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Auto Body Repair Estimates

Body Repair Estimates

Auto body repair estimates are not as complex as many people might assume. Sure, it's easy to find yourself in a tough situation because of insurance coverages (or non-coverage), but the estimation of repairs is nothing to be afraid of.

You have three goals when looking for auto body repairs:

  1. Get a good, accurate assessment.
  2. Make sure there are no surprises that will cause dispute with your insruance company (if they're involved) or break your pocketbook.
  3. Get the repairs done right, the first time, with no cheapskate corner cutting.

First, talk with your insurance company (if they're involved) and be certain that they are involved from the get-go. Often, insurers will have their own assessors that they will want to look at the vehicle or preferred shops they want you to take the vehicle to. While you can (and probably should) get a second opinion from the shop or trusted mechanic of your choosing, the insurance company can deny payment if you do not go through their process.

During the estimation process, if it's someone you're having give an estimate (and not an insurance assessor), be sure that they do a full tear-down of the damaged area, removing everything that is in and around the damage so that a clear look at the underlying structure can be had. Not doing this can (and likely will) mean costly over-runs as repair shop technicians find more and more damage that wasn't originally found.

Superficially, the headlight might be broken and the bumper cover shattered, but underneath, the bezel that holds the light may be bent, the fender may have received non-cosmetic damage where it connects to the front corner, and the corner of the car's frame may have been bent as well. None of these are likely to be noticed without a tear-down.

Next, be sure that at least two different shops or assessors have looked at the damage and given estimates. One may see something the other didn't and no matter who you choose to do the work, both assessments should be given to the shop doing the repairs so they are fully aware of everything found so far.

Be prepared for over-runs, but know that they'll be minimized with a proper estimate. Little things often add up and are unanticipated, such as lost clips or missing detail pieces that weren't noted originally. Some extras are to be expected and many shops just replace them without changing the budget.

Finally, when you make your choice for repairs (assuming the insurance company does not require you use their shop), choose the shop that is most easily dealt with. The one that explains things in detail, shows you the repair plans, and isn't afraid to show you their operations and how things will be done is likely the best choice. Check with the Better Business Bureau and other agencies and ask around about the reputation of the shop. Above all, choose only the shop you're comfortable dealing with. Go with your gut feeling: if the shop seems a little questionable, you're likely right and should find another repair source.