I have a friend with a body shop who specializes in rebuilding less-than-one-year-old Dodge trucks. The problem he faces is the extremely high cost of material, mainly paint. It is not uncommon to pay over $500.00 for a gallon, but then you still need fillers, etching primers, sealers, hardeners, clear coats, thinner, tape and masking paper. To make things even more miserable for BMW owners, BMW is so terribly selfish and greedy, they won't even release their paint codes. You have to buy their paint from the dealers for whatever they think they can get for it. The spray gun manufacturers are very proud of their products and charge accordingly for them and the repair parts. You can thank your politicians and the EPA for the high cost of material and adhering to a mountain of regulations.
The last truck he did was a 2012 megacab diesel that he turned into a dually, then extended the frame two feet to install an 8' box. I wave to him when he plows snow in my driveway, then I have to wait a while for the tail lights to show up!
The trucks he builds are sold before he buys them and repairs them. Farmers near him want them for pulling hay and cattle trailers. As for his other customers, he does some insurance work but he's pretty selective on what he will work on because he hates doing battle with the insurance adjusters. They usually want corners cut wherever possible. The advantage he has is he is basically an over-grown hobby shop with a frame rack and paint booth. He can come and go as he pleases and doesn't have all the huge bills that other shops have with employees. Once you add an employee you have a whole pile of government agencies in your hair and no one wins. He would love to employ about five people but the red tape and paperwork isn't worth it. The politicians tell you they are going to reduce unemployment, but they just get in the way of business owners.
The dealership I worked at did a combination of insurance work and customer-pay work. The advantage to working on newer cars that usually were insured is you get to bolt on new panels. They're pretty cheap now because they're so thin and cheap to make. It is not cost-effective to try to straighten a door skin or fender unless there's just some little dents and dings. With the sheet metal being so thin, it's real easy to warp a panel when you try to tap dents out.
The other big problem is cars today are WAY overloaded with unnecessary technology, and the body shop people have to know how to replace and program computers inside doors and under the hood. They have to know how to repair suspension and steering systems. I was the suspension and alignment specialist for ten years, and in that time the repaired cars they sent me for alignments were impossible to tell they were repaired. One in particular was a '93 LeBaron convertible. The driver was going 55 mph when he hit the back of a parked semi truck trailer. The floor was wrinkled all the way to under the back seat, but they completely repaired the entire car, then I got to repair the radio, (my other specialty).
There are some jobs a dealership's body shop can do less expensively because they have factory training and technical assistance when needed, so they may spend less time on the job. Sometimes independent shops are less expensive. Some of the work may be done by a lower-paid relatively inexperienced employee, and they can pass the savings onto you. If you're not in a hurry, they appreciate that and may give you a break.
You might also consider looking for a Body Shop program at a nearby community college. We had one affiliated with my school but in a different town. In my Automotive program, we were always looking for live cars to work on to give the kids real-world learning experiences. We charged ten bucks per hour for what the job was supposed to take, not what it actually took us. We got parts at real good discounts, then marked them up ten percent to form a "breakage" fund in case we broke something. You ended up paying the same for the parts as if you bought them yourself at an auto parts store.
This was a real good deal for people who didn't want to spend a lot of money but the drawbacks are you likely won't see your car for weeks or months, and in our case, we only accepted cars to work on that matched what we were currently teaching. In my Electrical class, we wouldn't take in a brake job, for example. To do so would deprive the student of the related learning experience and it might take work away from the business owners who hired our graduates.
You can also get estimates for different quality of materials. A lot of cars today have fancy pearl coats and metal flakes, then layers of clear coat with some sanding in between. Sanding and the dust cleanup has to be done outside the paint booth. Each painting step is done inside the booth. That jockeying around of cars takes a lot of time. If you'd be happy with just basic paint on the outside, the job will cost less. You'll see the edges under the hood and at the rears and bottoms of doors, so if that is unacceptable to you, the job will be more involved, and of course, more costly.
Sunday, March 29th, 2015 AT 12:42 AM