The collision repair service is one of the largest industries in the United States. There are millions of people and cars in California and that means lots of collisions, specially in Los Angeles, and right here in Van Nuys, we live in a hot zone with plenty of accident prone intersections. Eventually you will need to go to an auto shop for a scratch, minor bumper repair, paint job or collision repair.
Finding a Good Collision Shop Starts Now
Finding a good trustworthy body shop in Van Nuys or anywhere can feel like looking for a needle in a haystack. For example, here in Van Nuys, driving around on Oxnard street can seem overwhelming because everywhere you turn you see a body shop. In Van Nuys alone, you can find over 50+ auto repair shops within a 1-mile radius.
Most people assume that a highly competitive industry like in Los Angeles would mean better prices for clients but it is not really true in the body shop business. Auto body repair is not an exact science and it has thousands of variables because each vehicle and collision is different. Getting your collision repaired is much more complex than it may seem.
Then how can you find a good honest collision repair shop in Van Nuys? Or where you live?
In my previous post, part one of this series, I wrote about a few bad business practices in the body shop industry. Of course, this accounts for actions from a few bad apples, but now we are in search of those good ones and here are 6 tips on how to find them.
RESEARCH. RESEARCH. RESEARCH.
Start your search now, before you even need auto body repair. “Wait. What?” You might be confused, but think about it, most people look for a body shop when they are in a bind at the last minute and need their car fixed asap. You may spend an entire day or more looking for the right shop, getting several recommendations and estimates. And we all know last minute decisions might not be the best ones. That is why we recommend you get a headstart and do your all that research now. Now is when you have time to shop around with a clear mind and in no rush.
1. WORD OF MOUTH
First you will want to ask your family and friends what collision shops they recommend. Let their experience help you. Word of mouth can be helpful because you can ask questions and get honest answers from people you know and trust. Keep a mental list or jot them down somewhere to research them further. If possible get names of the people they dealt with at the shop.
Proceed with caution…
Don’t forget businesses get sold all the time, maybe the shop has new owners or the employees are not same ones that worked with your family or friends.
Google has become the go to place online for anything you want to know or find. When you need collision repair, all you have to do is google it. Here are a few search terms you can use:
“collision repair shop in (name of your city)…”
“auto body shop in (name of your city)…”
“auto body repair in (name of your city)…”
You can always type the word “best” in front of these queries or “near me” instead of naming a specific city. Google will provide a nice long list of shops you can pick from. Jot down at least 5-7 (or more if you want) auto repair shops to continue your research. In this list include the collision repair shops friends and family have recommended.
Proceed with caution…
When you get Google results, you will notice that the top two or three results will often be from Yelp with something like “THE BEST 10 Auto Repair….” or “Top 10 Best Auto Shop near…”. Although these are lists, they aren’t necessarily the best lists. Why? Well Yelp is a review site with a double-edged sword. That is a topic for another post. If you really want to know the dark side of Yelp read this article by the New York Post “How one restaurant fought Yelp’s alleged extortion”. In part it reads: “…businesses…for years have complained that Yelp was extorting them by raising or dropping ratings depending on whether they advertised…”
Also, keep in mind that big chain body shops are operated by employees, not the actual owner(s), they are less concerned with the shop’s reputation. Small locally owned shops will give you the best service because they depend on the shop for a living and their reputation is on the line. Of course this is a generalization not all local shops will be honest and some big shops pay employees well and they take pride in their work.
Now that you have a good list, look up their website. An established business should have an online presence. Everyone is online now, even grandparents are using facebook. So if you can’t find a body shop online, it might mean they might have something to hide.
Grab the list you have compiled and start looking them up. When you type the name of the shop on the search engine you should have no problem seeing every website they are linked to and you should see their own as well. Click on all or a few of those links that catch your eye to see what they say about the shop. Sometimes you’ll find redflags and you might even cross them off your list at that moment. If you find nothing that stands out, click on the shop’s website. First impressions are everything. Here are a few things to look for.
What to look for in an auto body shop’s website:
- Does the site look professional? It doesn’t need to have all the bells and whistles, but it should look modern, organized, and easy to navigate.
- Do they have an “about us” page that tells their story and you can meet the owner(s)? This is important because you want to get to know who you are going to leave your vehicle with. A vehicle is the second largest investment for many and if not repaired correctly it can cost someone’s life.
- Is the site personal and informative or is it just a huge online business card? Often times body shop sites can look and sound like clones from each other. This can be considered a template or business card type of site.
- Are the pictures stock photos or pictures owned and taken at the actual shop? This can be a big red flag when a business uses other shop’s pictures or professional photos to pass as their own. Not only is this illegal but a lie. A shop that does not use their own pictures or does not use pictures of their own work are already lying to you.
- Is the first and last name, and contact information of the owner(s) available? This is important because if you ever have a problem (hopefully you won’t) you will need to know who is in charge in order to straighten things out.
- Does the site contain picture of the owner(s) and its employees working? Why is this important? Well, same as the with the name, you will want to put a face to the name. Also the employees at the shop should be the same from the pictures on their website.
- Do they have non-edited before and after pictures? Pictures should look authentic and taken at the shop. Pictures that have been edited or have filters could also be considered false advertising. This is important because when body lines need to be smooth and colors need to truly match, editing and filters are deceiving.
If the shop is fully transparent about themselves and their business that most likely means they have nothing to hide and odds are they would make a good shop. A good collision shop also has a robust gallery of before and after pictures of their work, not just words and promises.
Proceed with caution…
A shop that is not completely honest or transparent, does not instill trust and will most likely mean bad news down the line. In other words, trust your research (never rely on only one source) and your gut.
4. SOCIAL MEDIA.
A social media presence is also a sign of a business that has skin in the game. And by this we mean they already have a digital print where they showcase their work and interact with their fans and clients. Take a look at what they have done and see if their pictures and videos are honest and catch your eye.
Proceed with caution…
Keep in mind that many shady businesses post images that don’t belong to them, or they pay for followers and likes.
Read reviews on Google, Facebook, and Yelp. Pay close attention to long, honestly written comments to get an idea of the quality of the service. And in case you didn’t read the article we cited above, a little fact about Yelp is that they hide many good reviews. If you scroll all the way down on any business yelp page, you will see a link titled “other reviews currently not recommended” click on it and you will get to read all the reviews that Yelp has removed because it either looked fraudulent or simply because the shop didn’t want to pay Yelp for advertising. For example we have over 70+ reviews, plus over 90+ other reviews that are not currently recommended, as you can see below.
How to find more bad reviews if the shop has any, type “(the name of the shop) bad reviews” on Google search. If they have any, you will find them.
Remember that the shops with the best reputation usually are not the cheapest ones. Good bodywork men and paint technicians make more money than bad or inexperienced ones. You won’t find the best bodyman or paint tech in your city working for the shop with the lowest prices.
Proceed with caution…
Many shady businesses pay for good reviews but those are easy to spot, so be mindful when you read them. They can also pay for bad reviews on their competitors, so read those reviews with a grain of salt as well.
6. LICENSES AND PERMITS
Once you have narrowed down your list of potential body shops, you will want to check to see that the auto body shop is current with their business licenses and permits. What does that mean? It means you will have to dig a bit deeper to see if the business you are doing research on is a legitimate business and a trustworthy one too. Sometimes they will have disputes pending or their permits are on hold or have been revoked. The links below only work for the areas of Van Nuys and Los Angeles, use your local city and state links.
A few other places to look for red flags on a collision shop are:
- Registered Business Search DBA
- LLC/Corporation Search
- BAR – Bureau of Automotive Repair License Search
- BBB – Better Business Bureau Search
Proceed with caution…
If you see any discrepancies from the names, addresses, dates, or any information on the licences to those posted on the websites or other places, this is your red flag. We know of a shop that claims on its website and social media that it has been in business for decades when in reality it has only been in business for about a year. If potential clients would have done a simple search they could have easily found this out. So you see, all you have to do is a little bit of digging to filter out the bad apples. This will save you lots of headaches in the future.
And now that you have removed the bad apples, you are left with only a handful of body shops, but how do you pick the one. Of course you might think this decision is easy, just pick the one who gives you the lowest estimate from your list, right? Wrong!
You get what you pay for. The fact that good bodywork men and paint technicians cost more might seem like bad news, but don’t forget – a good experienced body shop may cost less in the long run by fixing your car’s body and paint quickly and right the first time. A bad decision may cost you more in the long run if the collision repair is not done correctly it can cause injury or even a life. It makes this decision that much more complicated.
Then, how do you pick the best auto body shop?
In this post we have talked about how to find good shops, in my next post I will talk about how to pick the best shop for you. How to pick, the one.
Should I add something else? Let me know in the comments below. Thanks for taking the time to read my blog. If there is something you want me to write about let me know, I will do my best to write about it. If you ever need any auto body or paint work and you live in the Van Nuys or Los Angeles area call or text me 818.793.7728.
-Jaider, West Coast Body and Paint owner.
“West Coast is the best! Excellent skills and service! Jaider knows his craft! Also very reasonable prices. I highly recommend!”
-Ely Sorkin, 2020