A Guide to Estimating Your Auto Body Damage

A Guide to Estimating Your Auto Body Damage

A Guide to Estimating Your Auto Body Damage - Photo of a vehicle that has run off the road.

There are few sounds more sickening than the crunch and scrape you hear when your vehicle is damaged. Your first thought is probably one of acute loss, knowing your previously attractive ride has been deformed. Your second thought is probably, How much is this going to cost me? And your third thought may be, I don’t have time to deal with this. But you have to deal with it, and we thought it might be helpful to provide this guide to estimating your auto body damage.

Every Situation is Different

The only way to know for sure how much auto will cost is to take it to a professional because there may be hidden damage that’s difficult to describe in a blog post, but there are a few guidelines that can give you a better sense of what you’re dealing with as you do that first walk-around. In this post, we’ll answer these questions: • Which type of body shop do you need? Minor collision repair or full-service collision repair? • Which auto body repair techniques will be required, and what are their price differences. • Minor collision repair techniques. • What role does insurance play in repair costs? • How can you tell if your vehicle is totaled?

Which Type of Body Shop Do You Need?

Many people are unaware that there are two types of body shops, and one of them tends to be more expensive than the other, even when providing the same service. Full service collision repair shops have to charge more than minor collision repair shops because they have significantly higher equipment costs. A full service shop invests in, not only mechanical repair equipment for engine damage, but also large frame bending machines to straighten entire vehicle frames. On the other hand, a minor collision repair shop performs only body work, so they don’t have to invest in the big equipment. But as you’ve probably guessed, full-service shops can do a wider range of repairs than minor collision shops. APR is a minor collision repair shop—the cheaper kind—so if you only have damage to the vehicle body, we can probably save you money on repairs.

Is Your Vehicle Damage Repairable by a Minor Collision Shop?

Let’s take a look at some key indicators that you may need a full service shop rather than the type of minor collision repair provided by APR. Signs you may need a full service body sho • Your vehicle has visible frame damage. The frame is the heavy, steel or aluminum structure (chassis) to which everything else is attached. A bent frame requires a frame bender, which is only available from a full service shop. • Damage to mechanical parts, such as the alternator, engine, steering system, brake system, engine, etc. Minor collision repair shops don’t hire mechanics, and they don’t buy mechanical diagnostic and repair equipment. Here’s a more detailed breakdown of repairs that will probably require a full-service sho • Bent frame • Suspension damage • Engine component damage • Broken windows • Trunk or doors that will not close • Dangling parts • Fluid leaks • Deployed airbags • Broken or missing lights And here’s a closer look a the types of damage we repair at APR: • Large dents • Bumpers and other plastic parts • Paint scuffs and scratches • Most hail damage • Door dings and parking lot dents If your damage falls into the first category, you’ll almost certainly need to visit our partners at one of Auto Craft’s full service body shops in Wichita. If you see leaking fluids … well, that’s not good, and we’ll cover that below when we discuss how to tell if your vehicle is totaled.

Minor Collision Repair Techniques

Shops like APR use many of the same techniques as full service facilities. Like them we sand, putty and repaint for certain types of damage (we’ll refer to this as “traditional body work”). But we use Paintless Dent Repair (PDR) techniques for less severe body damage. PDR is far less expensive—and much faster—than traditional body work.

What is Paintless Dent Repair?

When PDR is an option, it’s a serious money-saver compared to traditional body work. Instead of dent-pulling, sanding, puttying, buffing and painting, technicians use a specialized set of tools to “massage” the vehicle body back into its original shape. Learn more from our recent post on paintless dent repair.

A Guide to Estimating Your Auto Body Damage - Photo of a paintless dent repair tool being used to correct a minor dent in a vehicle.

What Role Does Auto Insurance Play in the Final Repair Cost?

The short answer is: insurance almost never covers the entire repair cost. In some cases, you may save money by not filing a claim at all. Let’s take a deeper look.

Types of Auto Insurance

A Guide to Estimating Your Auto Body Damage - Detail photo of a vehicle insurance policy with a car key laying on it.

First, you’ll need to understand a few definitions … • Collision insurance This type of coverage pays out when your car collides with something. It could be another car, a tree, etc. • Comprehensive insurance This covers damages from non-object-collision events, like theft, deer collisions (apparently not considered an “object”), storm damage, vandalism, and fire. • Deductible As we said above, the insurance company rarely pays the full amount. The deductible is the amount you’re required to pay out of pocket before insurance will pay the remainder. • Premium This is the amount you pay per month to receive auto insurance.

Here’s the Thing:

You don’t really have a lot of control over how much your insurance provider will pay for any given repair because it’s tightly defined in their policies, which vary from one provider to the next. What you can control is whether or not you should file a claim at all. For major damage, the answer is always “yes,” but if you have damage that can be fixed by a minor collision repair shop, you may want to take a close look at your policy and your choice of body shops. It’s a very good idea to get more than one quote on minor collision repair. Even if the insurance company refers you to a full service shop, you have the option of getting a second opinion from a minor collision shop like APR. In many instances, we’ve been able to offer a repair quote that was much closer to the customer’s insurance deductible. When this is the case, the customer actually saves money by not filing a claim at all and paying for repairs out of pocket. Check out our article, “Winning the Claim Game: A Perfectly Legal Body Shop Insurance Hack” to see how this works, and whether it may apply to your situation.

Is Your Vehicle Totaled?

Some vehicle damage is so bad that insurance providers may deny coverage for repairs because they’ll cost more than the vehicle is worth. How do you know if this is a possibility with your damage? There are a few telltale signs that a vehicle may be totaled: • The vehicle can’t be driven. This is often an indication that there is damage to the frame, for which repair costs often run higher than the value of the vehicle. • Deployed air bags. It sounds strange, but the cost of replacing air bags and re-certifying the vehicle as safe is extremely expensive. • Fluids on the ground where the damage occurred. Most vehicles’ fluid reservoirs are located in areas that, when damaged, indicate high repair costs. • Heavy hail damage. If too many hours of body work are required to repair heavy auto hail damage, the cost can exceed the value of the vehicle. If the vehicle is totaled, your insurance policy may cover a cash payout for its current value, and it’s time to start looking for another ride. The bottom line is that you really need to take the vehicle to a professional to see what the repair cost will be because there are many types of damage that are not visible to the untrained eye. Give us a call at APR or bring the vehicle by our shop on South Washington in Wichita, and we’ll give you the scoop on what repair costs my look like.

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