Finding the best place to repair auto body damage

Whether it’s a small dent or major damage, dealing with the aftermath of a car crash can be overwhelming. There are police reports, insurance claims and maybe even medical bills, and then you have to worry about who will fix your car. It’s important to find a reputable body shop to repair your vehicle.

Carrie Neal didn’t think a trip to the ballpark would end in a visit to the body shop.

“I’m not the best driver in the world, so at first I was like, ‘oh no, have I done something?’ You know, like did I make a really big booboo and didn’t notice it, and then I was like, no. There’s no way I could make a dent this big and not be aware of it,” Neal said.

Neal discovered the dent after her daughter’s softball game. She suspects the car parked in front of her did the damage. She immediately contacted her insurance agent, who gave her a list of recommended auto body shops. Angie’s List says there’s nothing wrong with using a shop your insurance company recommends, but you’re not required to by law. Neal decided to go with Bruce Kelley’s shop – a shop she knows and trusts and has worked with in the past.

“They knew that we had two pretty young children, and it was summer and you know, not that there’s ever a good time, but not the easiest time to be kind of trying to juggle getting the repair made,” added Neal.

Body shop owner Bruce Kelley says you should always check a shop’s certifications and don’t be afraid to ask questions. How secure is the shop? Do they have liability insurance? Most importantly, how long is the repair going to take?

“A lot of people have an expectation of repair,” said Kelley. “Things go wrong. Parts have to be ordered. Sometimes it’s the wrong part. So we try to communicate with the folks over the period of the repair, but it’s important to ask at the beginning for an expectation. Things change, but at least you have an idea.”

Kelley says you should never assume a small dent is a small problem.

“Sometimes the damage is hidden,” Kelley said. “Sometimes it’s a lot worse than what we see on the surface. I’ve had cars come in here with what looks like a dent, and we totaled the car.”

And finally, Angie’s List says you should always ask the shop if they warranty their work.

“An auto body shop, whether it’s one you are paying for out of pocket or one your insurance is paying for, should offer a lifetime warranty on repairs, and if they don’t, you should find another one,” said Angie’s List founder Angie Hicks.

Angie’s List says you should also ask if the shop installs salvaged, used or aftermarket parts to save money. Many experts say original factory parts can be better for your car. Such parts are often recommended by the manufacturer.