicle needs to receive care from a professional, whether you need a simple dent repair or your car requires some major mechanical work. Shoddy work can lead to further damage, cost you more in the long run, and even diminish your car’s safety or resale value.
It’s (unfortunately) not uncommon that auto body shops take advantage of customers by either overcharging them or doing less-than-satisfactory work. With so many mechanics available to choose from – how can you tell that you are taking your vehicle to the best auto body shop?
Here are five simple tips to help you with your search for a mechanic you can trust.
Know What Questions to Ask
Approach your search for an auto body shop as if you were hiring an employee. You need to find a repair shop that is reliable, trustworthy, and fair. The best way to determine these qualities is by asking the proper questions before bringing your vehicle in for any work.
Do You Have Experience With My Make and Model?
Not all auto shops service the same kinds of cars. Some might have expertise for foreign cars, while others might not. Some specialize in high-end vehicles; others don’t. You need to know that the shop you choose is equipped to handle your vehicle’s requirements.
For example, many cars are now hybrid or electric. These require complex, sometimes customized spare parts that not all shops can access quickly.
Start your interaction with any auto shop by asking if they handle your vehicle make and model frequently. Get a feel for how comfortable they are with your car’s specifics, and if they seem skeptical, keep searching for another candidate.
What Is Your Warranty Policy?
Trustworthy auto body shops stand by their work. This is represented by a favorable warranty policy – particularly for major jobs like engine repair work or paint jobs.
This can provide you with some peace of mind, just in case, anything should go wrong. When looking at a warranty policy, there are a couple of key factors to look for.
A one-year warranty is generally the lowest offering to accept – some shops will offer two to three-year warranties. This is ideal for work like a paint job or post-collision repair work.
Warranty Red Flags
Now, you should be aware of auto shops offering a warranty that seems too good to be true.
Some will advertise “lifetime guarantees” for their work. These guarantees usually come with a lot of loopholes since this type of offer is unrealistic for auto body shops to offer.
Does Your Shop Have Insurance?
It is important to ask whether or not the auto body shop has insurance coverage that extends to the vehicles on site. If your car is damaged because the auto shop catches fire, is flooded, or experiences a natural disaster, you should receive compensation from their insurance company.
Also, ask about their policy coverage for auto theft or damage. You will want reassurance that you will be covered if your vehicle is stolen from the property or damaged by someone on the premises.
Do You Use New and Aftermarket Parts?
Most drivers assume that new parts are the best option if they need something replaced on their vehicle. While brand new parts are great, they can be extremely expensive. Slightly used or aftermarket pieces are a great alternative, as they can still do the job at up to a 60% lower cost.
If your auto body shop insists on using only brand-new parts for replacements, know that you will be paying a pretty penny for it. Shops that use aftermarket or used parts will likely offer you lower prices – be sure that their warranty will cover you if anything goes wrong.
Do You Charge Hourly Rates or Set Costs?
The way that the auto body shop charges you can have a major impact on repairs’ overall cost.
Some hourly rates can be incredibly overpriced, often due to the location. If the shop is located in an area where the median salary rate is higher than average, labor costs can be upwards of $70 to even $90 per hour!
Depending on the type of work you need to be done, a place that charges per project might be better – particularly for smaller repairs.
What Qualifications Do Your Mechanics Have?
Obviously, you want to take your vehicle to a place where only qualified professionals are working on it. Some auto body shops will display their worker’s certifications. If not, be sure to ask about the minimum requirements they have for all employees.
Look Into Local Review Sites
Checking online reviews and ratings is always a good idea. But unfortunately, you can’t always trust what you read online. It is pretty easy for businesses to gather fake reviews or report poor ratings and have them removed. Plus, many companies will cherry-pick which reviews appear on their websites, so you only see the good stuff!
Try to look a little bit deeper by going to credible third-party sites – like Yelp or Angie’s List. Facebook pages and local forums can also be a great starting point to see what other customers really think about the auto body shops in your area.
Don’t forget about word of mouth, too. Your friends, neighbors, and co-workers can probably offer some great advice on where to go – and where not to go.
It would help if you gathered many estimates before deciding which shop is giving you the best deal. We recommend that you go to several auto body shops (probably between 5 to 10) and get quotes from each one.
Please pay attention to the way they determine the estimate. They should be going off the average cost of materials and the time they will take to complete.
Note that you should not necessarily go to the shop, offering you the lowest price. This could be an indicator that they are cutting corners to keep costs low – and this could wind up costing you more money to fix the work they do.
Ask Your Insurance Provider
Another option to help you find the best auto body shop is by asking your insurance provider for advice.
Car insurance companies work with local mechanics a lot and typically have a network of shops they prefer to work with. This can be extremely useful if you need to get collision damage repairs or any other type of work that is covered by insurance.
Pay Attention to the Little Details
While auto body shops aren’t necessarily known for being squeaky-clean places, they should be trying to create an environment that feels clean and inviting.
If an auto body shop smells strange and looks like it hasn’t been cleaned in a very long time, you might not want to bring your vehicle there. It could be a sign that they are using dirty tools and parts or simply don’t care about cleanliness and organization in their operations.
Places that are kept clean, organized, and whose employees seem to be happy or have good customer service will be a lot easier to deal with.
If the shop does not have someone at the front desk to answer the phone, they will likely be hard to get a hold of. This could lead to major problems and frustration down the road. It may even be worth paying a bit extra simply for better customer experience at the end of the day.
Ultimately, the best auto body shop is a local one that offers reliable work and charges you a fair price. The best way to find a local auto body shop you can trust is by knowing what to look for in your research.
If you are looking for an auto body shop in Santa Cruz, look no further than AA Auto Collision Center. We offer vehicle services ranging from auto body repair and restoration to dent or glass repair and removal. We have an experienced staff that will get the job done right the first time.
Reach out today for an accurate quote for any type of repair work you need for your vehicle.