Ask your body shop for a guarantee. You are likely to get a minimum of 30 days’ guarantee against defects in parts, materials, and workmanship, and most high-quality shops offer guarantees of six months or longer; the length of some guarantees varies by type of job. Whatever guarantee they offer, get it in writing.

When the car is ready, inspect it by looking most closely at:

Dent Removal

A good shop will leave a smooth surface and apply only a thin skin of plastic filler to completely even it out. Poor shops will fill in dents with lots of filler. Although the filler hardens and can be smoothed out to blend in with the rest of the surface, the hardened plastic is brittle and may fall out or crack after another impact. Also, thick plastic patches tend to form webs of hairline cracks, which show through the paint after a few years.

Corrosion Protection

Welding, cutting, and grinding galvanized steel can remove its protective coating, leaving the area susceptible to corrosion. Shops should re-treat these areas with a protective coating before painting.

While this is a task some shops skimp on, quality shops will do it the right way. Make sure any paintwork is covered by a manufacturer’s lifetime warranty; that way, if a shop has failed to properly apply corrosion protection and the area begins to rust, the warranty will let you redo the work at a shop of your choice.


It’s easy to spot most paint problems. If paint is sprayed on too thickly, or if the mixture used is not right for the temperature of the spray booth, the paint may drip or sag or have an orange peel-like texture. On the other hand, if paint is applied too thinly, it may not have enough gloss. If dust is not properly controlled, it will show up in the paint surface.

The toughest problem for painters is matching colors, with metallic and pearl colors especially difficult to match. While you can’t expect a perfect match on an old car, on newer cars it should be very close. Good painters mix paints using a manufacturer’s formula, then tinker with the color if it isn’t quite right. They also merge the new color with the original by spraying lightly over portions of old paint adjacent to newly painted panels.

If you are not satisfied with a paint job, insist that the shop do it again. But be aware that perfection may not be possible and that repainting is expensive and time-consuming.


Take a test drive if the damage was substantial. Check especially that wheels are properly aligned—that the car doesn’t pull to one side of the road or the other. Also verify that every feature of the car works as it did before the repairs—door handles, trunk lid, hood, windows, even the sound system and windshield wipers.

Become a Smarter Consumer Get free, expert advice delivered to your inbox every Wednesday when you sign up for the Weekly Checklist newsletter.