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How to save on auto-body repairs

Close-up of a wrecked front quarter panel on the driver's side of a silver car
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If you get into a car accident, one of the first things you will probably think about is whether you can get your car fixed and keep driving it. These days, crashes can do a lot of damage to the exterior of your car, so you’ll probably want to take it to an auto-body repair shop. Repairs can be expensive, especially if your auto insurance doesn’t cover them, but with the right plan you can save some money. 

6 tips to save money on auto-body repairs 

Auto-body repair can be expensive, especially if you want your car to look pristine once it’s fixed up. But you can cut the cost of repairs by playing it smart and knowing what to ask. 

1. Get multiple estimates 

The best thing you can do when trying to save money on any expensive purchase is shop around, says Jason Vitug, founder of Phroogal, a financial blog. “The first place is not the right place until another assessment is given by a second shop to help with comparisons.” 

Get estimates from multiple auto-body shops in your area and see which one is the cheapest. You can even ask a shop that is close to the lowest price to try to beat the best offer you get, driving the price down further. 

You will have the best chance of finding a good deal on a repair by getting multiple estimates. This can also be helpful if you ever need to go back for additional maintenance because you will already know which place is inexpensive. 

2. Ask for a labor estimate and cost 

You have to pay for both the materials used in the repairs and the cost of labor. Some places won’t give you a good estimate for how much labor a repair will take or the hourly labor rate.  

Make sure you ask for this information when you get a quote. Even if you can’t get a hard number, knowing roughly how many hours the repair will take is helpful. Once you have a labor estimate, you can factor it into the full price estimate for the repair. 

3. Provide your own parts 

Most body shops have their own sources for getting new parts to repair cars. Odds are good that they will get a good price, but they might charge you more than they pay to add to their profit margin. 

If you’re willing to put in some effort, you can try to source the parts needed on your own, especially if you have some familiarity with your car and the repairs that it needs. Even if you don’t have the exact knowledge, a quick chat with an independent mechanic or even a car part shop can put you on the right track.  

Buying the parts for less than the mechanic will charge to source it themself, you can lower the overall cost of the repair. 

4. Get repairs done quickly 

If your car needs repairs, it’s important to get the repairs done quickly. If you leave the car as is for a while, it can worsen the damage. 

For example, if your car is dented or scratched, that exposes your car to rust and other wear. If you get the repairs done quickly, you can prevent expensive corrosive issues from starting. 

5. Check your warranty 

While it isn’t particularly common for warranties to cover body damage, you should still take a few minutes to check. This is especially true if you purchased additional coverage from your dealership. 

Even if the warranty only covers a portion of the repair bill, that’s still money that you get to keep in your pocket. It will take a little time but read the fine print of your warranty before signing off on any major vehicle-related expenses. 

6. Remember that spending more now might save you money later 

As with anything, quality and reputation matter a lot when it comes to car repairs. While you should shop around for a good deal, if one quote comes back far lower than the competition, you might want to think about why that shop charges so much less. 

If you get your car repaired by a shop that does poor-quality work, you might find yourself bringing your car back in for repairs to fix their mistakes. So, make sure that the shop you go with does high-quality work that won’t require frequent returns for additional maintenance. 

What to do if you can’t afford repairs 

While ideally you will be able to pay for repairs out of your emergency fund, life doesn’t always work that way. If your car is significantly damaged, waiting to save money for the repair bill also might not be an option. 

If you can’t afford to pay for repairs, there are some other options you can try, including: 

  • Negotiating a lower cost or payment agreement with the mechanic. 
  • Barter with a friend or acquaintance who is handy with cars. 
  • Get a personal loan if you have a good credit score of 670 or higher. 
  • Use a 0% APR credit card offer if you can pay it off before the introductory period ends. 

The bottom line 

If your car gets damaged, you should try to get it repaired as quickly as possible. However, that doesn’t mean you should bring it to the first shop you see and pay whatever they ask. Taking the time to shop around and putting in some effort can help you save a lot of money. 

 

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Written by
TJ Porter
Contributing writer
TJ Porter is a contributing writer for Bankrate. TJ writes about a range of subjects, from budgeting tips to bank account reviews.
Edited by
Auto loans editor