No matter how much care we might take when it comes to our vehicles, no one is exempt from needing professional help every now and then. Accidents happen, and when they do, it’s always best to have someone you can trust waiting on the other end of the line. Sadly, recent studies have shown that a whopping 66 percent of American drivers are leery of mechanics, which indicates that the majority of us have a long way to go toward finding that trust. If you don’t already have a go-to when it comes to auto body repair, here are some tips for helping you choose the right one.
1. Go as local as you can.
While you’ll obviously want to pick a garage that’s in a convenient location, keeping it close to home has benefits that go beyond a shorter drive. You’ll spend less on gas and incidentals, in addition to being able to keep a close eye on the job as it progresses. If the shop is close enough to both work and home, you might not even need to rent a car in the interim.
2. Pay attention to the writing on the wall.
Or, in this case, the pictures. Most auto body repair shops will display photographs of their past work, giving you a strong visual to identify with. Compare the results of a few different places to see whose style most appeals to you. You might also want to get the details of which brands they use, especially when it comes to painting and other cosmetics. High-end products are costlier, but the results can be impressive enough to qualify the refurbished vehicle for the showroom. Which is more important to you: saving money, or making your car look even better than it did before the work was needed?
3. Ask around–in person.
If you’re new to the area, don’t just rely on a web search. Visit a nearby restaurant or tavern to get up close and personal with the locals. While you’re chatting, mention that you’re looking for a garage with a reputation for being good and reliable. Chances are, you’ll get at least one recommendation–more than that if you’re lucky. Resist the urge to scroll through review websites like Yelp, as these often make it difficult to narrow the search down to just a few.
4. Look for a warranty agreement.
A shop that offers a warranty is a shop that strongly believes in the work it’s doing, and is willing to back that up. If you’re still waffling between a couple of options, this could be the factor that tips the scale toward one or the other. Try to find a garage that’s willing to sell a warranty on any repairs they perform for as long as you own the vehicle. This guarantees that you won’t spend any more money on repairs than is absolutely necessary.
5. Look for proof of CAPA certification.
The Certified Automotive Parts Association (CAPA) seeks to ensure that any re-structured replacement parts have passed basic tests for quality and safety. Ask the proprietor about their policy on replacements. If they only use original or genuine parts, then the CAPA certification isn’t necessary, but if they regularly substitute re-structured parts in order to save money, make sure to check the invoice to be sure the certification is listed.
6. Don’t underestimate the importance of a first impression.
Auto repair shops aren’t hotel lobbies, and it’s unrealistic to expect them to be sparkling clean and smelling of Lysol every time you walk through the door. That being said, appearances do matter, at least on some level. If the shop is overly cluttered or visibly disorganized, it’s not unreasonable to guess that they might take the same shoddy approach when it comes to vehicle repair. Also, take the attitude of the employees and/or proprietor into account. Are they polite and responsive to your questions, or do they brush you off for daring to ask them in the first place? Communication is important in a business relationship, so don’t embark on one with someone who’s willing to brush you off the first time you meet.