Dingit Survey Shows: Cost of Auto Body Repair Can Vary by More Than 200%

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With the use of sophisticated computer systems to estimate the cost of repairing small and mid size auto body damage it could be expected that auto dent repairing become a commodity. However, a recent study by Dingit shows that prices can vary dramatically.

Over the last decade collision repair shops have begun relying heavily on sophisticated software programs such as UltraMate by Mitchell to estimate auto body damage. Such software programs, which include the ability to locate parts and their costs, and to pull up standard work duration for every task involved in the repair, could, at least in theory, ensure the estimates are to some extent consistent

In reality, there still is a lot left up to the judgement of the individual estimating the work, leading to a wide range of cost estimates. Factors such as parts type, decisions on whether to repair or replace can have significant impact on the bottom line cost, even for minor work done to repair a fender bender.

In a recent study conduced by Dingit.com a large number of estimates submitted by body shops for the same case were analyzed. The estimates that were received ranged from as low as $200 and as high as $690. More specifically, 26% of the body shops provided estimates in the range of $200 and $400, 57% between $400 and $600, and 17% were over $600. This distribution shows that the low or high cost estimates were not just outliers or the result of mistakes but rather real, accurate estimates. In other words, if a single estimate in the range of $200 would have been received, the conclusion could be that it was either a mistake, or more likely, a low estimate that was given intentionally as an attempt to attract the customer. But as indicated, since 26% of the estimates were is this range, we can conclude that these were bona-fide estimates.

So what are the causes for such a wide range of estimateså? A more detailed analysis of the components of the overall cost revealed that the difference in cost was the result of four main factors: First, the difference between replacing a part and repairing it. The second reason was related to the type of parts, i.e. using OEM (original) parts versus aftermarket parts. Third was the number of labor hours estimated since body shops estimate different time for the same task. And lastly, the inclusion of supplemental (optional) parts or labor, which some body shops included in their estimates.

Other factors worthwhile considering were different perks provided by body shops such as a loaner or rental car provided for the duration of the time it takes to get the car fixed, warranty on the work, pick up and drop off services, and more. These extras could also contribute to the differences between body shops.

The conclusion is twofold. First, as always, try to obtain several estimates so you have a fair basis for comparison. With tools such as the DingIT iPhone application, obtaining several estimates is literally effortless. The second conclusion is to use judgement. Depending on your personal preferences, the car, and the location of the damage you may prefer repairing over replacing, aftermarket parts over OEM, or carefully consider whether or not you need any of the supplemental parts and work offer by the body shop.

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Eyal Golan