How to Choose The Best Auto Restoration ShopPosted on 2021-10-27
Restoring a classic car is one of the integral components of owning one. However, many of us simply don’t have the necessary tools, skillset, space and time to take care of the needs and demands of our classic on our own, and this is exactly where auto restoration shops prove extremely handy and come to save the life of our beloved vintage vehicle. Given the large number of auto restoration shops in the market, making a decision and choosing the right restoration shop is definitely not an easy task. To help you make a well-informed decision, we have compiled an informative guide full of useful tips that will empower you to understand exactly what to look for (and what to avoid) when choosing a restoration shop to bring back that showroom shine!
How to Search for Auto Restoration Shops
Using search engines to look for the best auto restorers is one of the most common and popular strategies among classic car owners. However, you will most likely find your query tiresome and overwhelming, to say the least. Not only is there an immense amount of offers, but the search results that appear on the first page are very often the best not necessarily in quality but instead in their advertising techniques and financial investment in digital marketing. As a result, relying on the search engine queries solely will not always give you the best outcomes, so we highly recommend you find and consult people who have had previous positive experiences with auto restorers and who can provide you with the necessary contact information of tried-and-true professionals. In fact, one of the distinctive benefits of vintage car ownership is the community and all the like-minded vintage enthusiasts that you’ll come across at car shows, rallies, tourings, and any other related events and gatherings that enable you to connect with people, ask questions and get insightful, trustworthy answers instead of mere advertisements and broad yet useless volumes of information. Another great tip is to find people who own vehicles similar to yours, because finding a restorer who specializes in the specific type and brand of the car you own will give you the best possible results in the shortest amount of time. In fact, a restorer who has a proven track record of great restoration projects of British sports cars may not be the best choice for you if what you own is an American muscle car, as each type and brand of the classics has its unique set of demands and characteristics that require some degree of specialization and customized approach to give the desired results.
How to Choose Among Many
After consulting vintage car owners and compiling a list of trustworthy auto restorers, it is now time to choose the best option among many on the list. One of the most important aspects to take into account is location. The closer the shop/individual restorer, the easier it will be for you to visit and check on the process (as well as progress, hopefully!) on a regular basis. If you have found a great restorer far away from your living/working area, you should at least ask the restorer to provide you with weekly progress reports and detailed photographs as visual evidence of the work carried out to give you full peace of mind regardless of the miles separating you and your beloved vehicle. However, before you start a long-distance relationship (no pun intended) with the restoration shop, you should definitely make an appointment to visit and tour the place at least once before making your final decision. During your visit, pay careful attention to the cleanliness and overall condition of the facilities and equipment in the restoration shop. The level of organization in the room is also something important to consider as you don’t want to have any parts of your vehicle lost or misplaced in the process of restoration. More often than not, better organization also translates into better work ethic, making it easier for you to trust the restorer and feel less stressed throughout the entire duration of the process.
Auto restoration is a long and thorough process, often consisting of a variety of areas ranging from chemical dipping and paintwork all the way to drivetrain and upholstery, and some restorers are specialized in select areas of restoration only, while others are ready to handle all aspects of the process and still give satisfactory results. To determine which category a restorer falls into, ask questions to the manager, take a thorough look around and check what tools and equipments they have (e.g. gas and MIG welding facility, blast cabinet, half-ton press, lathe, and so forth), and talk to the individual restorers directly to understand their capabilities and determine whether or not they are the right fit for your specific needs and requirements. Another important question to ask is where the shop sources the parts and materials used in the restoration processes. Cheap parts come with a large number of drawbacks, and even though they might decrease the overall cost of the restoration procedure at first, they will, eventually and gradually, translate into higher costs in the longer term and make you pay much more than you initially envisioned and estimated. To avoid such issues related to the use of parts and quality of work, many restoration shops agree to give you the contact information of previous customers to provide proof of satisfaction of their former clients and create a sense of transparency and resulting trustworthiness around the quality of their work. If you are lucky enough to get former clients’ contact details, feel free to call/email and ask any questions that you may have and even ask for before and after photographs to make sure that all the information is accurate and reliable.
Estimating the cost of the restoration work of a given vehicle is one of the most difficult challenges that a restorer has to, inevitably, deal with. It is very hard to determine the level of rust and repair and the resulting costs during a quick, first-sight inspection, as one needs to disassemble the vehicle in its entirety and inspect each and every individual component of the car to give a close-enough cost estimate. So even though you should do your best to get a general written estimate by the restorer for all the potential costs of the project (including labor, work materials, car parts, etc.), you should always keep in mind that the estimated cost is subject to change and that you should be ready to pay much more than initially agreed upon with the restoration contractor. This is because, as the restorer looks deeper into the inner workings and condition of the car, issues that were initially unnoticed now unfold and manifest themselves, giving rise to higher costs that were originally overlooked. This is the reason why the majority of restorers have an explicit, well-defined clause in the contract acknowledging that an additional charge may incur in case of unforeseen additional repairs. Most auto restorers take a mandatory deposit prior to starting the ordering of the parts and supplies needed to embark on the restoration journey, regardless of whether you are paying a flat rate with a clause for additional charges or being charged for individual parts of the work (e.g. labor, parts, materials) separately. However, we would advise you to stay away from restorers who require a set price, as you will either end up with a substantial amount of surcharge or a low quality of work just because the restorers realized that the actual cost of repair is much higher than initially estimated and decided to economize on areas that you might at first not notice but will have to ultimately deal with.
The best auto restoration shops charge an hourly rate, which often comes to hit the vintage car owner in the pocket as every minute counts and many projects take up to 12 to 18 months for completion. Regardless of the higher upfront cost, however, this still remains the best way to ensure that you don’t face considerable surcharges or quality issues associated with poor workmanship in the future. A common practice employed by high-grade restorers is to send weekly/bi-weekly/monthly invoice statements (the exact time frame being based on the initial agreement between you and the contractor) which provide a detailed breakdown of all purchased parts and supplies, labor descriptions and, ideally, a brief progress outline. If you think all information is true and accurate, please pay your bills immediately to avoid any interest charges or nominal monthly fees, but also to show respect for the other person’s work, time, and space. The shop does, in fact, have the right to stop any work (regardless of which stage of the process they are in) if you don’t pay your bills, so you’d rather fulfill your responsibilities in a timely manner to ensure that you do not lose your spot for which you may have, depending on the shop’s popularity, had waited for several weeks or even months, as many high-performing restoration shops have a backlog of projects and are booked for extended periods of time. So, once you get the chance, don’t take it for granted!← Go Back To List