Check Engine

Reliable Vehicle Service & Care Info

A mechanic is shown inspecting the side of a black SUV at an auto body shop.

How to Pick the Right Auto Body Shop

The first moments after an auto accident can be a blur as questions race through your mind. What just happened? Is everyone okay? How bad is the damage? Once things start to slow down and you’ve removed yourself from any immediate danger, longer-term questions begin to arise. You might start to contemplate how this will affect the rest of your day or week, the impact on your insurance rates, and most importantly, how to find an auto body shop to address the issue.

Drivers who are lucky enough to have a good relationship with their local mechanic or body shop might be able to schedule an emergency appointment and get back on the road ASAP, but for the rest of us, it can kick off a long, frustrating process that involves multiple phone calls, shady referrals, or a lengthy delay. So what’s a driver to do post-accident? Read on as we share some of our tips for finding a trusted auto body shop that’ll get you back on the road with quality work and make your accident little more than a bad memory.

Ask Family/Friends for Recommendations

When looking for a trustworthy auto body shop, advertising can be your enemy. Some companies, especially large national third-party chains and franchises, pay good money to ensure that the next time you’re in an accident, their name is the first thing to pop into your head. That’s the reason so many auto body, tire, and collision shops flood the airwaves with advertisements that feature catchy jingles and slogans: they’re little earworms designed to burrow into your subconscious and arise in your moment of need. That’s not to say that some of these businesses don’t perform quality work, but, by and large, there’s almost always a local alternative that simply doesn’t have the budget to compete in terms of advertising.

The internet has democratized this process a bit, allowing drivers to find smaller, local shops when they search for a new mechanic or body shop, but there’s still no substitute for good old-fashioned word-of-mouth. Ask family and friends for recommendations, and you’re bound to garner a ton of anecdotes that start with some version of “I have this guy who does great work…” These recommendations are worth their weight in gold for a couple of reasons, but primarily due to the fact that they’re coming from actual customer experience, not the desk of some slick ad agency. If your own mechanic doesn’t perform body-related work, they’re certain to know someone who does, so they can also be a good source when looking for a recommendation.

If you’re new to an area, web-based community resources like Nextdoor can be a huge help. The app allows users to ask questions of those living in their immediate area, which is sure to start a spirited debate and turn up all sorts of recommendations from drivers who know the ins and outs of the local market.

A car bumper is shown laying on the ground near a tow truck.

Do Your Research

While recommendations from friends and family can be helpful when it comes to sourcing a new service provider, it’s always important to do a little of your own research. We’re not saying that they don’t know what they’re talking about, but such recommendations should always be seen as a first step that’s then followed up with a little supplementary internet sleuthing.

There are several routes drivers can take when it comes to researching local auto body and collision shops. The first and most obvious is to perform a search for some term like “auto body shop near me” and then read the associated Google reviews of each business. This is a good starting point, but it should not be seen as the end-all-be-all for a couple of reasons. First, you never really know who is leaving those reviews, and while it’s slimy, it’s not unheard of for some businesses to pump up their own rating with a few fraudulent reviews.

Secondly, businesses can pay a pretty penny to search platforms like Google in order to show up higher in search results (think of those ads at the top of the search page). This can create a false reality where a business might seem much more reputable or successful than it actually is, so it’s important to try and get a peek behind the curtain whenever possible. Verified customer testimonial platforms like Auto Body Review and Carwise present a good alternative, garnering feedback from real customers that ensures you’re getting an accurate picture of a shop’s reputation and quality.

Get a Second (Or Third) Opinion

It never hurts to have options when it comes to collision work, especially if it’s an expensive repair. While some drivers might not have the time to shop around and compare quotes, it can go a long way in securing a fair price. If you’re not in a rush to get back on the road, consider taking your vehicle to multiple auto body shops to see how prices compare. This will also give you a chance to check out the shops first-hand, which can often tell you a lot about the quality of work being performed. That’s not to say there aren’t some diamonds in the rough out there, but if a business can’t be bothered to keep a clean, orderly shop, it could tell you a lot about how much attention to detail is going into your own repair job.

Of course, going with the lowest possible quote isn’t always the best option. If one shop provides an estimate that’s suspiciously lower than others, beware, as “too good to be true” certainly applies in the world of auto repair. If the quotes are a little closer in price but you just have a particularly good feeling about a certain shop, or if they come recommended by family and friends, take the lowest quote back to them and see if they’ll match it. Either they will, and you’ll save some serious money, or they won’t and might be able to clue you in as to why going with the lower quote might not be the best idea.

A mechanic is shown buffing the hood of a black sedan.

Ask Questions

For those who don’t know their hubcaps from their steering wheel, the world of automotive repair can be intimidating. All too often, drivers are content to go with the first option they hear in the interest of getting back on the road as soon as possible, but if time isn’t a big factor, collision repair should be treated like any other business transaction. When it comes to mechanically-related automotive work, drivers often have fewer options as they usually can’t afford to have a vehicle towed from shop to shop looking for the best deal, but since collision-related work is often more cosmetic, drivers have a little more leverage when it comes to picking and choosing.

It’s important to remember that you’re in the driver’s seat when it comes to collision repair. Be a smart shopper and ask all the questions you need to to ensure you’re getting a good deal on reliable, quality work. One of the easiest ways to gauge a shop’s relative expertise is to ask if they’re I-CAR certified. The Inter-Industry Conference on Auto Collision Repair (I-CAR) is a non-profit committed to training and evaluating auto repair work, with only the best shops earning the vaunted I-CAR certification. Look for the I-CAR symbol or plaque on a shop’s website or in the waiting area, and you’ll know that the work performed will meet the standards of this industry-leading organization.

Warranty can be another big factor when it comes to choosing the right shop. If you have warranty or insurance coverage for auto body repair, this may limit the places you can go to get that work done, so make sure you know where your warranty work or insurance is accepted. Auto body repair can also come with its own warranty protection. In most cases, a one-year warranty is pretty standard, though two-year warranties for bodywork and three-year warranties for complete paint jobs aren’t unheard of.

Also, ask if a shop provides written estimates, and don’t be afraid to take a closer look at the estimate process itself. If a technician can’t provide you with a clear picture of the work that will be performed and why it should raise some real red flags. It’s also reasonable to inquire about the timeline for a repair. What sort of turnaround time should you expect? When will the work start? Are all the required parts in stock, and will they be new or used? You might feel like you’re being obnoxious, but at the end of the day, you should treat the process like any other business-customer relationship.

Trust Your Gut

There’s a lot to be said for intuition. While we can give you all the tips in the world for finding the right auto body shop near you, at the end of the day, you’re going to have to trust your gut and make a choice. If a shop seems shoddy and run-down, or if the staff is rude and difficult to communicate with, save yourself the headache and search for another option. If you take your time and perform your due diligence, you’re sure to find a good auto body or collision shop that can be a trusted partner in the repair process for years to come.