Tip of the week: What to do after a fender-bender

Canton Repository staff report

With local roadways turning into a rat maze of orange barrels and concrete barriers, summer fender-benders are almost inevitable.

If you’re involved in one, who will you take your car to for repairs? Will it be someone you know and trust, or a random shop you pick out of the phone book?

“Although an insurance company may make some recommendations, drivers have a choice when selecting an auto-body repair shop,” said Michael Paris, president of Better Business Bureau of Canton.

According to the U.S. Department of Transportation’s most recent statistics, nearly 6 million nonfatal motor vehicle traffic crashes were reported in 2005. Most of the vehicles likely ended up at a collision center, where the average repair bill was $2,200 to $2,300 and where 80 to 92 percent of the work involved auto insurance claims.

The BBB and the National Auto Body Council offer these tips on choosing a trustworthy shop, saving money on a replacement rental car and knowing how to settle any disputes:

- Compare collision centers before you need one. Ask friends and relatives for recommendations. Check a shop’s qualifications by asking about advanced technician training from a national organization such as the Inter-Industry Conference on Auto Collision Repair (I-CAR) or National Institute for Automotive Service Excellence (ASE) certification. Verify commitment to ongoing training and customer satisfaction. Look for decals or plaques indicating the shop’s current membership status in industry associations, local business groups and consumer agencies. Check the BBB Web site at to see if the shop maintains a good reputation.

- Ask the shop to prearrange a rental car for you. If your auto insurance policy includes replacement rental car coverage, you may get a rental car for little or no money.

- Get everything in writing up front. Review price estimates for work and parts; get a written repair and price estimate for the work to be done; get an explanation of why specific recommendations are necessary before the job begins. Also obtain an itemized list for all parts and services, with prices, identifying any used or remanufactured parts. Ask about a warranty.

- Don’t shop for price alone. The lowest estimate could indicate that the shop’s estimator has improperly assessed the vehicle’s damage or that the shop specializes in “quickie” repair jobs and poor quality. If you get a quote that is significantly different from another shop, ask the estimator to explain why the quote is so different before you make a decision.

- Think about satisfaction after repair. Inquire in advance about the auto body repair shop’s policy in the event you are dissatisfied with the repair. If you notice a problem after you get the car home, call the repair shop immediately and let it know that you will be returning your automobile for additional repairs.