If you’ve been involved in a collision, the first step in the auto body repair process is getting a collision repair estimate.
If an insurance company is involved, it will have an adjuster write an estimate. You may also choose to have one or more collision repair estimates written by the body shops you are considering using. Since there is generally an accepted correct way to repair the body and paint damage your vehicle has sustained, you might expect the repair prices to be very similar from one estimate to the next. But oftentimes this is not the case, and there are notable cost differences between body shop estimates. Why is this so?
Why Body Shop Estimates May Differ
1. Different types of parts are used in the repair estimate.
This usually causes the biggest difference in collision repair estimate pricing. The use of new OEM, recycled, or aftermarket parts (discussed in this post on types of collision repair parts) will have a substantial impact on the cost of repair.The insurance company may want to use a different type of part than you would choose, and different body shops may use different types of parts as the default choice in their estimates. It is wise for you to understand the benefits and costs of the different types of collision parts that could be used to fix your car before you authorize the repair.
2. Different estimating systems are used to write the repair.
There are three major brands of body shop repair estimating computer software: CCC, Mitchell, and Audatex. While the data they use to help the body shop estimator is very similar, there are slight differences between each system that can lead to differences in the final price of the estimate, although these differences are usually comparatively small.
3. Body shops use varying levels of thoroughness for the initial estimate.
Many auto body repairs will involve both damage that is immediately visible and damage that can only be seen once the car has been disassembled. The initial estimate will typically include only the visible damage. A second estimate, called a supplement, will be written for the hidden damage once it is exposed by disassembly. A body shop estimator may assume some level of hidden damage based on their experience, which will affect the price of that estimate versus one where no hidden damage is assumed.
In other cases, a shop may intentionally write a less expensive initial estimate in an effort to capture the repair, knowing that they can make up the difference in the supplemental estimate they will write after teardown. It is very important that you discuss with the estimator the potential kinds of hidden damage your car may have suffered and the attendant costs, especially if you are paying for the repair out of your own pocket. Once you have turned your car over to the body shop, your control over the repair process and cost is dramatically reduced. You also won’t be able to get your car back until you pay the shop bill, whatever it is!
4. Body shops have different labor rates.
There are three kinds of labor involved in collision repair: body repair labor, paint refinishing labor, and mechanical labor. Each has a different hourly labor rate, and rates may vary from shop to shop. While the rate difference may only be one or two dollars per hour, that can add up to a significant difference, especially on a large repair.
5. Some body shops may offer periodic sales or discounts.
The auto body shop business is no different than any other customer service business in that it is possible to find sale prices or discounts on the cost of products or services. Sales can take the shape of a percentage off of the total repair or a reduced labor rate, among other possibilities. In some cases, you may qualify for a discount through a professional affiliation or membership in an organization, like being a member of a Chamber of Commerce or AARP. These savings can help defray the cost of a deductible or a rental car, so it’s worth asking about whether or not any discounts are available.
Regardless of who writes the estimate, you should always thoroughly understand what is involved in the repair. If the body shop estimator is not willing to discuss the body shop estimate with you in depth, including different parts options, potential hidden damage, and repair vs. replace options, than you are probably in the wrong body shop.
At Georgia Square Collision, we are committed not only to providing high quality auto body repair, but also to helping our customers understand what is involved in the repair of their vehicle. We will take the time to completely answer your questions and provide options to help you make the best decisions to maximize the quality of the repair while minimizing the cost.
Come visit us for a free estimate. If you bring in any other insurance or body shop estimates that you’ve received, we will be happy to help you compare!