Auto Body Shop Estimates Explained

Posted on March 6th, 2010 by Joe Weast

Gary Rains Body ShopSo you’ve decided to get an estimate from a local body shop. These days, most shops will use a computerized estimating software to write your estimate. If the shop you have chosen does not use a computer to write your estimate that should be cause for concern. This is not meant as a jab at those long time owners and technicians. I am not implying they are “backward” or “Luddites” or ignorant. Its more for accountability. Computerized software is now standard in our industry and insures a more uniform, unbiased and accurate appraisal for how long things take to repair. For instance, I was talking to a shop owner just a couple days ago who was remembering with fondness the good old days when he would routinely get 15+ labor hours to repair frames on cars that nowadays he only gets 4-5. The truth is however that 4-5 is the more accurate and fair rate (depending on the job of course it could be more or less). And since consumers and insurance companies are billed by the hours on an estimate the old days of falsely inflating hours are gone.

When it comes to auto body repair the vast majority of line items on an estimate will be one of three things:

R & I.

This is shorthand for “remove and install” and means to take something off your car and then to re-install it later. Parts that are not damaged may need to be temporarily removed to access another part that was damaged or more often so the panel it is taken off of can painted properly. For instance, say your electric motor for your window stops working. The interior trim panel will need to be temporarily removed for to gain access to the motor to see if it can be repaired (not likely!) or replaced. Or perhaps a molding needs to be removed from your door before it is painted only to be put back on later when the paint dries. One caution here is that if panels are being painted and you’re not being charged for R & I the shop may be taping them up which can actually cause peeling or flaking months or years later. So don’t be surprised if say a headlight needs to be removed to properly paint a fender.. you should be more concerned if its not. FYI R & I times are typically set to industry standards by estimating software and are not discretionary.


Repair is the most discretionary item on an estimate and typically the amount of time it takes to repair something will be underlined or asterisk-ed (*) to indicate this. This is where an insurance adjuster might say a dent will take 3 hours to fix and a technician might say it will take 4… there’s no hard and fast rule here and needs to be negotiated between insurance adjusters, shop estimators and possibly even the technicians doing the job. My dad who has been in the industry almost 40 years taught me a long time ago that a dent which is about the size of a man’s fist should be about 3 hours to repair. From there you can adjust up or done for various things like a body line runs through the dent (add an hour) or the dent has no creases and is accessible from the inside and therefore can be mostly popped out (subtract time).


Replacing parts is not a discretionary item on an estimate and is governed by industry standards or what shop folks call “book time.” If the book/software says it takes 3.5 hours to replace that bumper then that is what the insurance company will pay. No more and no less. It is pretty well standardized with only slight variations depending on the which software is used.


Sometimes there are things that an auto body shop will send to someone else (typically a mechanic who takes car of more under the hood items) to perform and this is categorized as sublet. Popular things for shops to sublet out are air conditioner recharging and 4 wheel alignments when the suspension is damaged. The reason this is sent out typically is that the equipment and space required for these operations are not cost effective for a body shop. And when it comes to deeper engine repair, oil and paint don’t mix! Oil and grease can quickly ruin a paint job. So, shops that say they can do “everything” typically can’t do everything well.


Under this category will go small charges like “hazardous waste removal” (about once a month we pay someone to pick up and dispose of our hazardous waste in the safest way possible) and “car cover for over spray” which pays for paper, tape and plastic to cover the vehicle during the painting process so paint over spray doesn’t go all over the windows or adjacent panels.

If you ever need help understanding a repair estimate (ours or someone’s elses) please give us call at 513-574-5584.

We’d be happy to help.

Tips on Finding a Good Body Shop

Posted on February 22nd, 2010 by Joe Weast

In the Body ShopHere are a few tips to help you find a reputable body shop. I suggest you use all of these together rather than rely on just one.

First, ask your insurance company who they recommend. Shops on insurance preferred repairer lists tend to be better monitored and have a longer track record of quality repairs.

Second, check for reviews to see if the shop has good recommendations from other consumers and even consumer advocates like the Better Business Bureau ( Typically there are also reviews online of reputable shops at sites like Google and Yelp. Just type the name of the shop into a search engine and reviews will typically be available for shops with a long track record of quality repairs. You can also get reviews or recommendations by asking friends of their experiences with a body shop.

Finally, visit the shop, request an estimate and take the opportunity to simply look around. You will need to trust your gut on this one but shops that are clean, professional and orderly are more likely trustworthy than ones that are dirty, in disarray and have a rude staff.

Of course if you’re in the Cincinnati area we’d love to be sure your body shop of choice. If you need us we’re here to help.

No matter where you’re located in Cincinnati, our family has three body shop locations to serve you:

What Do I Do With My Car After the Accident

Posted on February 12th, 2010 by Joe Weast
Lego Tow Truck

Lego Tow Truck built by Christopher Thomas on flickr

So you’ve had an accident. That stinks but here’s the next step…

If the car is not drivable have it towed to your preferred body shop. Many times you can contact your preferred body shop and they can help you arrange the towing with their preferred company. At Gary Rains Body Shop, we use A1 Towing more often than not. They can be reached at 513-563-0100. Probably a good number to have in your cell phone – do it now before you forget! – or at least in your glove box.

If the car is drivable, get it to a body shop as soon as reasonably possible. While insurance companies will come to your house or job site to inspect the car, if it’s at a body shop they can usually do a more thorough inspection. The shops will have jacks or lifts to get under the car if necessary and also they can remove the outer panels to inspect and document any hidden damage.

Keep in mind that if you’re not at fault you are entitled to a rental car while your car is being inspected and repaired. We assist  our customers with every aspect of their service, including helping arrange rental car while your own vehicle is out of commission.

Here’s to your safe, accident-free driving! … but if it happens, we’re here for you…

Car wreck? There’s an app for that!

Posted on January 6th, 2010 by Joe Weast

Finding a body shop is going high tech!

Several insurance companies already have iPhone apps out for their clients – including Nationwide and Geico – to assist them after an accident. Some of the assistance is locating a body shop, getting a tow truck, and general advice on what to do at the scene of the accident. We can count on all the major carriers having their own apps in the very near future. I recently downloaded one called iWreck that at first glance seems to work really well. I especially like the functionality of being able to call a local tow truck or 911 with the push of a button. Seems like that could come in really handy especially for teenage drivers who are really tech savvy but may be unsure what to do after an accident.

iWrecked is getting good reviews. Check it out for yourself here.


4 ways to avoid an auto body shop…

Posted on December 30th, 2009 by Joe Weast

Not that we want you to stay away if you need us but there are several things that you can do to significantly decrease your chances of having an accident and needing an auto body shop

4 key areas to consider:

1. Visibility: Have you ever gone to your car in the morning after a frost and couldn’t find that ice scraper that you swore would still be in there from last year. So you start rooting around the car looking for anything that might break through the frost or ice. You blast the defroster full tilt but you’re in a hurry so you grab your driver’s license or a credit card (where is that “reward points” card when you really need it!) and clear a spot that is just big enough to barely see through if you hunker down in your seat and pray you don’t need any peripheral vision… rough way to start the day! Then you realize that maybe the wiper fluid will help melt the ice but the last few drops of water squirt out and just add one more layer of ice before emptying the resovoir… yeah.. now it’s even rougher. AHA! The wipers… the next secret weapon in your ice war arsenal to the rescue. Oh wait… the rubber is just about completely worn off. They needed to be changed 2 years ago but somehow you managed to forget repeatedly and now the wipers are not an ally but a highly developed smudging tool.

The lesson: low cost things like wiper blades, washer fluid (the kind that won’t freeze), and an ice scraper (we have free ones at the shop if you need one) can make a big difference. The hard thing is remembering you need them before you actually do.

One other thing on visibility: check your mirrors. Make sure they are all in working order and set to where they can actually do you some good. Especially important when cars have multiple drivers and they need to constantly be re-set to the current driver. Again, a few seconds to adjust them can save you from a costly and time consuming accident.

2. Traction: Your tires are among your biggest allies when it comes to avoiding accidents. Check for wear and tear (if you see a metal belt starting to show or excessive wear – or worse still – balding on the edges its time for new tires) and inflation to the specifications listed on the side of the tires. Also, consider having them rotated every so often. Tire rotation during a routine maintenance or oil changes is a good time to take care of this.

3. Brakes: Have your brakes checked during maintenance as well. When your brakes feel spongy or don’t allow you to stop quickly if needed its time for them to be changed.

4. Distractions: Recent studies have shown that drivers are 6 times more likely to have an accident if they are texting. Phone calls and texting are gaining on drinking and driving as the number one cause for auto accidents.

So in summary here’s a list of things to do to decrease your chances of having an accident:

– ice scraper in the glove box at all times
– fill up your windshield washer reservoir with no-freeze washer fluid
–  keep your wiper blades in good working order and change them at the first signs of wear and tear
– make sure your mirrors are set for you to have good visibility
– check your tire pressure and make sure it is up to factory recommendations
– check for tire wear and tear or balding
– rotate your tires during routine maintenance or oil changes
– have your brakes routinely serviced and changed as needed
– DO NOT text and drive
– if you’re going to use your phone while driving (which is not recommended) at least get a hands-free ear piece so your hands can stay on the steering wheel
– I’ll just go ahead and state the obvious as well: Do not drink and drive… ever.

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3 things to consider after an auto accident

Posted on December 11th, 2009 by Joe Weast

In a nutshell here’s our typical advice: Have it repaired, by insurance, at Center City Collision (or another trusted body shop)

Now, here’s some things to think about as you make decisions about the repairs.

First, unless it’s deemed a total loss, have it fixed! Repaired cars retain their value when it comes time to sell. You might save money in the short run but lose even more when you go to sell it. Un-repaired cars only get worse (remember the second law of thermodynamics from science class? All things tend toward disorder). Cracked paint allows for rust, broken parts strain adjacent parts and can cause further damage or even make the car unsafe. In short, repaired cars hold their value and are safer for you, your loved ones and other drivers.

Second, it is almost always better to run it through insurance – yours or the other parties – if at all possible. Many people fear making a claim thinking there will be a premium increase. Typically that only occurs if there are multiple claims in a short period of time. (And even then it usually takes months before the increase goes into effect.) Many companies now offer accident forgiveness which allows you a certain number of claims before the rates are at risk of going up. Your agent can typically tell you case by case the impact a claim will have on premiums. It’s at least worth a phone call to your agent. You pay for it so you might as well use it…. think about your monthly premium more as an investment in your car that will allow you to get your fixed right when you need it.

Third, if you’re not at fault your insurance company can fight for you better than you can fight for yourself. Yes, you’ll have to pay your deductible after the repairs are completed but they can often recover that money if you’re not at fault. We see this happen all the time. Insurance companies have the skills, knowledge and attorneys most of us couldn’t afford. One of the reasons we pay them, right?

Lastly, if for any reason you are unable (or decide not to) use insurance many shops have an “Economy Repair” option. Ask the shop for more information on this option.

Thanks again for turning to us.

(Look for a future post about how to select a an auto body shop to do the repairs)

Accident checklist (keep a copy in the glovebox)

Posted on September 3rd, 2009 by Joe Weast

In case of an accident here’s some things you’ll want to consider doing:

1) After stopping, turn OFF the engine and turn ON the hazards
2) Check for injuries. Do not move any injured persons unless they are in immediate danger
3) Call the police. If someone is injured also call 911
4) Get out your driver’s license and insurance card and identify yourself to the police
5) Get as much info as possible from the other driver. Name, phone #, address, license plate #, and insurance name and policy #
6) Do NOT debate the accident. Let your insurance company work for you to determine who is at fault.
7) Do not sign any statements or reports other than those required by law.
8.) If you have a camera handy (even a phone camera would work) take some shots of the damage and the scene.
9.) If the car is not drivable call a towing company. In Cincinnati we recommend A1 towing 513.563.0100
10) Call us at Center City Collision and let us handle the estimate and claim process for you 513.631.2406

Even more important than gloves, keep these in your glove box…

Posted on September 3rd, 2009 by Joe Weast

Here’s five of the most important pieces of information you can keep in your glove box (in case of an accident):

1) The name of your insurance company
2) Your policy number
3) Your insurance agent’s phone number
4) The name and number of a local towing company
5) A checklist of what to do in an accident

For those who like to be REALLY prepared, here’s a few more…

6) a flashlight in case you have an accident at night
7) a disposal camera so you can shoot some photos at the scene (mobile phones are a good option as well)
8.) an on-duty police officer… but they rarely fit neatly in the glovebox. 8)

For #5 check out the next post…
Here’s to hoping you never need this info!