By Jim Donovan

By Jim Donovan

PHILADELPHIA (CBS) — Whether it’s a small dent or significant damage, dealing with the aftermath of a car crash can be overwhelming.  There may be police reports, insurance claims and of course trying to decide who will fix your car.  In this week’s Angie’s List report, Jim Donovan has some things you need to know before you choose an auto body shop.

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Carrie Neal discovered front end damage to her car after one of her daughter’s softball games and suspects she was hit by another car in the lot.

“I’m not the best driver in the world, so at first I was like oh no, have I done something? You know, like did I make a really big booboo and didn’t notice it?  And then it was like, no. There’s no way I could make a dent this big and not be aware of it,” said Neal

She immediately contacted her insurance company and they gave her a list of recommended auto body shops.

And while there’s nothing wrong with going with an insurance recommended shop, you don’t have to.

Neal ended up taking her car to a shop she knew and trusted.

Auto body shop owner Bruce Kelley says If you don’t already have a place you trust, make sure you check the shop’s certifications. And ask questions like whether they have liability insurance and how long will the repair take?

“A lot of people have an expectation of repair. Things go wrong. Parts have to be ordered. Sometimes it’s the wrong part. So we try to communicate with the folks over the period of the repair, but it’s important to ask at the beginning for an expectation. Things change, but at least you have an idea,” said Kelley.

He also says you should never assume a small dent is a small problem.

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“Sometimes the damage is hidden. Sometimes it’s a lot worse than what we see on the surface. I’ve had cars come in here with what looks like a dent and we totaled the car,” said Kelley.

It’s also important to ask the shop if they warranty their work.  If not, find another one.

Advice from Angie on Finding a reputable auto body shop:

Check certifications. Looking for a shop’s certifications is a good way of finding out whether it’s reputable or not. While some states have their own auto body industry associations, some popular national associations are the society of collision repair specialists and the independent auto body association. Also, ask whether the technicians and the shop have received certifications from the national institute for automotive service excellence.

Do they warranty their work? Auto experts say any reputable auto body shop will provide a lifetime warranty, no matter whether the insurance company or customer pays the bill.

Don’t settle for less. When a vehicle is not a total loss, some people are content taking it to a body shop their insurance company suggests or works with. Although this may be the course you want to take, it’s important to note that you are not required to do so by law.

Ask about parts. Check whether the shop uses aftermarket or used parts or original factory parts. Original factory parts are better for the car and often recommended by the manufacturer.

Shop around. Get three or four estimates. If the repairs cost more than your deductible, finding an estimate may not be as important as your insurance company will cover the rest.

Other factors to consider. How secure is the shop and lot? How long will the repair take?

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