In Aug. 2003 a man backed his pickup truck into the side of my car in a parking lot crumpling the back of the passenger side door and poking a hole in the rear quarter panel. My insurance company quickly authorized me to get it fixed and I got several estimates. It should have been a one to two week repair but turned out to be much more.
Cal-West Automotive, Inc
After receiving and evaluating several estimates I took my car to Cal-West in Mountain View, CA. Here is a summary of their work:
Their original estimate was to do the work in two weeks. Two weeks later, to their credit, they said they did not feel the paint matched the original and wanted to repaint the new repairs. I also noticed some poor workmanship but didn't let it bother me because it was going to be repainted.
For the next three weeks they talked with the paint manufacturer and distributer to determine why the paint hadn't matched correctly. Finally, they told me they would repaint my whole car so that it would match. Although I was concerned about my car being totally repainted, it had some dings from four years of daily driving and it sounded nice to have a new paint job.
It took them five more weeks to paint my car. When it was ready I noticed a couple areas where the paint had not been done properly. At their suggestion I took the car, inspected it and made a list of all the things that I wanted them to correct. Unfortunately, this turned out to be a long list.
I took the car back to them and they said they'd correct all the problems and that it would take two weeks. A month later they said it was ready and after looking at the car I told them they had not fixed the problems. They said they'd take two more weeks to fix the problems. After about two weeks they told me they were having problems matching the paint again and would repaint my whole car again. This took another two weeks.
When they said it was ready I was still disappointed in the workmanship. They said they could not do any more other than minor polishing and I had to take my car. There were still numerous problems which had never been corrected including that the passenger door didn't close properly.
Summary: A poor job which took 4 months. On the plus side, they did reject their own workmanship early on and provided a rental car when they required the extra time.
After talking to my insurance company I took my car to Anderson Chevrolet in Cupertino, CA, to have the door properly aligned. Before doing any work on it my insurance company sent an adjustor who inspected my car and said the only way to correct all the problems was to strip it "down to the bare metal" (hard to do on a fibreglass car) and repaint it. Anderson Chevrolet seemed to know what they were talking about so I left it there. Their estimate: One month.
After the problems I had at Cal-West, I monitored Anderson's work fairly often. I was impressed with their workmanship and that they had my car disassembled on the first day.
About the month later they had finished all the sanding and preparation and finally painted my car. However, it took another month before they finished my car. When I got it back there were a few things that I thought they could do better and asked them to do so. They told my insurance company what additional work I wanted done prompting my insurance company to offer to buy my car back because they were concerned they would not be able to deliver my car with the kind of workmanship I wanted. I agreed to accept less than the 'perfect' car I had neen continously promised as I did not want to buy another car at the time. Anderson corrected most of the problems I noted and I took delivery of my car.
Unfortunately, about a month later, the surface starting clouding up in spots. I took my car back to Anderson only to find out they were being closed by AutoNation, which owned them, and the people I had dealt with had left. I was able to talk to a manager and a worker-type. The manager told me he had seen that kind of problem when a car was covered in plastic, moisture built up under it and then got too hot. However, he blamed the condition on my having put my car cover on the car when it was damp. The worker-type said he knew what had happened but wasn't saying.
I called my insurance company and told them what I had been told. They said "no way" and asked to meet me at a third shop to evaluate the car as it sounded like the paint was failing.
Summary: Far better workmanship than Cal-West but not perfect. They provided a PT Cruiser for the time it took to clean up the areas I wanted corrected after I had returned my rental car. But an error in the process negated all their good work.
Anchor Auto Body
I took the car to Anchor Auto Body where they surmised that Anderson Chevrolet had probably covered the car with plastic, it had gotten moist and then too hot and had damaged the clear coat surface. This matched what I had heard at Anderson Chevrolet even though they blamed my car cover for the problem. After discussions about what options we had to correct the problem my insurance company said "repaint it." This time it only needed partial sanding to prepare it for painting Anchor Auto Body estimated that it would take them a month to repaint my car and they delivered it within their estimate.
I identified a number of areas that I didn't think were done well at Anderson and Anchor said they'd try to resolve them for me, as well. Anchor had one man, Jason, do the preparation work my car so that he knew the whole car. Wayne, the head painter, painted it after hours to reduce dirt in the paint area. I'm not sure which people did the polishing and detailing work. I noticed how clean and organized the shop was. I've read one should look for these things when picking an auto shop.
When I picked up the car it looked very good although there were some areas that needed some more work, including a scratch they put on the underside of the nose driving it onto a ramp for me to inspect. ;-(
After inspecting the car for a week or two I took it back to Anchor for final work. I identified some more areas that I thought Anderson Chevrolet had not done a good job on as well. Anchor said they'd try to fix as many of them as they reasonably could given that they were not being paid by my insurance company for that type of work.
Anchor spent a week doing the final work. This took longer than expected because someone put a chip in the drivers door just before I was to pick up my car so they had to do some additional work. Although they were not able to fix all the problems they fixed or improved upon most of them. In the process, they resolved two other problems left over from Anderson Chevrolet - a steering column fault indication and a grinding noise when raising one window. During this time I got a Ford Quad-Cab F-150 pickup from the rental car agency as a 'compact' vehicle, but that's another story.
Summary: The best workmanship of the three and the only shop to deliver within their estimated time. Anchor Auto Body did a very nice job on my car. Although there were some problems, they took responsibility to fix them and also took the extra effort to resolve problems that they did not have to work on.
From the beginning it was clear that Anchor was making an extra effort to make my car look as nice as possible. They said my car was a special case given all that had happened to it. I think it was a chance for new owners Tom and Betsy Trago to demonstrate Anchor's capabilities to my insurance company and perhaps others (there was talk of possibly featuring my car in advertising). Whatever the reason, I'm grateful that they did such a nice job on my car.
State Farm Insurance
Throughout this whole process State Farm, my insurance company, has been very supportive. They have paid all the costs (my understanding is they charged Anderson's work to Cal-West and, I assume, will charge Anchor's work to AutoNation) and I have been provided a rental car for the initial repair and all the rework.
I was impressed by the people at all three shops. They seemed knowledgeable and allowed me to snoop around regularly. However, the workmanship at the shops was far different. Cal-West did a poor job, Anderson Chevrolet did a good job but a mistake ruined it and Anchor Auto Body did a very good job including taking the extra effort to correct problems they didn't have to correct.
What was estimated to be a two week repair took close to seven months and $24,000, plus probably another $4,000 for rental cars. That's a lot of money and time for a one to two week repair. Let's just say I'm not impressed with the auto repair industry, in general.
It was a frustrating experience but I'm glad to have my car back again.