Paintless Dent Repair Doesn't Cost More Than A Body Shop, Even When It Does.
Is it right for you?
Paintless Dent Repair (PDR) may not be the answer for your particular repair, but its worth every penny when the stars align. To find out please consider factors that affect access to your dent.
1) Is your dent enclosed on all sides, which may require drilling?
2) Do you have paint-loss, clear coat damage, or is it just transfer from what you struck?
Note: Do not try to fix these yourself, you may make matters worse. If you can touch your dent from behind, you could double the price by pushing on it. We have seen many cases where simple, relatively cheap repair's, turned into nightmare claims, due to customers trying to DIY it.
Once you have established you are ok with those things and want the dent gone, call a professional.
Here are just some of the main positives to PDR
1) If you can get a dent removed with PDR for 100$ and it costs 1$ to paint, your better off spending the 100$. I know it sounds crazy, but its true. A vehicle that has never been painted is worth 15-20% more on resale. Most customers think they will keep their vehicle forever, so resale doesn't really matter, but thats rarely the case. Original factory paint lasts much longer and looks more brilliant. Its the difference between a real diamond and a cubic zirconia.
2) A body shop will never really match your color or orange peel consistently. This is why they must "blend" into undamaged panels (each panel blended hits Carfax as a damaged panel.). Orange peel are those little ripples in the paint, that stand out, when the sun hits it. Just like a diamond, the impression is noticeable and brilliant. Orange peel, looks like little crystals dancing in the sun; it cannot be reproduced outside of the factory. The reason is simple, in the factory, when a vehicle goes through the paint process it doesn't have anything but the outer shell. This allows the baking process to take place at much higher temeratures. If a body shop tried to reproduce these temperatures, it would melt your steering wheel, along with the rest of the interior. Having said that, some bodyshops come close, without the heat. However, its just a band-aide. In truth, thats how most of us define a good painter or a shop -- the quality of the orange peel. Finding a good painter and body shop is even more elusive than finding a good PDR technician, but thats for another post.
3) Time and convenience is a huge plus, but never let that detract from the overall goal of having your car perfect again. Yes, I said perfect.
It Can Be Perfect
Perfect, is a term that you will never hear a body shop say, ever. Perfect is removing your dent like it never happened and leaving your vehicle in an unaffected state. The only thing that may have happened, is some light scratching on the back of the panel, from where we pushed. This primarily includes not disturbing your factory paint. PDR can boast a flawless pre-accident repair. That simple statement, is why dealerships and auctions care deeply about the quality of a PDR technician and are willing to pay a premium to get it. Most dealerships will choose to spend 1000$ to get the PDR repair over a 100$ paint job, because they understand the value of the vehicles. They know something 1 out of 8 people don't, PDR will save them money immediately. Retail customers don't feel that urgency, mainly because they don't deal with automotive values/pricing every day, at least not directly. However, indirectly they do, here is a quick exercise:
Write down how much money you spend on your vehicle every month, multiply that number by .20 or 20%. Take that number and multiply it by the life of your loan, thats your potential loss. Can I have 15-20% of your house, while were at it?
Here is another news flash: your insurance company is not in the business of losing money. Now figure another 2-7% for how "they" are planning on getting paid it back (It doesn't matter if you change policies). So now your starting to understand why PDR exists. PDR is almost always worth more than body work. Sometimes its cheaper on the front end, sometimes not, but its always cheaper. You don't have to listen now, but you will listen. So if your getting a price on the front end that rivals the body shop, don't let it come as a shock.
PDR Could Be A Huge Mistake, For You
Most dent removals are 50-75% less than body shop costs. However, when dealing with larger damage over 5-10 inches, that is not always the case. PDR has its place within body repairs and it may be right for you, but it also could be a huge mistake. The only way to know for sure is by getting an estimate from a reputable dent repair company, as a first step. A good technician is going to level with you. They will tell you what they can do, what they cannot do, and why its a good or bad decision to use them. This is where certifications come into play, integrity and accountability.
Push-to-Paint: Fender Analogy Part I
Lets talk about the value of a push-to-paint job, which might be perfect for your needs. Push-to-paint is simply that. PDR will get the dent close enough to save a panel from being replaced, reduce body shop time, saving you time and money. Here are a few items you need to know, about push-to-paint:
If a fender costs 350$ new, it costs 200$ to remove and reinstall the damaged fender. That is, 550$ just to get a new fender put on without repainting. Not including, loss of time, rental car prices, or the general aggravation, which you may care about. If a PDR technician can save the fender from those three prices and not fully solve your problem, it is still worth 550$. Your vehicle will look better and you wont need to replace the fender when the time comes. Its a win-win, but its also a small conciliation.
The real money comes when you hire a high quality technician. Bodyshops, auto dealers, and auctions have known this since the early 80's and PDR has grown in lockstep with the auto industry, as a result. If your going to roll the dice, your better off putting some real skin in the game. If you hire the right tech and you pay them what they are asking, they may just shock you. If they are able to effect a perfect repair or get into the invisible zone, you just saved big. The more experienced the technician, the more likely you are to encounter the later. If an individual is giving you a price hundreds of dollars lower than other competitive companies in the region, you can almost always guarantee that your about to waste your time and money. However, this doesn't mean that you wont save money or at least break even from a body shop or "push-to-paint" perspective. Unfortunately, that may not really help your situation.
More Money Often Reflects Quality
Real techs don't have time for lowballers. Have you noticed how many small PDR companies have ten times the five star reviews, as multi-million dollar body shops? Those numbers are no accident. Most of these reviews on Google and Yelp are a result of retail customers coming into contact with dealership savings. That is, they met a tech and saved hundreds if not thousands of dollars. Since retail customers represent between 5-25% of most route techs yearly income, be assured, they don't care about haggling over 10$. Ive seen techs refuse to work or charge more because of low ballers. Simply put, if you cant afford it, wait till you can. All of this to say, pricing fluctuations of PDR technicians and companies reflect quality. Maybe you don't care now, but you might later, and buyers remorse translates into "no" or "poor reviews" online.
Fender Analogy Part II
Going back to our fender analogy, here are two additional reasons why it many not be worth it.
1) Every body-man, i.e. the technician who is responsible for applying fillers and sanding, has different preferences. One body-man may prefer you leave the damage a little high, so he/she can sand down a little bit; another may prefer that you leave it a tad low, so he/she can start by laying a thin layer of filler. All of that to say, you may not be saving that 550$ in its entirety, if your PDR technician doesn't know your body-man needs and style of repair. It may take that body-man an hour to fix the damage to his/her preference and those dollars will roll over to your bill (Count on it, 50$).
2) Access holes. Often times, the only way to access a dent is by drilling small holes. Regardless of how well placed, you still have a hole in the vehicle, that was not created by the factory; from an auction and dealership perspective, holes do not affect the value of your vehicle. There are two major exceptions to this rule. First, two holes drilled within two inches of one another. Second, drilling holes into the unibody where they clearly do not belong. A great example would be, a roof rail where a hole is placed in the jam.
To add to the confusion, there are many fake dent operations that give estimates to fix your dent at huge discounts, because they want to meet your needs. This is a good thing from a consumer perspective, if you consider the above mentioned issues and they do what they say they can. However, this is rarely, if ever the case. If the PDR tech is really worth his/her salt, why are they in your driveway, working for 70% cheaper than everyone else in the same industry? The answer is a simple one, after all.