WHY BODY SHOPS CHARGE A FEE TO MAKE ESTIMATES

 

As a long time Houston area business, we have seen numerous changes over the decades in the body repair business, now commonly known as the Collision Repair Market.

One of the changes is that more and more body shops, charge a fee for writing estimates or quotes.

Keep in mind, the market is VERY competitive. So the shop estimator/appraiser definitely wants to get your business. But he also wants to be sure he is thorough. Nobody likes to get a price and then, once work starts on your vehicle, the shop tells you “We discovered more damage” or “it needs more parts than we estimated”. Immediately, the customer may feel they are being taken advantage of. So, the more accurate the estimate, the better everyone feels about the up-front price. Accuracy takes time. Most shops use estimating programs to improve consistency within the market as well as accuracy. And these programs can cost thousands of dollars.

WHAT IS INVOLVED IN WRITING AN ESTIMATE?
First, a thorough inspection of the damage must be done. Sometimes measurements have to be taken.

For example, years ago when we were gaining experience, we had a vehicle come into our shop with what appeared to be minor damage. It seemed only cosmetic. So the estimate was quick, the customer agreed to the price and work began. As we removed the damaged body part we could see that the axle had suffered an impact. Still, it didn’t appear serious enough to assume there was any internal damage to the drivetrain. So, we took measurements of the axis points. To our surprise, there was damage that we missed on our initial inspection. After inquiring, the customer provided more details. They didn’t just hit some bushes, which caused the cosmetic damage but, they hit a curb, going sideways at 40 mph, before encountering the thick brush. Scenarios like this is way many estimators have learned to spend the time to be thorough.

Second, itemization. For labor and every part, down to the $ 0.10 plastic insert. And there are lots of them.

Third. Making sure the parts are available and if so, where? How long does it take to acquire them? Then, how much for freight or delivery if necessary. This can take hours to complete. While some parts are common, quite often, parts have to be located.

Most shops, estimators/appraisers, purchase and use software that regularly updates what the current market price is for collision repairs. This helps maintain consistency in the market.  But the software can cost thousands of dollars. In addition, repair facilities have an hourly labor rate. Writing an estimate can take hours if there is extensive damage.  So, if a shop charges $40.00 per hour for labor, and they factor in the cost of estimating software, you can see why they would charge for appraising the damage on your vehicle. However, if you decide to let the shop repair your vehicle, the cost of the estimate is usually credited on the repair invoice.

While there are still some shops who offer “free estimates”, many times it is best to pay for an accurate estimate which, in the long run, will save frustration for the consumer.

Lease and Rental Vehicle Accidents

SHOULD YOU PURCHASE VEHICLE RENTAL INSURANCE?

The debate over whether it is a good idea to purchase rental insurance or not, is riddled with pros and cons. Does the rental or lease company make money when you purchase an insurance policy from them for the vehicle you rent or lease? YES.

If involved in an accident, is the minimal charge for insurance worth it? Usually it is.

Because even a scratch that requires painting generally will cost at least a few hundred dollars. The expense goes up from there if there is a dent or, something is definitely broken.   One option that many consumers overlook is to check your credit card terms and see if paying for rentals with that credit card includes insurance for your rented or leased vehicle. Many credit card companies do offer this as one of the perks for using their card. BUT, be sure you read and understand the terms. If after reading the terms you are still unclear about some of the wording, simply call and speak to a representative for the card you plan on using and ask them to explain those terms.

If you are renting a commercial truck and you do have an accident or incur some damage to the vehicle, consider the following options:

 If Renting the vehicle, you usually incur daily charges. In this case, it would generally be more economical for the customer to let the rental company handle making the repairs, especially if it is insured. What you will need to decide is if the cost of daily rental charges while the vehicle is in your possession will justify going on your own to get the vehicle repaired before returning it to the rental/lease company.

If you are Leasing the vehicle, sometimes it will be more economical to get a few estimates from different commercial body repair shops  before involving the lease company (Save yourself some time by having an estimator come to you. Many shops offer free estimating). Be sure to specify that the repair shop will use original factory replacement parts and that the repairs made DO NOT void the vehicle or cargo bed/box manufacturer’s warranties. IF it does, the Lease company can refuse to accept the repairs resulting in possibly thousands of dollars more in correcting the “repairs”.

But getting an estimate beforehand from at least two different shops will allow you to compare the actual cost of repairs with what the rental or lease company charges for repairs. This will help you to determine if the rental company is inflating the cost of repairs.

Hopefully this information will allow consumers to have a better insight when entering into a rental or lease contract and prove helpful in formulating questions ahead of time. In any event being insured will, in the least, provide ease of mind.

On Site Repairs

ON-SITE REPAIR – PROS & CONS

At times on site body repairing may be a desired option. In some cases, there may be no other option, such as in an emergency. But, consider the following:

Companies that boast ON SITE body repair have Mobile Service Vehicles AND have a much higher operating cost. Additional equipment, tools, insurance, fuel, vehicle maintenance and licensing all inflate the operating expense. This expense is passed on to customers who could save significantly by bringing their vehicle in to the repair shop.

Body Repair Shops are noisy, and turn the on site area into a health & safety hazard zone. YOUR place of business is NOT a body shop. Also, there are zoning laws that could possibly make your business the target of unfair and unwanted fines and liabilities. So, bringing the shop to you may not always be a favorable option. In-shop repairs allow the repairs to be done in a controlled environment which in turn results in better quality service.

Repair or Replace Body Parts?

When it comes to the decision of REPAIRING vs. REPLACING body parts on your vehicle, you will need to know a few things to help you decide:

 

1) Is your vehicle still under warranty?

If it is, simply patching or repairing the damage might void your warranty. For example, on a commercial box truck or trailer, aluminum skins or panels can be patched. The same is true for aluminum and translucent roofs. While patching is a more economical route in the short term, and maybe the only option in the case of an emergency, in the long run, these patches may cause structural weak-spots especially in the framework (rails, support beams for example). And this will result in REPEATED or ADDITIONAL repairs as the vehicle undergoes vibrations and flexing under the rigors of daily use.

2) Do you just want a temporary fix?

This may be a good option IF you need an emergency repair, do not plan to keep the vehicle, or if the vehicle is very outdated and soon to be replaced.

3) Do you have more than one estimate from different shops?

Be sure to compare apples to apples when choosing between different shop estimates by making sure the job descriptions are similar. If you are not sure, ask the estimator or representative to explain any repairs you may not be clear on. Also, you can get two estimates from the same shop, one for patching and one for replacing. Ask what repair options are available for your vehicle.

4) What to do next?

Finally, if you do choose patching over replacing body parts, ask if there is any warranty on the work being performed. This can help you to decide which option is best for your situation.

Choose well by being an informed consumer and you’ll be glad you did!

Overhead Rollup Doors

The old adage: “Pay me now or pay me later”, has been used extensively by repair and preventive maintenance mechanics. While we may be suspicious of “Pressure Salesmen”, there is truth to the“Pay me now or pay me later” principle. If an overhead roll-up door maintenance is neglected this could result in hundreds, even thousands of dollars in damage and liabilities. Imagine a 200 pound door slamming down on the operator because a frayed cable snapped, or a cable retainer pin loosened and came out. Also, imagine what would happen to the vehicle behind your truck if the door or one of the panels came off onto the road possibly causing an accident. All this can be prevented. Remember, “An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure”. So be sure to take the time to regularly inspect the rollers, bearings, cables, and condition of the door panels.

Check out the inspection video below on the Whiting website:

BE SAFE !!!

 

This one is found on the Todco website:

 

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