Hidden Damage: What The Auto Body Shop Can’t Tell You

Mrs. Hanson, a nice elderly woman, bumped into your back bumper.

After admitting that she looked down for a moment, she was terribly embarrassed and very apologetic. She doesn’t want to go through her insurance company because “they might still be upset about that expensive ‘fender bender’ last year.”

And your bumper doesn’t look THAT bad.

She asked that you get an estimate from your favorite auto body shop (what a surprise! International Collision Repair!) She assured you that she would gladly pay the amount of the estimate.

Sounds easy enough; quick, no hassles, no insurance paperwork, your car gets fixed and Mrs. Hanson’s insurance company won’t raise her premiums.

A word of warning: BE CAREFUL.

We know that Mrs. Hanson wants to “make it right” after the accident and you don’t want to “stick her” with higher premiums. You just want your car fixed, right?

What we DON’T KNOW though is how much it’ll cost to fix your car when all is said and done.

An “estimate” is often only a starting point. Even experienced estimators like those at International Collision Repair can only “estimate” what they can see. They might suspect more damage underneath, but won’t know for sure until all the damaged parts are removed to reveal what’s going on inside. Body shops call this part of the process the “tear down.”

Let’s look at your bumper assembly; it includes the painted cover, usually the only part that is visible, as well as absorbers, reinforcements, assorted brackets, guides, clips, retainers and more.

With all those hidden parts, it’s not unusual to discover a bent bracket, broken clip or something else. Additional damages mean additional money.

So if Mrs. Hanson gave you a check for $700, the amount of the shop’s original estimate, and now the shop has called to tell you that they discovered another $350 in “hidden damages,” things could get a little “sticky” with Mrs. Hanson.

Had an insurance company been involved from the beginning, it’d be a different story. They realize that you can’t estimate what you can’t see and that it’s not unusual to discover additional damaged items. They know that often the “Final Bill” is different from the “Original Estimate.”

Depending on the type of working relationship between the auto body shop and the insurance company, an adjuster will often authorize additional repairs over the phone or email and the shop then completes the work.

A word of caution; be wary of any shop that offers to write a “worst case” estimate. If they’re willing to “fudge” the estimate, what would they be willing to do to your car?

At International Collision Repair we understand the repair process and are happy to explain your options to you. Stop by ICR any time with your car, an insurance estimate and even another shop’s estimate and we’ll be glad to go over them with you.

We can make the process a bit less painful for both you and Mrs. Hanson.

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