Be wary of any shop that offers to save you your deductible. Consider it a red flag when a shop is offering to waive your deductible if the repair is going through your car insurance company. The profit margin on auto body shop repairs is not very large, typically less than 10 percent, so there's not much wiggle room within the quote. A shop that is willing to waive the deductible is most likely either going to pad the quote to the insurance company or cut corners on the job, and it's unlikely you'll know which one.
Review the estimate carefully before moving forward, and compare it to the final repair statement later. When an auto body shop writes an estimate, the standard procedure is to create a line item for each aspect of the job that has a cost associated with it. It's relatively easy for a shop to pad the estimate with tasks that may or may not be absolutely necessary. For example, if a body shop is repairing the front fender of your car, one auto body shop may opt to remove the front bumper and hood (the adjacent parts), while another may choose to tape them over to protect them while making the repair. It's possible either method could work in repairing the damage, but the taping is going to cost less than removing the adjacent body parts.
Make sure you understand each line item of the quote. Ask questions if you don't. Then, compare the original estimate to the final repair statement, confirming each line item on the original statement is accounted for before you leave with your car. If it's not, ask for an explanation.
Ask for specifics about the parts. One way an auto body shop can pad its profits is by charging for original equipment manufacturer, or OEM, parts but repairing the car with aftermarket parts or even reusing the original part from the car without telling the customer. In many states, auto body shops are required by law to notify their customers if they use anything but OEM parts. Ask about what parts will be reused and replaced, and be sure you understand where this is noted on your original estimate.
When the repairs are complete, ask to see any old parts that were supposed to be replaced according to your original written estimate. Compare the estimate to the final repair statement again, and question any changes to the parts list before you drive away in your car.
If you feel the auto body shop may not have done what it originally quoted you, discuss it with management before you leave with your car. Reading Bankrate's story, "Body shop blues: Getting the repairs right" can help you determine if the repairs have been completed correctly. If the issue is not resolved to your satisfaction, then make a note stating such on the release form, and promptly contact your insurance company if they are footing the bill. Or if you are paying for the repair, call your state attorney general to get help in resolving the issue.
Ask the adviserIf you have a car question, email it to us at Driving for Dollars. Read more Driving for Dollars columns and Bankrate auto stories. Follow her on Facebook here or on Twitter @SheDrives.