The snow and ice that blanketed parts of the United States have led to an increase in the number of fender benders on the roads.
With an average of 6 million auto-related accidents a year based on National Transportation Statistics, and thousands of collision centers and body shops vying for that business, it's imperative that car owners research their repair center as thoroughly as they would a contractor for their home.
Angie’s List, the nation’s leading provider of consumer reviews
on local service companies, including auto repair specialists, recently asked some of its highly rated (and very busy) auto technicians for tips on handling the repair process in the even your ride gets wrecked.
“Never take a chance on an unknown repair shop or mechanic, whether you’re paying the costs up front or your insurance company is taking care of it,” said Angie’s List founder Angie Hicks. “The time you spend shopping around and comparing at least three different places is time well spent because you may never have to question where you’ll turn next time.”
Regardless of how long you’ve used a certain mechanic
or auto repair shop, communication early and often is the key to swift and sure repair, she added.
“Initial inspections can sometimes miss hidden damages to the vehicle, and you should be alerted to extra costs as any new repairs are identified,” Hicks said. “Before you authorize any work to be done, get a written description of the work to be performed and be sure that the repairs will be guaranteed with a written warranty.”
“After the repair, your vehicle should look and run the same as it did before the accident,” Hicks said. “If after you drive away, you notice any problems, drive right back to the shop. If you can’t get there right away, write down a description of the issue and take the car back to the repair center as soon as you can.”
While it might be tempting to avoid shelling out money for costly repairs to correct minor damage, it’s in your best interests to have those repairs done quickly and correctly, experts say. In some instances, driving a damaged vehicle can lead to a traffic citation. In a worst-case scenario, those “minor” issues can cause an even more serious car crash.
“While it may seem like a cheaper alternative to turn to a friendly backyard mechanic, you’re usually far better off to stick with a reputable center whose staff has the proper training, licensing and equipment,” Hicks said.
Angie’s List offers 5 tips from the auto repair experts
• Get multiple estimates:
Three should do it. The insurance company might have companies they recommend, but be sure to get estimates from companies you know and trust. If one estimate seems way out of line compared to the others, ask why. Ultimately, the choice on where to get your vehicle repaired is yours and you want to hire a repair center that is going to make your vehicle safe, while preserving the integrity of its resale value.
• Hire a repair center you trust:
Look for a repair center with a good history and a professional atmosphere. Ask for a tour of the facility. The staff should be properly trained and have certifications displayed from a trusted national organization, such as the Inter-Industry Conference on Auto Collision Repair (I-CAR) or National Institute for Automotive Service Excellence (ASE). Ask questions about the repair process and unexpected repairs that might arise. Get estimates for parts and labor up front. Be sure you understand the warranty process. Ask for a written warranty.
• Don’t delay; fix your car today:
Appearances can be deceiving, so even damage that might appear to be only minor or superficial should still be thoroughly inspected to ensure there is no hidden damage. Driving a damaged vehicle could lead to a costly citation, or worse, another accident.
• Ask the shop to help arrange a rental:
Most repairs take two weeks on average and many shops work with local car rental agents. Your repair center should be able to help arrange for a rental to be waiting for you when you drop your car off.
• Kick the tires;
twice: Have the repair center explain everything that was done to your vehicle. Check the work closely before you leave. Address any concerns immediately. Request an itemized receipt and check for any work billed but not performed. After you leave, keep a list of any problems you experience and contact the repair center immediately.
Angie’s List collects consumer reviews on local contractors and doctors in more than 500 service categories. Currently, more than 1.5 million consumers across the U.S. rely on Angie’s List to help them make the best hiring decisions. Members get unlimited access to local ratings via Internet or phone, exclusive discounts, the Angie’s List magazine and help from the Angie’s List complaint resolution service. Take a quick tour of Angie’s List and view the latest Angie’s List news.