Costs to Repair Car Body Damage
There’s no better feeling than hitting the open road. Windows down, radio on, nowhere to be and nothing to do. Sadly, the freedom a car provides can come at a steep cost. With monthly payments, gas, insurance and maintenance, owning a car can be expensive. Luckily, those are all costs you can plan for and add into your monthly budget. Something you can’t plan for as easily? Unexpected car body repair costs.
According to a 2017 study conducted by AAA, 64 million American drivers do not expect to be able to pay for unexpected vehicle repair without going into debt. With the average repair bill costing between $500 and $600, AAA recommends that drivers save at least $50 a month for potential future repair needs.
Familiarizing yourself with the common costs and process of car body repairs will help you prepare for any unexpected costs.
Cost to repair car body damage
It is difficult to accurately predict what future car repairs may cost you. The following factors can affect your individual costs:
- Car make and model
- Type of damage
- Chosen repair shop or mechanic
These factors may be difficult to control. But there’s one aspect you have control over: How well you maintain your vehicle. That could affect repair costs.
Following the automaker’s recommended maintenance schedule can help you avoid costly repairs. Over-maintaining your car or having services performed that aren’t recommended by your vehicle’s manufacturer should also be avoided.
Taking your car to a dealership instead of an independent repair shop can affect how much you pay for repairs. And not in a good way. Independent repair shops are more likely to bargain and have competitive pricing than dealerships. Car repairs can also be more costly if they relate to a major car part, like an engine or transmission.
Is it worth repairing your car?
Before you repair a car, you should decide whether or not the cost is worth it. In the 2016 Auto Reliability Survey from Consumer Reports, it was found that car ownership costs rose after year three in regards to paying for general maintenance and repairs. This rise after year three is likely caused by the fact that many new cars come with warranties or free maintenance for the first few years.
At some point it no longer makes financial sense to keep repairing a vehicle, let’s look at both sides of the argument.
In favor of repairs:
- Generally repairs are less expensive than buying a new car.
- The insurance and registration fees for a new car are higher.
- A new car’s estimated value drops 22% in the first year. Your current car has already experienced that decrease in value.
- New cars are expensive. Even a costly repair like a blown motor or a failed transmission, which can run between $3,000 and $7,000, costs less than buying a new car.
In favor of a new car:
- If the need for repairs is becoming more frequent and you can’t keep up with the costs.
- The car breaks down frequently, leaving you stranded, inconveniencing you or putting you in dangerous situations.
- If the repairs will cost more than half the value of your car.
How to find a mechanic
If you don’t already work with a mechanic you trust and can rely on, you need to take researching a new repair shop and mechanic seriously.
What to look for when choosing a repair shop:
- Ask friends and family for their recommendations. Which repair shops do they trust?
- Research repair shops before you actually need your car repaired. That way you won’t be rushed into making a decision in an emergency.
- Compare warranty policies on repairs and shop around for the best deal either by phone or online.
- If your state or local laws require repair shops be licensed or registered, then remember to ask to see current licenses. You can review the resources at your state Attorney General’s office or at your local consumer protection agency. They may have a record of complaints against the repair shops you are considering.
- Double check that the shop will honor your vehicle’s warranty.
How to choose a good mechanic:
- Again, ask for recommendations from those you trust to help find a trustworthy mechanic.
- Ask to see, or check for certifications like an Automotive Service Excellence seal on display. Certifications can indicate that some, or all of a shop’s technicians meet the basic standards in specific technical areas. Double check that the certifications are current, but remember that certifications do not guarantee quality or honest work.
- Ask the repair shop if they have any technicians who have experience working on the same make or model as your vehicle.
Before making a final decision on which repair shop or mechanic to work with, ask for a written estimate for the repairs than need to be done on your vehicle. You may want to consider getting a second opinion to confirm their diagnosis is correct and compare prices.
How to pay for car body repair costs
Now that you have a general idea of what common car body repair costs could be, let’s discuss your payment options. Paying in cash is ideal of course, but if you can’t afford to do so, there are a few other options available to you that may help you finance your car repairs or lower your bill.
|Funding option||What it is||Who it’s good for|
|Personal loans||Borrowing money to help finance auto repairs.||If you need costly repairs that you can’t afford now or in the near future.|
|Intro 0% interest credit card||A credit card that comes with a promotional 0% interest rate for a set period of time.||Those with good to excellent credit who can repay their debt quickly.|
|Payment plan||A payment plan may allow you to pay for your repairs over an agreed amount of time.||Someone who can’t comfortably pay for their entire repair bill up front.|
If you can’t afford car body repair costs, consider taking out a personal loan. Because traditional personal loans don’t require collateral, you won’t have to pledge assets, like a home or car, in order to secure financing.
With a personal loan, you’ll have a fixed interest rate. That makes your monthly dues predictable. Terms on a loan often range from one to five years.
With an unsecured personal loan, your credit and other financial information will be weighed by potential lenders when determining your eligibility. If your finances are strong, you could qualify for single-digit rates. The flip side, however, is that borrowers with lower credit scores may struggle to qualify, or may only qualify for high rates.
0% intro interest credit card
A credit card that comes with a promotional interest rate for a set period of time may be another option for funding car repairs. These types of cards allow you to charge purchases and repay your balance without interest, often for 12 months or longer.
However, if you don’t repay your debt before the promotional period ends, you’ll be responsible for interest charges, typically at much higher rates. Make sure you’d be able to repay your debt in full if you took out an intro 0% interest credit card for car repairs. Keep in mind, too, that qualifying for this type of credit card may be difficult for those with less-than-stellar credit.
If you will struggle to pay for your repairs at the time of service, ask if there is a payment plan that can help you pay for the repairs over an agreed upon time period.
Anytime you need to repair your vehicle, there will likely be costs involved. There is no avoiding the fact that car ownership is a responsibility, and an expensive one at that. But with a little research, planning and proper maintenance, you should be able to keep your vehicle in tip top shape without feeling too much financial strain.