Whether it’s the result of a parking lot ding, a freeway fender bender or something more serious, almost every driver will eventually wind up needing to find an auto collision shop.
That adds up to a nationwide bill of around $40 billion a year, according to repair industry estimates. Yet, short of doing the work yourself there are ways to cut the cost of your personal collision work.
Five simple steps can put a dent in your bills, said AutoMD.com President Shane Evangelist, “add(ing) up to potentially huge cost savings for car owners, whether they are DIYing or going to the repair shop.”
First, shop around for the best repair shop and make sure to check the labor rates they’ve posted. Evangelist noted that most service shops actually post two different rates, one for mechanical rates, like tune-ups or a brake repair, the other for collision work. The good news is that collision repair rates are usually lower.
And once the work is done, check your bill carefully to ensure you weren’t over-charged.
Secondly, consider what is known in the industry as PDR, short for paintless dent repair. This widely-used method is an effective way to fix minor dings and dents, whether from hail damage or a runaway shopping cart. You can avoid the use of sanding, filling and repainting yet usually results in a like-new repair. Better yet, some insurance companies will discount your bill or even waive the deductible so you can share in their savings.
Third, consider doing minor repairs on your own. Small scratches are relatively easy to touch up – though Evangelist stressed that bare metal should be repainted as quickly as possible to prevent rust.
Finding the right color paint is simple. There’s a paint color code in every vehicle’s door jamb. Use it to order the correct touch-up color. Use super-fine 2000-grit sandpaper to smooth out the scratch, then clean the surface with soapy water. After you apply the paint and let it properly dry use a rubbing compound – available at any auto supply store – to blend the colors.
Do-it-yourselfers might also consider making other minor repairs on their own, whether they be busted taillights or even a bumper. You can find how-to guides on a variety of sites, including AutoMD.
The final tip is to avoid collisions in the first place, something highlighted by National Collision Awareness Month. Bumper and door guards can prevent many common dings. But you can also avoid many dents and scratches simply by taking a moment to look for a better spot in a parking lot. Yes, it may require a few more steps to find a wider spot or one that’s not close to the cart return, but you’ll save a lot of steps – and cash – later on.