So, you’ve been involved in a bit of a fender bender.
If you have car insurance, a reputable insurer will almost always refer you to an approved panel beater. If you’re insured with one of the lesser-known insurance companies, their list of approved panel beaters can often get a little bit dubious. And, of course, you may be completely uninsured, in which case you may be tempted to take your car into an affordable backyard knock-shop.
The problem with the latter is that while you think you’re being smart and saving a bunch of money, you’re running the risk of paying a lot more than you should in the long run.
Many of us have our own panel beater horror stories. You take your vehicle in to get a dent popped out and three weeks later you’re still waiting for them to finish. They keep giving you the run-around. Perhaps, later, you receive a traffic fine in the mail for speeding in an area you never go to, during the same period your car was sitting in the shop. Maybe that brand new battery you had put in a couple of weeks ago has suddenly been replaced with an older one. Perhaps that Taylor Swift cd you keep in your cubbyhole has vanished. When you get your vehicle back, it seems as if the problems and damages have only been covered up. Nothing has actually been repaired, and you’ve been charged. It could just be that some of the parts you needed repairing have been replaced with dodgy, lower-quality pirate parts, seemingly ordered from Wish.com.
These things happen. Whatever the case may be, we need to be vigilant. Here are a couple of tips for making sure you don’t come out on the losing end with the panel beater.
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Research The Panel Beater
Fly-by-night panel beaters seem like a great idea at first. They’re far more affordable, and they can take your vehicle in right away.
That is, until you arrive at their business address to find that it’s in somebody’s back yard. And they have zero trade certificates. Maybe there’s a couple of chickens running around. Children are playing on a worn out tractor tyre in the street. There’s almost always a stray dog loitering around. Am I painting a vivid enough picture here?
Still, you’re tight on cash this month, because adulthood, and hey, maybe this establishment isn’t as bad as it looks. Rest assured. It usually is exactly as bad as it looks.
Firstly, any panel beater operating out of a residential area is an immediate red flag. No sober municipality would allow this. Should you still go through with this madness, you’ll soon find, in the poor workmanship, that you often get exactly what you pay for.
A sad fact of modern life is that we have to pay very close attention to any and all repair work done on our cars. The entire process, from A-Z, needs to be scrutinized.
If you’re insured, it is vitally important to understand what your policy covers and how the insurer covers it. You need to know what you’re entitled to, just in case something terrible happens to your vehicle. In the best case scenario, your insurer will allow you to choose the panel beater. This will allow you to do thorough research.
If you’re not too sure about how any of this works, it’s a good idea to ask a friend or family member who has already run and survived the gauntlet.
Luckily, we’re your friends too.
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Choosing The Right Panel Beater
If you’re in the position to choose your own panel beater, there are a number of important things to look out for.
For starters, what you want is a panel beater that has been in the auto body repair business for a long time. You want a panel beater with a sterling reputation among the locals and reputable insurers alike. So you’re going to want to speak to their previous customers, read plenty of online reviews and look into the company history. Maybe, for instance, the company has just rebranded to escape from previous bad reviews and complaints.
Before deciding, you’ll also want to get a minimum of three quotes from various panel beaters with a good name. This is a good way to compare prices and services. This isn’t to say that you should go with the cheapest, because as stated above, you often get exactly what you pay for. Good auto body repair work takes time and care. If you value your vehicle, you’ll have to fork out a little bit more for quality materials and workmanship.
This may all sound like a lot of time and effort. The benefits of going through all the hassle are numerous, though. For one, you won’t have to worry too much about getting ripped off in all the normal ways. Chances are good that the right panel beater won’t overcharge. They won’t install used and stolen parts only to charge you for new ones. And they probably won’t steal all the spare change from your console.
We’ve spoken a little bit about insurance fraud in the article linked below, and how crash-for-cash fraudsters are sometimes in cohoots with auto repair shops. A panel beater with the best reputation has to uphold that reputation. They won’t get involved in criminal activity.
While You’re Here: Committing Insurance Fraud – And How They’ll Catch You
We recommend that you use a panel beater which also offers auto body paint spraying. This way, you won’t have one establishment blaming the other for any new, unexplained damages.
Here are some more tips which could help you;
- Before taking your vehicle in, take photos of your battery and filter parts. Before handing over the keys, take photos of your speedometer and petrol gauge. After the work is done, check that nothing has been swapped and that half a tank of petrol hasn’t been used on joyrides;
- Check that the panel beater’s employees have the relevant qualifications and certifications;
- Ensure that the panel beater uses the best materials. Work may seem good with the right lick of paint, but underneath, as time goes by, it may deteriorate;
- Inspect your car for mismatched paint in a well-lit area. Proper panel beaters use high-quality paints, using state-of-the-art systems;
- Ask and insist on guarantees. Do not use any panel beater who will not give you a guarantee on their work;
Finally, drop in for a surprise visit to inspect the progress on your vehicle from time to time. You have the right to do this.
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