It’s an inevitable part of car ownership— the longer you own a car, the more likely you are to need repairs or potentially get in an accident. Even if you safely park your vehicle in a covered garage, perform routine oil changes, and treat your car with maybe a tad too much loving admiration (don’t worry—we won’t judge!), your vehicle will start to show signs of its age. And even when we keep our cars in great shape, there’s always the risk of getting in an accident and incurring damage that way. Fortunately, help is almost always just around the corner. But do you know where to take your car for repairs? Did you know there’s a difference between an auto body shop vs. an auto repair shop? Let’s break down what each is, when you need them, and how to find ones you can trust.
What’s the difference between an auto body shop and a garage?
Generally speaking, there are four different places you can take your car when it needs repairs — each of which serves a different purpose.
Auto repair shop
Also commonly referred to as a “garage”. This is where you want to take your car for repairs on standard wear-and-tear issues — things like replacing your break pads, engine troubles, and your annual safety inspection (if your state requires one). If you need a “mechanic”, this is where you’re going. While most towns may have a dealer or two for specific car brands, there are generally dozens, if not hundreds, of independent auto repair shops in any given area. The most reliable independent garages can rival the service and expertise provided by dealerships — and often, at a fraction of the price. However, there are less-than-reliable independent shops as well. That’s why it’s important to do your research (more on this below).
Auto body shops
These are not the same as garages. An auto body shop is where you want to take your car after it’s been in an accident and needs repairs. Why? Because auto body shops specifically fix the body of your vehicle — your frame, doors, windows, bumpers, etc. They have specialized equipment and experience that most standard auto repair shops don’t have access to. Some auto body shops may also be able to repair internal issues with your car, but not always. Your insurance provider is usually a great source to help find a great auto body shop, but we’ll touch more on that later.
This may be where you purchased your new, certified pre-owned, or used vehicle. They’re usually a good bet when it comes to specialty repairs on specific models as their mechanics are trained by manufacturers. However, they do sit on the higher end of the cost scale.
This category refers to garages that specialize on either specific cars or specific areas of a vehicle. For example, you may take your Volkswagen to a garage that specializes in European cars; or, you may visit a transmission shop to get an expert opinion on your car’s transmission. Again, it’s important to shop around a bit when it comes to these auto repair shops.
How to find a good auto repair shop
Ask your friends and family (or read reviews).
Sometimes, you just can’t beat an old-fashioned word-of-mouth referral. Asking your friends and family for references may be the smartest first step to take. Not only can they help you find a potential winner, but they can also help you weed out which garages you should avoid.
If your inquiries fall short, it’s also worth searching online. Nextdoor and Reddit can be a good place to start, as local residents will often post their real-life experiences on these platforms. Of course, you can also turn to online review — although it’s important to always treat them with a grain of salt.
Get your money’s worth.
Sometimes, you get what you pay for — and shopping around for the cheapest option isn’t always your best bet. Unfortunately, the cheapest option may not provide the most reliable work. And conversely, the most expensive provider may not offer superior service. Ultimately, it may take a bit of shopping around to ensure you’re happy with your decision.
Shop around for multiple quotes.
For major, big-ticket repairs, it may make sense to get multiple quotes. Receiving a few estimates from different repair shops ensures the estimates you’re receiving stack up. Plus, getting multiple quotes helps show that potential auto repair shops aren’t nickel-and-diming you with additional add-ons.
Ask the right questions.
You have rights as a consumer, including asking an auto repair shop about their experience and credentials. Be sure to double-check that a garage has experience with your make and model. Although it’s not technically required, it doesn’t hurt to do your own research. Luckily, there are thousands of blogs, forums, and other resources out there to help with your homework assignment. While it’s no guarantee that your research will solve all your problems, it does help establish a baseline for knowledge, which can only prepare you for future conversations.
How to find a good auto body shop
The truth is when it comes to finding a good auto body shop, all the tips we listed before apply too. However, when you need repairs after an accident and are filing a claim, your insurance provider will often have a plethora of auto body shops within their network that they can refer you to. What’s the benefit of using an in-network auto body shop? So glad you asked:
- You don’t have to add any more stress to a stressful situation. When you need repairs after an accident, the idea of having to search for the right auto body shop can seem daunting and tiresome. So why not let your insurance provider take care of it?
- The repairs they provide will usually come with a lifetime guarantee. That means if any of the repairs they provide fail or wear off, you can take your car back to them any time for a free fix.
- Your provider will most likely utilize nation-wide auto body shop networks, which means you’ll be much more likely to find help nearby if you’re ever in an accident outside your hometown. It also means if you do use a shop outside your area, and your car ends up needing another assessment, you’ll be able to take it to whichever branch is closest to where you are and still be taken care of.
- Your insurance provider will have a great working relationship with their in-network auto body shops, which means a much less stress-free experience for you.
With all that being said, though, we want to make sure we note that if you need repairs after filing a claim, you absolutely do not have to use an auto body shop inside your insurance provider’s network if you already have a favorite shop. The decision where to take your car is always 100% up to you!
At Elephant Insurance, we’re here for our customers. While we’re not car mechanics or auto body repairmen, we do our best to ensure your experience on the road is as safe as possible. Plus, we reward drivers who take extra initiative to drive safe. To make sure you’re making the most of your auto insurance, get an online quote today.