How to Estimate Auto Body Damage

car repairsWe all know that auto collisions are an every-day event. They aren’t abnormal occurrences. But when one happens to you, it can feel incredibly surreal.

After a claim has been filed with your insurance company and any medical issues have been resolved, you’re faced with yet another issue: auto body damage.

If your vehicle is unable or unsafe to drive, this problem needs to be fixed. If the damage is primarily superficial, you probably still want auto body repair and need to know how much these repairs are going to cost.

Most Common Auto Body Damage

Here are the most common types of damage you might find on your vehicle after a collision.

  • Dented Bumper – A dented bumper is typically involved in minor collisions, often barely affecting the paint or headlights. It can be hit by a shopping cart or another car door that is opened too closely to the bumper, or it could be the result of a rear-end collision.
  • Scratched Paint – Minor surface scratches can be caused by any number of items including rocks and gravel kicked up from other vehicles as well as flying objects during an accident.
  • Scratched Windshields or Windows – Any non-trivial amount of scratching will need to be replaced for both safety and legal reasons.
  • Broken Headlights – Broken headlight glass must be restored to visibility levels before being driven on the road.
  • Bent Bumpers – A collision of sufficient force may bend the metal, plastic, or fiberglass bumper enough to necessitate replacement.

Factors That Affect Collision Repair Costs

The Damage

vehicle damage complete replacementOne of the most important factors in determining your final cost is your actual damage. To get an accurate estimate of total costs you’ll need to have a full inspection done. Auto body repair technicians can help you determine if your vehicle is safe for driving and what will be needed before the car is considered safe again. In some cases it might even be necessary to tow your car in rather than drive it there yourself!

Labor Rates

The next biggest factor that affects average collision repair cost is which location you choose for auto body repairs, since labor rates vary from city to city and state to state.

Vehicle Type

home equity lineThe type of vehicle you have is another big factor. If you own a sports car your costs will be higher because the labor for this type of vehicle is more expensive. Also, if your car has complicated systems like an anti-lock braking system (ABS) or other sensors that will also affect the total amount you’ll pay since there’s a greater chance of these parts needing to be replaced.

Doing some research on the internet can help you find out what types of vehicles cost more to repair and can give you an idea if it might be worth it to file an insurance claim.

After looking online try calling several auto body shops in your area and ask for estimates to get a better idea about how much auto body work really costs in your town.

How to Tell if Your Vehicle is Safe to Drive After an Accident

luxury vehicles

While it may be tempting to hit the road again after a collision, you need to make sure that your car isn’t going to fail any safety inspections and that it’s safe to drive.

When you’re driving, if your steering wheel locks up, your car makes odd noises, your brakes aren’t working correctly or there is any smoke or steam coming from your car, it’s best to stay off the road until you can get an auto body repair estimate. Stop driving until you can get these things checked out at a qualified repair shop—get your vehicle towed if you need to.

However, if your vehicle is drivable after the crash, chances are it’s also safe to drive—just take it easy while you’re on the road.

Is Auto Body Repair Worth It?

When you’re trying to decide whether it’s worth fixing your vehicle, consider these three factors:

1. Repair costs vs. replacement value. Is the auto body damage more than your car is worth? And keep in mind that if the damage goes over 50-60% of the car’s value, insurance companies often won’t be willing to pay for auto repairs.

2. Personal rates of depreciation (how fast will your car depreciate?). As a general rule, luxury cars don’t depreciate as quickly as economy cars.

3. Costs associated with not repairing your vehicle (i.e., rental fees).

5 Tips On Finding a Reliable Auto Repair Shop

Ask Around

It’s always a good idea to ask people you trust on their preferred auto body shop. Word-of-mouth is a good indicator of a company’s local reputation.

See If An Auto Body Shop Has Experience With Your Vehicle

Repairing a Porsche is very different from repairing a Geo Metro. Not only that, but even certain models within the same marque can be substantially different in repair difficulty (e.g., Lexus vs. Toyota).

Check Online Reviews

Check out their Google My Business page and Yelp. You can also check other review sites, like and

What Are Their Work Guarantees?

Most auto body repair shops offer a limited warranty on the parts and labor costs associated with a repair job. This warranty can vary from shop to shop, so it’s good to find out what your options are upfront.

Make Sure They’re Certified

In some states, shops have to be certified with a particular brand of car before they can advertise as specialists. Ask what brands they’re factory-certified for on the repair job estimate. Of course, there are the mandatory certifications that all repair shops need to have, like liability insurance—they should have these as well.


If the auto body shop you’re thinking about taking your car to isn’t on this list of top-rated shops in your area, look for more reviews and recommendations from friends and family who have had their car repaired at a shop. Chances are they’ll be happy to share details about how their experience went. Every accident is different, but by getting an idea of what others have done when dealing with the same situation as you, you can make a more informed decision about where best to take your vehicle.