If your vehicle has suffered property damage, this article will help you understand a critical choice: whether to take it to a dealership or an independent body shop. It's worth noting from the outset that body shops specialize in repairs to the body panels of the car, including its paint, while an automotive repair shop works on the mechanical function of the car. Those are two very different things. Most dealerships can perform either type of repair, and their specialty is your particular brand of car.
What Happens Next?
After you report the property damage to your insurance company, they may prefer that you use one of their "preferred" shops, and may incentivize this in several ways. One common way is to guarantee the repair for the life of the car. Still, you may wish to make your own decision. Most body shops guarantee their work for the life of the car anyway, and you should strongly reconsider doing business with one that doesn't.
Even if you ultimately have the vehicle damage repaired elsewhere, your car's dealership is always a good place to start. They are usually required by the manufacturer to maintain the latest equipment and training standards. Few independent shops will be as knowledgeable and up-to-date on your car as the dealer technicians, especially with newer models. A free estimate can help you understand what the repair is likely to cost, and dealership technicians have the most collective experience in your brand. They are most likely to find everything that's wrong with your car.
On the other hand, the dealer's body shop has a built-in source of business: the dealer itself. Independent body shops rely only on the reputations that they have built from satisfied customers. Ask around to find out who's good, and don't be afraid to use online review sites like Yelp! to find a reputable shop that does quality work and stands behind it. The best body shops will have computer-matched paint, newer equipment, and late-model, higher end cars being repaired.
Almost every type of modern automotive repair estimate is now computer-generated, with a specified number of labor hours. Insurance companies, dealerships, independent mechanics and independent body shops use similar software, and your insurance company will have a range of prices that appropriate for the property damage done to your vehicle. Once you've made your decision, just notify your insurance company and have the work done.