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Opnion: Did I find a sweet place, or am I going to be duped?


Last month a street sign lunged out at my car and I hit it. It clipped the passenger front corner of my '99 BMW 528. Got the front bumper, right fender. Being the “frugal” person that I did, I went about to 4 shops to get quotes. Found 3 on the internet and one that was recommended my a mechanic that I talked to (whom I do not know well). The first 3 all gave quotes in the 2600-2800 range. I talked to them all about used/recycled parts, not having to be perfect, you can bang out the dent if it will save money (I use this on the highway for 30-40K per year, not to go to car shows), and that I am paying this my self. All three claim that there is no big savings from used parts, or from pulling dents out. Also, all of the quotes are in the same format (seems they all use the same program that gives you a 2 page quote and 3 pages of leagalise.)

I then went to the last place, a small garage, potholed driveway, office is a old man and wife, they have what looks like a 2 bay shop, and another building (paint room?) I chat with the two of them ( my son is going to the school their son went to, how the area changed etc). The are VERY nice. Then the quote comes in at 1500… (different format, 2 pages, only leagalise is the line that states, this is an estimate, it could change and if it does we will tell you)…

They are pulling out the dent in the fender, will bondo anything that remains, aftermarket fender and fog light.

Their rates are only a few buck per hour different then the other shops, but there hourly assumption on time is much different. (they have 14 hours for the job, the other places have 25-27). The markup and overhead is a big difference (they want $200 for supplies, the other places are double that, the other places want 30% more for the fog lamp, charge me 0.4 hours to “aim fog lamp”…wtf)

I can not get any references for the mom-and-pop place. They are not listed here or any where on-line. The other places all have referances.

I can’t figure out if the other places are making a killing on me, or if the mom and pop place are going to do 1) a poor job because they are not getting the right parts and skilled people or 2) will bump up the price in mid-work…

any advise here (I sort of need to get this done on Monday)

Oh… the mom and pop place has been there for 30 years, and is an “out of the way” place. The other places are also “family owned” have been arround for a while, but are closer to civilization

My philosophy has always been that if you have multiple quotes and one is way different than the others, either way higher or way lower, avoid the odd one. You may be getting “low balled” or the work or materials may be substandard.

This is a '99 BMW, so I’d give the mom and pop shop a go. Perhaps the job won’t be a perfect but much better than what you have now. They’ve been in business for enough years that if they did poor work, they’d not have enough repeat customers to stay in business.

I suspect the mom and pop shop have a different business model, like perhaps no large mortgage on the building to pay off. If you were talking about a 2009 car I’d might go with the higher estimate, but even then mom and pop look good to me.

Since you’ve already conceded that it need not be showroom new, give mom & pop the job.

Mom & pop probaly don’t even want to mess that new fangled “inertnet” thingy so now you’ll want word of mouth refences.

Take a slow stroll around the neighborhood. Ask nearby businesses and even knock on doors.

It may be a milti-tiered inquiry, but you’ll find somebody who knows somebody who heard of somebody . . . . . .

If it turns out good all in all then YOU can use that new fangled internet thingy and START a good reference for them.

… the SIGN lunged ?? yah, ok :wink:

A friend of mine who runs a repair shop told me that most “Modern” shops use a mechanics guide to give them the labor to do a job. If they have a set of 10-15 books then that is probably how they do it. Basically, these are books that dealers have put together over the years estimating the cost of various jobs. For instance an oil change will take 35 minutes on a Ford Taurus. I change mine in about 8 minutes which includes jacking the car and putting it on jack stands.

Body work also is a tricky estimate. A fender will cost say 90-120 minutes to remove and replace and then another 2+ hours to paint, etc. (These are guesses for timeframes). Now if it takes 45 minutes to change the fender and another 90 minutes to paint, then you can see how the shop is making their money.

If you have taken it to “modern” shops and they all have come back with the same estimates then they are using a book to do those estimates. The Mom & Pop place is basing their estimate on experience. I know that most Mom & Pop business have been around and stay around because of their reputation as their advertising is word of mouth. (How did you find them?) So I would take it to them. If you want to protect yourself from being low-balled, give them a figure that you will reasonably accept like $100 or 10% and put it in the contract. If they take the fender off and find something unkown then they’ll call and give you details and a new estimate. If its to far out of line, you can always have them put it back together, pay them for their time and revised estimate and take it to one of the “modern” shops. Just remember they too have a clause about unknown/unseen damage.

Low balled, the things you are now saying will not bother you will be a big deal when you go to pickup the car. Junior probably could not keep a job if Dad was not signing the checks.I view a 1999 as “not new but still a very nice car” others see a 1999 as ancient. These were and still are excellent cars.That being said everything (like tires,brakes,rubber parts,interior) would have to be new(or very nice) for me to consider any amount over 5K as a used car purchase price, and I would not touch a beater.If you do not fix the dent right your car has value only to you as transportation, if you are OK with that,go low,it is just a fender.

That’s a good point. Building contractors use similar books… The last time I looked at one the rate for installing a light switch or electrical outlet was $35.

This is at least an 11 year-old car, and not worth that much any more. I would go with the cheaper shop as long as you have some confidence in them. I’d ask where they’re getting the fender and other parts that they’re using though.

What the 3 mainstream shops are doing is making sure you are returned a vehicle that you have no complaints about. That requires extra time - and extra money.

But the out of the way shop MIGHT be OK and return to you a car that is acceptable - OR - they might return a car that needs work. It’s that last part that is of concern.

I think this boils down to how much risk you are willing to take. How important is it when the shop takes longer than they quoted - or the paint doesn’t quite match, or the fender isn’t quite smooth?

While there is probably a reason they have been in business for a long time, there is probably also a reason it is off the beaten path and isn’t a shop that instills confidence.

“will bondo anything that remains”

That could certainly explain the difference in pricing.
Some shops do charge much less because they use Bondo in unacceptably thick proportions. Things may look fine for the first year or so, and then cracks begin to appear in that too-thick Bondo, possibly causing you to have the job redone at additional expense.

I say this from experience because my father had this exact scenario, many years ago. The much-lower estimate turned out to be not so much of a bargain because the car’s resale value took a major hit when the poor-quality bodywork revealed itself a couple of years later.

You will be OK. Keep in mind that I like Bondo and I have low standards for body work. I once removed a rusted area around a side light and just used Bondo to fill the area and forget it. Three quarts.

To sum up… the place did a great job. good work, affordable… I did not realize that they did not take credit cards, so I had to drive the car home and back to bring a check.

No Bondo, all aftermarket replacement parts… it worked for me.

Neat. Glad it worked for you, and thanks for the update!

Some years back, my dad answered an advertisement for repainting cars and had his 12 year old 1969 Pontiac repainted. I think that the charge was $100. I was skeptical. In fact, I took a scraper along in case I would have to scrape the paint off the windshield. Well, these characters did a beautiful job. I couldn’t believe how wonderful it looked. A friend saw the repainted car and decided that she would have a van repainted. She called the number and got an earful. Apparently, one of the fellows was living with this woman that answered the telephone and using her garage. She had since kicked him out and didn’t know or didn’t care where he had gone. This was the end of great, inexpensive paint jobs.

Glad everything worked out good. Maybe you could ask them if they minded you giving their name and location on the forum for others in the area to use. They would probably appreciate the free advertising.

Back in the '70’s and '80’s I used a body shop that was always much cheaper on their estimates than anyone else, they always returned the car looking great.

The neighbor’s kid got a different car to take to school but had a dent in the quarter panel. I did it Saturday afternoon and gave him the student discount. Total cost $15 for the paint I had to buy. Just because you don’t have a franchise and use canned estimating software doesn’t mean that the work will not meet or exceed customer expectations.