How to Choose a Body Shop

I will be writing a series of blogs as to “How to choose a body shop.” In doing some research for this, I went to the internet and I was really surprised at how bad the misinformation is. There are a lot of opinions out there and I suppose mine is just another one, but at least mine is based off of over 30 years of industry experience in Auburn, CA.

customer-wreckFor this first article I will do my best to answer the question, “Do I need a factory certified body shop?” The answer to this is, “maybe”. A better question might be, “Does the auto body shop have the training, information and equipment to repair my car correctly?”

Factory certification means something different for every car manufacturer. Some are nothing more than a fee a body shop pays and an agreement to not use non-factory parts. That’s right, no training at all. Other manufacturers have very extensive training. In those cases it’s so expensive and time consuming that the collision shop often only trains one or two technicians. That means they only use the certified tech when it’s needed. The other 95% of the time they use a trained technician, but not specific to that manufacturer. Just like every other body shop.

I-CAR is the leading trainer in the collision repair industry. In most cases it isn’t manufacturer specific, unless there is something unique about the way a certain vehicle needs to be repaired. I-CAR trains to materials and philosophies that are used in all cars. A body shop can fix almost any car with I-CAR training only, because most manufacturers use the same available technology to build their cars.

What is my dealer referred me to a certain auto body shop? I would take this as another piece of information towards making a decision, nothing more. Usually dealers refer to body shops that pay them fees or provide them with free lot damage. Even if they do all that, it doesn’t make that a non-reputable body shop; it just means the referral isn’t an unbiased opinion based on what’s best for you. It’s based on what’s good for the dealer.

“Should I just have the dealer fix it?” I’ve never been a big fan of the dealer run body shop. They tend to be treated by the dealer as a side line business and they don’t pay much attention to the way cars or repaired and even more to the way customers are being treated. I personally think you’re better off in a shop that collision repair is their only business.

Alright, I said at the beginning that in some cases you could need a factory certified body shop. That is true for the highest end of cars. If you’re driving a Lamborghini or a Ferrari go to a certified shop. Even if you’re driving a car that’s 2-3 years old and upwards of $100,000 you might be wise to take your car to a certified technician. I said factory trained technician instead of body shop because it doesn’t help you if a non-certified collision repair technician repairs your car. The reason that I recommend for only the first years is because it takes longer for the industry to catch up on the latest technology. However, the training is usually out there way before a technology becomes main stream. If you don’t need a factory trained auto body repair technician, don’t use them because you will wait longer and pay more for them.

A bigger tell as to if an auto body shop is capable of fixing your car is if they subscribe to factory repair specifications. A lot of body shops train their technicians but still only about 30% of the collision repair industry repairs vehicles without the factory information or instructions as to how it should be done. This is key because most cars are now uni-body and designed to behave in a certain way when in an accident, so that the passengers walk away safely. If a car is repaired differently than it is engineered to be repaired, the results can be deadly. Ask your shop, “Do you subscribe to a service that provides factory repair specifications?” If the answer is anything other than, “yes”, run don’t walk to another body shop.

To conclude the first part of this blog on, “How to choose a body shop” I attempted to answer the question “Do I need a factory certified auto body shop.” My answer is, not usually. But, you do need a well-trained shop that knows how to repair your car and more importantly, has the information to repair your car.

My next article, I’ll do my best to answer the question, “Should I go to the body shop my insurance company referred me to?”

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