7 On Your Side

Websites help car owners get fair prices on fixes

Thursday, April 05, 2012

If you go to three different auto body shops for a price quote to fix your car, you're likely to get three different prices, but there just might be an easier way.

Getting your car fixed can be expensive and people often feel they are getting ripped off. Now, with some new websites you can take back the control in an instant.

When San Francisco's Jonathan Bruck's mirror got knocked of his 2004 Honda Civic, he knew it was a job too small to claim on his insurance, but he dreaded shopping it around to get the best price for a fix. "I have a couple kids and three people share the car. So, I don't really have time to go around and figure out who can fix it and how much it would cost," he said.

"Well, typically, you have to schedule an appointment to come down to the body shop, obviously traveling time to get there, itakes about a half an hour to write up an estimate, and then traveling back to your destination," Tricia Sartain of Superior Auto Body in San Francisco says describing the process. She knows that getting an estimate can take a lot of time, but now, car owners can shop for better bids online. Body Shop Bids and Dent Betty are two websites that help drivers in the Bay Area look for the best bids. Both have a few dozen body shops to choose from. "We've taken an old industry and fused it with technology to make your life easier. And, getting estimates by photos is about as easy as it gets," Body Shop Bids founder Brad Weisberg explained.

Here's how it works: Car owners snap a few pictures of the damage to their car and write a brief report. Then, they upload the photos to a website. Within a few days, the consumer gets several bids from local body shops. "I was able to do it all online, finalize the bids that were good, pick a shop, and then actually schedule it online," Bruck said.

Tully Lehman from the California Insurers Network thinks these sites are a helpful tool. "When you do get into an accident, you have to go through a process, the claim process, and that sort of thing. You're going to want to get some information, and the more places, the more tools you have to get that information, the better it is for you when you pick an auto body shop to do the work on your car," he said.

Jonathan got four bids through Body Shop Bids. He found a shop with a good price near his work and more importantly, he was happy with the repair which ended up costing him $200, a pretty good price.

Both websites assure the quality of the shops in their system by vetting each vendor. They check licensing requirements and comb through existing reviews on Yelp and the Better Business Bureau.

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auto industry, websites, 7 on your side, michael finney
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