How to Spot an Unethical Body Shop

Aluminum building with words: "Body Shop" on the side.Most of us don’t need auto-body repair very often. But when we do, we need it to be done right. Once you have been in an accident, you have a lot on your plate. You want to get your car fixed as quickly as possible, but slow down a bit. You need to be cautious when searching for a body shop to repair your vehicle. It’s worth a little extra time and effort to ensure they don’t cheat you out of your money. You should learn to spot some of the most common tricks that dishonest shops use, and how to avoid them. Your caution will pay off in a big way when you dodge a scam.

Types of Scams

Overcharging for Parts

Repair shops can get the parts to fix your car in several ways. They can fix existing parts if the damage is minor, or they can buy one of four kinds of parts:

  1. Original Equipment Manufacturer (OEM) parts: made by the same firm that made the original part for your car, and they are the most expensive
  2. Aftermarket parts: new parts made by a different company
  3. Rebuilt parts: used parts that have been totally reconstructed and checked for performance.
  4. Recycled parts: used parts in various states of wear

Some shops may buy a cheaper used part, but charge you the price of a new part. They may even repair a part, but charge you as if they had bought a replacement. Make sure the bill lists exactly what was used, and verify that the parts described are the same as those that were actually used.

Paying Your Deductible

This scam may sound like a nice perk, but it is a sure sign of a dishonest shop. In order to eliminate your deductible, the shop has to send a bill to the insurance company for a different amount than they charge you. This constitutes defrauding the insurance company.

Although this particular kind of dishonesty helps the customer, rather than harming them, it is a sign that the shop is comfortable with unethical practices. They might cheat you, as well, or cut corners in repairing your vehicle. If a body shop tells you that they can waive your deductible, find a different shop.

Underbidding a Job

Brown sedan on jacks in a shop.Some shops want to guarantee your business as quickly as possible, so they will give an unreasonably low estimate that does not include all necessary repairs. Later, they will pretend to discover more damage that was invisible before and you end up paying much more than the estimate.

Even reputable shops sometimes discover more damage during disassembly, so the best way to avoid this scam is to be careful when reviewing estimates. Make sure that you get multiple estimates and ask for itemized estimates, so that you can see how thorough each shop has been. Pick a shop with an estimate they can explain clearly and completely.

Damaging Your Car

Some very unethical shops may try to cheat you by actually damaging your car while repairing it, and then charging you for additional repairs. To avoid this, take pictures and make records of the damage so you will have proof if you suspect a scam. Review the final bill to ensure that nothing has been added to it that was not in the estimate or quote.

Avoid Scams Altogether

When you start looking for an auto shop, pay attention to customer reviews and ratings. Make sure previous customers have been treated well. Rely on word-of-mouth advertising. If your friends and relatives trust a shop, it is much less likely to scam you. You can minimize cons by choosing carefully from the beginning.

 

Photo by Steve Snodgrass via Flickr under Creative Commons License.

Photo by Nick Ares via Flickr under Creative Commons License.

Ken Christensen
Partner, Founder at Christensen & Hymas
Ken Christensen is the founding partner of Christensen & Hymas. He is an avid cyclist, loves baseball, and enjoys spending time with his family in the outdoors.

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