Finding the right auto shop

January 18, 2010 12:00:00 AM PST
It's one of those things you don't think about until you have an emergency, but finding the right auto body shop can save you both aggravation and money.

The quality of auto body shops varies widely and here's are some good tips to finding an effective one.

If you're like most drivers, eventually you will need an auto body shop and finding a good one can be tough.

A survey by Consumer Checkbook found major differences in the quality of shops.

"We surveyed thousands of customers and the customers told us they had to go back to the shop three times and they still never got it right," Robert Krughoff from Consumer Checkbook said.

The survey also found wide ranges in pricing, with hourly labor rates differing by as much as 33 percent. That's important to know, even if your insurance company is paying the claim.

"It's nice to be able to say Checkbook compared prices of all different auto body shops in the Bay Area, and this is one of the lowest price shops. So don't give me a lot of trouble about the price quote I'm getting from this shop," Krughoff said.

Checkbook's president encourages consumers to go to the shop of their choosing instead of an insurance drive-in claim center. That way the shop can speak on the consumer's behalf when dealing with the insurance adjuster and the shop can say what they believe needs to be done.

Consumer checkbooks survey rated Dean's Auto Body and Painting in Burlingame as one of its top choices.

Dean's is rated high for both quality and price. The shop's owner says he can save his customer's money by using used car parts, especially if the car is more than five years old.

"Used window motors and regulators and things that are going to fall apart, we try to stay away from them. But sheet metals and doors and hoods and bumpers, usually there's not much of an issue there," Dean Treft from Dean's Auto Body and Painting said.

Some insurance companies will encourage you to use "after market parts." That can save you money in the short term, and certainly the insurance company.

But be aware, parts not made by the car's manufacturer can reduce the car's value when you try to resell it. It can also void your warranty.

But if you do decide on "after market parts," insist on parts with the "Certified Automotive Parts Association Seal."

And the bottom line ise ask questions about the shop's guarantee before signing on the dotted line.

"With all the cars now in the wrecking yard with the Cash for Clunkers, there's a lot of good auto body parts that weren't there a few months ago," said Treft.

Until this coming Monday, January 25, Consumer Checkbook is making its ratings of more than 100 auto body shops in the Bay Area available free to ABC7 viewers. Just visit