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How to Talk to an Estimator Before You Start Body Repair

A body shop mechanic fixing a dented automotive part with a hammer.

When you’ve been in a fender bender, there are a lot of things to discuss, and it’s essential to know where all parties are coming from before you speak with them. You’ll of course work with your insurance to get the repairs covered and perhaps arrange for a rental car. However, you might not have considered talking with the shop that’s doing the repair. Here’s a quick guide how to talk to an estimator or service writer at the body shop, so you can have all the information you need to get your car fixed properly.

Get an Explanation of Your Estimate
classic car in an auto body shop

The first thing to consider when asking the shop questions is what exactly needs to be done. Most times, your estimator will give you an itemized estimate that lays out all of the parts needed and work that’s going to be done, but it’s still helpful to have them explain it to you. Beneath body damage, there can sometimes be structural damage that needs to be repaired as well, and your body shop will be happy to explain the work that’s required to get your car not only looking good but also operating safely.

Specify Parts Used: Aftermarket or OEM

Many insurance companies will mandate that they’ll cover aftermarket parts, rather than original equipment from the manufacturer of your vehicle (OEM). While most reputable body shops will only use aftermarket parts from quality companies that ensure an accurate fit and finish, aftermarket parts are sometimes made more generically and may not fit as perfectly as your OEM parts did. It’s a matter of preference, but if you’re more critical about the repairs, you can request that the shop use OEM parts and see if your insurance will still cover them.

Nail Down Repair Time and a Car Rental

The last factor you’ll need to discuss with the estimator is how long the repairs will take. If they recommend ordering replacement parts, installing and paint everything, then you could be looking at more time than it would take if they were just to repair the damaged area.

If your repairs are going to take substantial time, you should reach out to your insurance company and see what your coverage is for a rental car. Often, body shops are partnered with a local rental company that can help make this part of the process easier.

Getting your car repaired at a body shop can be overwhelming. There are the questions of where to take it for repair, how to work with your insurance company to file a claim and how to talk to a mechanic at the body shop to get all pertinent information you’ll need along the way. By discussing the itemized repair estimate, the parts used and the timing of your repair, you can be better prepared and avoid a lot of headaches.

Check out all the paint & body products available on NAPA Online or trust one of our 17,000 NAPA AutoCare locations for routine maintenance and repairs. For more information on the how to talk to an estimator at a body shop, chat with a knowledgeable expert at your local NAPA AUTO PARTS store.

Photo courtesy of Flickr.


Erich Reichert View All

Erich Reichert has been an editor and on-air personality in the radio control car hobby for 12 years. A certified car nut since birth, he has written for internationally published titles such as RC Car Action, RC Driver and Xtreme RC Cars, as well as Stuff Magazine, Road and Track and Super Street. He's covered everything from product reviews and tech articles to high-profile lifestyle pieces and celebrity interviews. Erich found his passion for writing after a successful career as an art director, working with brands such as Pepsico, NASCAR, MTV, Nintendo, WWE, Cannondale Bicycles and HBO. He's also a father, an avid hockey fan and an FIA race license holder who enjoys hiking, playing drums and movies.

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