Do you know what your car is made out of? Some people will know whether their car is composed of steel or of aluminum, and others will wonder why it even matters. In most cases, you will never have to concern yourself with the kinds of materials that make your car, truck, or SUV. As long as you can drive it around.
The moment you get into an accident, though, you suddenly begin to worry, because what if one type of metal costs more than the other to repair. As long as you have the appropriate insurance, the cost of repair comes down to only two things: your insurance deductible and your rental expenses—if you even need a rental car, that is.
So, if you only have to concern yourself with the deductible, why are so many people up in arms about the cost of repairing an aluminum vehicle? And why does it cost more to repair aluminum anyway?
We’re going to address those concerns and answer other questions related to car repair today.
Why is Aluminum Thought To Be More Expensive?
Aluminum is a remarkable metal. It’s light yet durable, and it has long been the main material for aerospace constructs. Recently, aluminum has become the preferred metal in the automobile industry for its availability.
Not many people thought about how it could affect the cost of construction and repair until 2014, when Ford decided to announce an F150 built entirely from aluminum. When this happened, auto body shops were appalled—and a little dubious. Before 2014, most people considered aluminum construction to be something saved for high-end or exotic car brands.
Most auto body repair shops didn’t want to work with aluminum. Sure, it is a metal, but the properties of aluminum are completely different from steel. That means that the tools used for a steel vehicle are also different from what you need to safely work with aluminum.
Of course, the announcement worried motor vehicle owners everywhere, too. Ford stated outright that aluminum would be expensive to repair.
Case Study on Aluminum Vehicle Repair Costs
In 2015, a test group from Edmunds.com decided to do something in the name of science and for the good of the consumer. The editors of Edmunds purchased a 4×4 Super Crew Ford F150 for $52,000 and decided to smash the rear quarter panel with a sledge hammer.
The Edmunds crew doing the dirty work noted that the aluminum panel was surprisingly resilient compared to steel. They were shocked how well the metal absorbed the impact.
Once they inflicted enough damage to the right rear quarter panel, they brought it to a body shop to be repaired. The price of a rear quarter panel for the F150 in 2015 was marked at $967.48. This was the same for both the steel and aluminum versions.
But that’s where the similarities ended. The auto body shop told the Edmunds team that it would cost $120 an hour, which is double the cost of steel body repair, to smooth out the aluminum. It took over 20 hours to complete the repairs, and the final bill was over $4,000. That is over 75 percent higher than fixing a steel body.
However, here is something to consider: the damage inflicted on the truck is not normal. The F150 is a durable truck, and most repairs to the vehicle are non-structural—even those needing repair from collisions.
In other words, while aluminum is harder to repair, it is also harder to damage. Most repairs are for less expensive parts, like plastic bumpers and fenders that are designed to crumple.
Differences Between Steel and Aluminum Construction
After seeing the eye-popping cost of a single repair in the Edmunds’ case study, you might be wondering the reasons why aluminum warrants such a price. As mentioned earlier, aluminum and steel are not the same.
Aftermarket steel parts are easier than aluminum to procure, making steel far more accessible and, therefore, less costly. In most cases, aluminum is strictly OEM. Because of this, aluminum also requires another skill set to repair correctly. Mechanics need a whole new set of tools, too.
You cannot weld aluminum like you can with steel, for instance. This means that auto body technicians need to train to handle both steel and aluminum.
Although many technicians can work with both steel and aluminum cars, those cars cannot be placed side-by-side. Aluminum is corrosive to steel and vice versa, which means that aluminum cars and steel cars have to be separated. Many auto body shops will have a separate space to work on aluminum cars.
All of this adds up in the overall cost.
Should You Be Concerned About the Cost of Aluminum Car Repair?
At the end of the day, the word “cost” is the concern of most drivers, regardless of what kind of car you have. Even though aluminum vehicles need to be placed in separate bays and require special tools and techniques to repair, at the end of the day, it is your insurance policy that determines how much you pay. There is no distinction in auto body insurance that says you have to pay a higher deductible on aluminum cars versus steel ones.
In the end, it is the insurance company covering the high cost of repairing an aluminum car.
Have an aluminum vehicle in need of repairs? Be sure to choose an auto body shop that is certified to deal with both steel and aluminum. Look for certifications from 3M, PPG, and I-CAR. Elmer’s Auto Body has extensive experience dealing with all kinds of automobiles, and our technicians are highly trained and knowledgeable. We promise only the best.
Whether you have more questions about the cost of aluminum auto body repair or want to request an appointment, we’d like to hear from you. Fill out the contact form to get in touch.