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Auto Body Shops VS Auto Repair Shops – What is the difference?

February 10, 2020 Leave your thoughts

Taking your car to the wrong repair shop will cost you time and money. The first thing you should know is the difference between an auto repair shop and an auto body shop because they each do different work, despite the similar names. Some places do both and you might end up needing both depending on your situation.

So how are these different, and why does it matter to you? As a car owner, you must know the difference, this way when you need to get work done to your car, it can be taken to the right shop the first time. If you tell the tow truck where you’re going and you end up at an auto body shop with a busted transmission you’ll have just wasted money on the tow.

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Auto Repair Shops


This is the most common type of shop, and probably what most people refer to when they talk about “the shop.” Usually, auto repair shops can do a little bit of everything mechanical to your car. They’re the ones to visit when you need to get an oil change, and where you get that new sound your car makes diagnosed. They handle everything under the hood of your car, with the caveat to that being that they often don’t handle transmissions. (Transmissions are quite complicated, and you’ll usually find a specialist for them.) These are the guys you want to work with if there’s a knock, raddle, or your car just doesn’t work as it should. 

What Happens When I Pull in to The Shop?


The entire process will start with a diagnosis. You’ll explain what’s wrong with the car, and then they’ll get to work. The first step if there’s a check engine light is to connect a computer to the car. The car talks to the computer and tells it exactly what’s wrong. From there they’ll run a series of tests to confirm that it’s the problem. If the car starts and drives they might even test drive it to experience the problem firsthand (Although this is less common than other methods). 

A Detailed Estimate

Once they’re confident in the problem, and the solution, they’ll talk to you and give you a detailed estimate. (Beware estimates that lack details. Any mechanic worth working with will explain exactly what’s wrong and communicate with you) Depending on the shop, the diagnosis might be free of charge. Keep in mind that they won’t always be correct and that problems can be complex, with multiple issues causing one problem. Just because the first solution doesn’t solve the problem doesn’t mean they were wrong to repair it.

Fixing The Car

Once you approve the estimate they’ll put their team to work. Depending on the nature of the problem you might be fixed in a few hours, or it could take a couple of weeks. Depending on the shop, insurance, or the situation you could have a rental car provided to you. If you think this is an option you can take advantage of, be sure to take advantage of it so that you’re not relying on family and friends to get you around while your car is in the shop. 

Paying The Bill 

Once the car is fixed you’ll get a call to come to pay the bill and pick it up. Some mechanics want payment at the time of completion, and others are happy to set up a payment plan. That’s something to discuss during the estimation phase. After it’s settled, you can take your car home and it should run like new. 

Common Repairs Done by Auto Repair Shops


Brakes are among the most common part of your car to be under an immense amount of wear and tear. They work because pads are forced against a part inside your wheel, and they literally grind the car to a stop. This means that the pads have to swapped out every so often, and eventually the rotor (The part of the wheels that the pads grind against) will also have to be replaced. 

2.Oil Changes

Every car (Aside from electric cars) needs oil changes. The oil runs throughout the engine and keeps it lubricated. Without the oil, metal would rub against metal, and the car would break down much faster than it should. It may even cause the car to overheat. Your oil eventually goes bad, and you need to replace it. Every shop that changes your oil will tell you when you need to bring the car back for another oil change. 

3.Engine Repair

The engine of your car is a complex bit of machinery that has a ton of moving parts. If you’ve opened the hood then you’ve seen a bit of it. There’s, even more, going on inside all the metal. Shops can help diagnose and repair all kinds of parts within the engine. 

4.Part Replacement

There will be parts of your car that either wear out or go bad. These can be belts to batteries, to starters. Anything can stop working. Often replacing the part is better and less expensive than repairing what’s broken. Talk to your mechanic if you’re unsure about the choice to replace a part instead of repairing it. 

Beware – Not Everyone Can Do Everything


While most auto body shops are generalists, you should be aware that there are specialists. Cars are complex machines, and with the rise of electric cars, it’s important to recognize specialties. The same mechanic who works on your gas car may not be able to help with your electric car. Some shops will only work on transmissions, and others will only work on high-end luxury sports cars. Know what your car needs and find a shop that fits those needs.


Then there are the dealerships. Often they are more expensive than if you were to seek out an independent shop but there are some advantages. They have access to the exact parts, and they occasionally have special knowledge regarding the vehicle that an independent shop wouldn’t be privy to. If you have any kind of warranty on the car or a lease it might be in your best interest to take the car to the dealership for general maintenance. Bear in mind though that warranties by law can’t specify which repair shop can perform the repairs. Know the difference between auto warranties and service contracts

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Auto Body Shops


Auto Body shops are something of a specialty when it comes to car garages and repair shops. They don’t specialize in the mechanical repair of the car, instead, they focus on the body panels, paint, other aesthetics, and sometimes they do work on the frame of the vehicle as well. This is work that a standard shop where you get the oil changed won’t be able to do. The work auto body shops do require a special set of skills and a unique set of tools that a group who doesn’t do bodywork would not have use of on other projects. Combining that and the need for specialists creates auto body shops.  

There are actually even further specializations but they’re often not necessary for anyone that isn’t into custom jobs or antique restoration. You’d more often use an auto body shop after your paint is scratched, or someone puts a dent in your door. An auto body shop can take out the dent, and repaint the door so that it looks like nothing ever happened in the first place. 


Get The Estimate

The first thing you have to do is get your car to the shop. From there they’ll have a look and do their research. They might need to do more than look at your car to get you a proper estimate. They need to make sure they’re able to provide you the fix you need. If you need a replacement windshield they have to check their stock, the same rule applies with paint, or replacing body panels. 

Repairing The Problem

In a couple of days, your repair will be completed. On very minor incidents, like a dent in the bumper, you may be back on the road within the same day. If you’re the victim of a much more serious incident then It will take substantially longer, possibly even weeks. Some auto body shops also double as repair shops, so they would be able to take care of everything in the house at the same time. You’ll just pass your car off to them and pick it up when it’s done. 

Paying The Bill

Bodywork may end up being more expensive than you would expect. This can be the result of a variety of things, often out of the control of the auto body repair shop. For instance, they might have to purchase a brand new door panel if it’s beyond being repaired, or they have to order the paint that matches your car. A good shop will communicate with you, foresee some of these problems, and set your expectations accordingly. 

Common Repairs Done By Auto Body Shops

1.Repair Dents

Dents are not permanent, and you can restore the car to its original shape. There are some at-home ways of doing this, but it’s usually best to let a professional handle it. They can ensure that the dent is fixed and that you can’t even tell it was there. 

2.Restores Paint

Scratches can come from anywhere, a misplaced shopping cart, or something falling over in the garage. The most important thing when it comes to restoring paint is that it matches the original and surrounding paint. This is a skill that can take years to master and auto body shops often have a painter who is up to the task.

3.Replace Broken Glass

If you have broken or chipped glass there are a couple of things that can be done. Your auto body shop may fill the crack in your windshield if they’re able. It may be that it’s too far gone, and the entire thing needs to be replaced. Let the professionals handle this part because a mistake could cost hundreds of dollars in buying yet another windshield if the replacement breaks during the installation. 

4.Replace body Pannels 

The exterior of cars, like the mechanics of the engine, is made up of different parts. There are quarter panels, body panels, door panels, fenders, bumpers, and everything in between. If one of them is damaged badly it might be cheaper to replace it entirely. A good auto body shop can handle it easily. 

Beware – Not Everyone Can Do Everything


Even with auto body shops, there is specialization in some shops. This is especially true when you look at the world of custom cars and unique builds. Some shops specialize in paint, and others do mostly framework, just as an example. There will be other shops that only work on the glass. Finding the shop that’s right for you is essential to getting the repair you need. You don’t want to waste your time and money with shops that can’t do what you need them to do.


If you have a body panel that needs to be replaced sometimes it could be best to go to the dealership. They can sometimes have access to parts that a traditional auto body shop wouldn’t, such as paints that are an exact match because they were the ones used on the assembly line. Beware though, dealerships are often more expensive than other shops. 


Getting you back on the road safe, sound, and happy is the goal of any auto body or auto repair shop. Good mechanics and body guys care about your car as much as you do. With each job the mechanics and auto body specialists put their reputation on the line and their name on the work. Quality work should always be the result. Working with the right people can make all the difference. If you ever find yourself or a family member in need of a Mercedes body shop in Van Nuys, a trailer repair shop in Simi ValleyRV repair in Simi Valley, or truck repair in Simi Valley, consider Auto Aid Collision. We’ve helped thousands of people just like you. We do everything above and so much more. Give us a call today and see how Auto Aid can help you.