Auto Body Repairs – Understanding the Charges

If you have been in an automobile accident, it is time to do something that most people dread – get a repair estimate from a body shop. Most body shops use computerized estimating software to figure out the cost of your repairs. If the shop you visit does not use software to determine the estimate, you should probably get back in your car and go to the next place. You should look for a shop that has all the 21st century tools necessary to do the estimate and repairs correctly and as quickly as possible. Computerized software is the industry standard and ensures a competitive, uniform, and fair appraisal and estimate. With modern software technology, body shop owners can no longer grossly inflate labor hours and provide estimates that far exceed the actual cost of the repairs.

Before you obtain an estimate, it is helpful to know a few things about the estimate. Armed with some knowledge about the estimate, you can make the correct decision about where to have your vehicle repaired. The estimate will often consist of the following five items:

  1. R&I. R&I simply refers to ‘remove and install.” During most repairs, some undamaged parts will need to be removed and then reinstalled after repairs have been made. For instance, if a window has been damaged in an accident and needs to be replaced, an interior panel will most likely need to be temporarily removed to replace the damaged window. These repairs are set by the industry and are not discretionary costs.
  2. Replace. This is the time it takes to replace a part, or “book time” as it is known in the industry. Unlike fixing a dent, which is a repair, the time it takes to replace an item, such as the window mentioned above, is set by industry standards and has little variation from shop to shop. Different estimating software produce slightly different estimates, but wide variations do not exist.
  3. Sublet. This is basically what it sounds like – a repair that is sent out to another shop. This is typically done when there are some mechanical or engine repairs needed as a result of the accident. If the suspension has been damaged in the accident, a body repair shop will often send this out to a shop that specializes in suspension work. If there has been any damage “under the hood”, most body shops will send these repairs out to a mechanic. If your repair estimate includes engine parts, it is advisable to ask if they send this out, and if they do, it is important to ask the name of the mechanic to which they send it. The more you know, the more research you can do, and the greater your chances of being satisfied with the repairs.
  4. Miscellaneous. This is the category into which everything else falls. Items such as hazardous waste removal, shop supplies, rags, cleaners, and cover for paint overspray. Many shops now have a fixed rate for the miscellaneous charges, but this set charge can be disadvantageous to some customers. Customers whose repairs will not require a large amount of miscellaneous items may want to find a shop that itemizes these charges.

If you understand these five different types of charges, you will be better prepared to choose a shop for your car repair. You will also be better prepared in case your insurance has any disagreements with the estimate.