You walked away from a crash unharmed, but your car is suffering from a serious gash and broken windows. You already called a lawyer and your insurance company, but you need to take your car in for repairs. As much as you’d like to get this whole thing over with, you know that you need to be careful about choosing the right body shop.

You’ve heard your share of horror stories from friends and family. People go into a disreputable auto shop for an oil change and walk out with $600 in new tires they didn’t need. Thankfully, these potential scams are avoidable. It just takes some preparation beforehand and the willingness to ask the right questions.

Shop Around Before the Crash

Most people only visit a body shop or a mechanic when they can’t avoid it even a day longer. This puts the driver in the uncomfortable position of being unable to drive around. When your car is seriously damaged, and in need of repairs, you don’t know if you can make it to other body shops.

It’s important to build trust with a body shop before your crash. If your car has a few dents, shop around and see who gives you the best deal before you need their help for something more serious.

When shopping around, it’s important to consider how the location and the cost of living will impact the price. A Coral Springs body shop will likely have more affordable pricing than a Pompano shop, for example. Making an expensive decision under stress is a recipe for potentially paying more than you asked for.

When you have a friendly relationship with your body shop or mechanic before a serious crash, you’ll already know their rates, which makes it more difficult to take advantage of you in this stressful time.

Ask to See the Damage

If you’re in the waiting room and someone tells you that the axel was damaged in the crash or that the brakes need replacing, ask if you can see for yourself. You don’t need to be a car person to look at the damage. If a problem exists at all, the mechanic should be able to point it out to you in a way that is clear. Look out for red flags, like refusing to show you the damage or not allowing you into the shop.

Get an Itemized Bill

One of the biggest mistakes people make after a crash is paying whatever the shop asks for to get their car back. Once the car is done, it’s important to go over the itemized list of the parts and labor. If the shop ordered parts, make sure the invoice says they were obtained from the manufacturer or a reputable dealer. If the final price is significantly different than the quote, you should ask questions to find out why.

After you’ve gone over the bill, don’t just get in the car and drive away. Ask to go over the work. Make sure you understand what they changed and that the damage is repaired to your satisfaction. A good body shop should have your damaged vehicle look like new.

Understand Warranty Offers

Warranties can be tricky. Shops offer different warranties, and some come with stipulations that make it difficult to take advantage of the service. Many shops offer a 1-3-year warranty on parts and repairs. Some offer longer warranties or even a lifetime guarantee for an extra fee.

Before you get that extra warranty “just to be safe,” ask yourself these important questions: Will your car last longer than the standard warranty? If your car is over 10 years old or has over 150,000 miles, is it worth the extra money?

With these tips in mind, you have the means of exploring your options after a crash and taking an active role as a customer. Even if you trust your body shop and love the people who work there, it’s important to know exactly what they’re doing to your car and how much it’s going to cost you.

If you fear you were the victim of a potential scam at an auto body shop, you may have options. If you’d like an experienced auto attorney to evaluate your case, please call Weinstein & Scharf at (954) 482-4534 or send us an email.