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It's not uncommon for estimates from different body shops to vary wildly. One shop might give you an estimate for $500 while another wants $2,000 for the work. What's the difference? And when is it OK to choose the cheaper shop? John Mallette, California, knows better than most people how to choose a reliable shop. Here are some of his tips for choosing the right shop to work on your car — particularly when you're the one paying the bills.

1) Pay Attention to Word-of-Mouth

Any business can advertise, but you'll do better with a shop that friends, family or acquaintances recommend. It's a business that has proven it can satisfy customers. And it might not be the biggest or best-known shop in your area.

Mallette went to a shop years ago on such recommendations and found that the owner was a "real stand-up guy.... He doesn't advertise on the Internet; it's a family-owned shop," Mallette says. "But, golly, if you take your car there, you'll get a fair price."

In some cases, you might get a recommendation for a small shop where the owner works on the cars himself. "To me it seems so much more personal and then you can understand what's really going on with your car" Mallette says.
2) Consider the Operation's Location and Overhead
"Where you get screwed in our business is labor hours," Mallette explains. His shop charges $40 per hour for labor. But in ritzy parts of West Los Angeles, the per-hour labor charge is $60-$65. In wealthy Newport Beach, California, Mallette has heard of $90-per-hour labor charges.

Large body shops with a lot of front-office workers probably have to charge higher rates to pay their staff. While service delivered by front-desk folks, managers and foremen gives some people a feeling of confidence in the business, it can result in estimates that are padded with non-essential work. When they're charging more labor hours at a higher rate, your bill can add up quickly.

In some shops, Mallette says he does things by the book — literally. Body shops and garages use reference guides that estimate the number of hours required to perform common repairs.

"Let's say somebody has damage to their fender, bumper and headlight," Mallette tells us. "I go to my book, I write an estimate and I basically go by the hours mandated by the book."

By contrast, the higher-end shops might decide to charge for everything in "the gray area," meaning those things that they might have to do to fix the problem. In Mallette's example, high-end estimates might include a charge for time spent removing the hood and the door, while his judgment call is not to perform this additional work.

3) Get Several Estimates

Taking your car to several auto body shops for repair quotes is the best way to avoid overcharges, Mallette notes. "I'll tell people to go get some estimates before hiring."
And while it's important to protect against being overcharged, you shouldn't simply take the lowest quote. "You might get some kind of midnight guy who will say he can do it really cheap," he says. "Stay away from those guys, because there is something they're not doing. You could have major problems down the road."
4) Ask the Right Questions
When choosing a body shop, "you don't go in with your pocketbook open," Mallette explains. "You go in smart," and ask some key questions. Does the shop provide a written warranty? And if so, for how long? What does the warranty cover?
A one-year warranty is a minimum, Mallette says. H.Heaven offers a lifetime warranty for body work and a lifetime warranty for complete paint jobs.

Another key question is whether the shop carries fire and theft insurance. You want to be sure you're covered if your car is destroyed, stolen or burglarized. Don't forget to ask how long the shop has been in business. Make sure it has a business license.
You will also want to know about the materials the shop intends to use. Are new, used or aftermarket body parts going to be used? New parts are obviously the best and used parts are fine, though they don't offer the savings people imagine. Depending on the damage to your vehicle, aftermarket parts can save a lot of money and can be just as good as the ones that come from the original manufacturer. If paint work is involved, ask how many coats of paint intends to use.

5) Follow Your Intuition

Finally, it's important to trust your intuition about the shop you're considering. If a shop isn't busy, maybe that's because customers are avoiding it because of shoddy repairs. If the place is really dirty, cluttered or disorganized, this might reflect the kind of work you could expect the shop to do with your car. Is the shop owner or manager a grouch who seems to resent answering your questions? You'll be happier with a shop where the owner communicates well and is straightforward with customers.

H.Heaven is a top notch auto repair shop in USA. We have expert mechanics who can repair each and every part of your vehicle in much less time and at an affordable price.

Try H.Heaven Auto Shop Service today!

The July 1, 2009 edition of Bottom Line Personal, one of my favorite publications, included an excellent column on car maintenance tips. Columnist Eric Peters, author of Automotive Atrocities! The Cars We Love to Hate, shares his tips for maintaining cars and extending their useful life. As the owner of a 19 year-old vehicle, I appreciated the tips, and wondered if my vehicle would be in better shape had I read this several years ago when I first started driving it.


1. Keep your battery charged. This is especially important if you don’t drive your car that often. If you plan to let a vehicle sit for more than a couple weeks, you should invest in a “trickle charger,” or battery tender, which plugs into a regular household outlet and keeps your battery fully charged, automatically. I have a battery tender for my lawn tractor battery for winter months, and it guarantees a strong start in the spring.

2. Keep at least half a tank of gas in the car. Plenty of reasons not to let your car run on fumes, but one I had never considered before reading this article is that an empty gas tank is more prone to rust.  The rust can leach into your fuel and clog filters and fuel lines downstream. Rust could also eventually eat through your gas tank leaving a hole.  At today’s gas prices, who can afford for that to happen!

3. Don’t forget the tires. When you fill up your gas tank, or every couple weeks, whichever happens more frequently, be sure to check your tire pressure. If you drive an older vehicle like me you’ll need to pick up a tire gauge. Look at the label inside the door, or in your owner’s manual, to find the correct tire pressure for your specific model. Low tire pressure causes things like uneven wear on your tires and decreased gas mileage.

4. Change the oil. There is some debate in the frugal car owner world on whether or not you should change your oil as often as prescribed by car manufacturers (and those express oil-changing facilities). I’m no expert, but I think you should stay pretty close to the suggested schedule, only deviating a month or two, or a couple hundred miles. Peters agrees with me. Besides, a $30 oil change is much cheaper than a new engine, and if you are ultra frugal, you can even change your own oil!

5. Be kind to your clutch, and your brakes. If you drive a car with a manual transmission you know at some point you will likely have to replace the clutch. But you can extend the life of your clutch, and your brakes, by not riding either one for long periods of time, and by using your accelerator (or not using your accelerator) to coast a bit as traffic ebbs and flows.

Automobiles are becoming more and more expensive these days. In fact, next to buying a home, it is probably the largest single purchase most people will make in a lifetime. Use the steps above to increase the chances your vehicle will last well beyond your car loan, guaranteeing you many years of debt-free driving. H.Heaven expert auto repair and maintenance services can help you to maintain your  can in best condition at much affordable price.