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I have a 7 month old car that was sideswiped when a driver drifted into my lane.

It's a 2011 Ford Focus with a metallic gray exterior. It should all be covered by the other driver's Allstate policy.

The damage is minor. The right front tire took the majority of the hit, with damage largely confined to the right front quarter panel and the right front door.

The front bumper took a very small, very glancing scrape on its right side. No real damage, it looks to me like a few scuff marks.

I took it to two body shops, one a Ford dealer, and one an Allstate preferred body shop. And both gave me similar but in two senses very different estimates.

My basic question is: how do I determine which body shop will a better job?

Now related to the general question of how to determine whether a body shop will do a good job or not is this:

One of the estimators told me of the importance of keeping the original bumper and repainting it. And that was because that bumper would have a VIN number stamped on it, and the replacement would not, and that would be a flag for future buyers.

And the other estimator didn't make a big deal of it, and just said it would be replaced, and of course, with Ford parts since it is a relatively new Ford vehicle.

Other differences.

The estimator replacing the bumper included in his estimate costs to repaint portions of the hood to blend it in with the new bumper. Similarly, there would be some blending of the rear passenger door to match that to the repair work on the front passenger door.

The other estimator may have included work on the rear door by writing on the front door work, "Overlap major adj. panel" -- but I am not sure what exactly that refers to.

So my other questions are: repair parts with VIN numbers or replace them? And worry about overlap/blending in the estimate or don't worry about that stuff?

In general, how do I determine whether a body shop is any good, and which of two is better?

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3 Answers

up vote 8 down vote accepted

Definitely worry about the quote including blending in of the paint (or the lack thereof). With metallic paint, if you only paint the panel that is getting replaced, you will be able to see that the panels seem to be a different color under certain light because the reflection of the metallic particles in the paint occurs at a different angle between the freshly painted and the OEM painted panels. This is basically caused both by different paint thicknesses and different drying times between the OEM paint and the paint the bodyshop puts down and you cannot really avoid it.

If you're taking front fender and a door, you need to blend in the paint on the bumper if they don't replace that (which means the paint would have to be blended into the other side's front fender, too) and on the rear door/rear panel. If the window frame on the front door is also the same paint, chances are that some blending into the roof is required, too.

Chances are that a history check like Autocheck or CarFax will show that the vehicle was involved in an accident, thus I wouldn't worry too much about a buyer noticing that the bumper has been replaced. I'd go for the option that leaves you with the car looking to be in the same condition than it was before, be it achieved by replacing or repairing parts. Just make sure that you get a good quality repair.

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To you question of finding which body shop is better. If everything was equal I would always pick an independent body shop over a dealer. In my experience dealers typically are overpriced and don't show as much care for a vehicle.

For your situation, I would suggest looking for reviews of both places. Look at the addresses in Google Maps and see if someone has posted place page reviews. Search online for other reviews. If you are at the shop ask them if there is a repaired vehicle on the lot that you could take a look at. If they have something look closely at the paint and how each body panel lines up in the affected area.

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A VIN derivative on a bumper? Really? I find that hard to believe. Even if it's true, no offense, but really, who is going to check for matching numbers on a Ford Focus? Even if they did, they're going to check the engine and transmission, not the bumper. What they are going to check is the CarFax that is going to show the accident, at that point whether you've got a VIN derivative on the replacement bumper is not going to matter.

Painting plastic parts in the field tends not to end well, a new one painted at the factory is ideal. Though I suppose a fresh unpainted bumper will turn out better than one that has been stripped and repainted.

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Yes, the bumpers are VIN stamped from the factory. It's one of the standard locations. That said, nobody's going to check. You have the tear the front end of the car apart to see that particular VIN. :-) –  Brian Knoblauch Apr 12 '12 at 12:08
    
I stand corrected. –  Mark Johnson Dec 7 '12 at 2:22
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