After a vehicle accident, you need to get your car inspected and repaired. Sometimes, you may not want to file a claim with the insurance company. You need an estimate to know some of those repair costs. Even if you work through your insurance company, you will need to get an estimate from an auto body repair shop. While the estimate might seem like the final price of the repair work, there could be a few hidden surprises. Here is what you need to know about estimates and the final bill.
What Is an Estimate?
While you may think an estimate is a final price, it is just an estimation of the costs. When there are unforeseen complications or expenses, the estimate could change. An estimate is not a contract. It is a courtesy to you as the customer and a requirement in New Jersey. However, a reputable shop will always inform the customers of complications and higher expenses that could affect the final bill. Most estimates tend to be on the dollar or slightly below the quoted price.
The technician gives a general estimate. Often, they have not opened up the car, taken off panels, or completed a comprehensive inspection. Any problems could arise when those nuts and bolts come off the vehicle. Remember that estimates are based on that visual damage.
An auto body shop can charge more than the estimate, but exceptions do exist. All auto body work cannot start without giving the customer a written estimate. This estimate must include the exact dollar amount of the labor and parts. You might even see “price not to exceed” on the paperwork. What happens when the amount exceeds the expected repairs? Customers cannot be charged more than the estimate given without prior written or oral consent.
Unfortunately, you might have to work with the other driver’s insurance company. They may agree to a specific price but refuse to pay for repairs over that amount. In those situations, you might have to pay for the repair out of your pocket or fight with the insurance company for reimbursement. When you work with an experienced auto body shop, they have working relationships with many insurance agencies. Most shops want to repair your vehicle and get you back on the road. Often, they can help guide you through the claims process.
In short, the auto body shop can charge more than the estimate, but they must have your consent before working on the vehicle. Now that you know that, what causes the final bill to be higher than an estimate?
What Can Cause a Higher Bill?
Once the technicians get your vehicle on the lift, they can see the extent of the damage. You may have a problem with your chassis or the drive train. Some of that damage may be obvious based on the type of accident. However, damage can be hard to predict until the panels and parts start to come off the vehicle.
Any damage to the bumpers can lead to higher repair costs. For that reason, many shops will price a new bumper on the estimate. Plus, most safety features can be compromised when involved in an accident. It is better for everyone when the bumper is completely replaced instead of repaired. Remember that a bumper does have several components, including the cover, absorber, reinforcement bar, and mounting system. If any of them are compromised, you might have to replace all those parts.
Technicians often use specific techniques to repair vehicles. In a few cases, that reliable technique might not work. For example, a dent can often be pounded or pulled out. If the dent is stubborn, it may need to be filled with compound and painted. That extra work can increase the final costs.
Added costs are often called supplemental damage. You will hear that term when working with an insurance company. The insurance company will work with the shop to restore the vehicle to the condition before the accident. There are times when “betterment” can affect the price. For example, if your tire needs to be repaired but has little tread left, the insurance company might elect to pay for a new tire. Remember that the price difference could be passed down to you. Betterment is handled between you and the insurance company. Often, the body shop will not have a say in these repair issues.
Choose a Reliable Auto Body Shop
An estimate is just an educated guess of the price of the bodywork required to fix your vehicle. While you may be concerned that you will face huge bills, choosing the right auto body shop for the job can help. You want to work with a shop that will explain the charges and make you feel comfortable during the process.
A professional shop will help you to understand the estimate and explain why certain factors could cause a higher bill. A customer should never feel forced into a repair. Remember that New Jersey consumer laws require you to consent to extra work outside your estimate’s scope.
At Elmer’s Auto Body, we are a family-owned and -operated business. We want to make the repair process fast, convenient, and easy for all our customers. When you bring your vehicle for an estimate, we will explain the entire process and contact you when there is an unexpected problem. When you need an “auto body shop near me”, schedule your consultation by calling (856) 218-0202.