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Wilson's Auto Restoration Blog

What to Ask Before Hiring a Classic Car Restoration Shop

Wilson Auto Classic Car Restoration and RepairDo you want really good restoration work on your classic car or classic truck?

Then don’t commit your money, or sign a contact, with any classic car restoration shop without checking them out thoroughly first.

These days, most people do at least a little research before beginning a restoration project, but often the focus is on price – things like the cost of restoration parts and labor.

While that may be a good place to start, it only tells a part of the story. To determine if a car restoration shop is right for your hotrod or muscle car, you need to dig a little deeper.

To help you, here are some things to consider when evaluating classic car restoration shops. Think of it as your checklist to hiring the right shop.

What Do You Want to Accomplish?

Different restoration shops may have different approaches even though the objective is to restore your car. A body repair shop, for example, addresses body work differently than a fabrication shop.

Ask yourself what you care about. Do you want metal or body putty? Do you want to restore your vehicle to its original condition, or do you want modern conveniences like power steering or power brakes?

Know your priorities and objectives.

Are the Shop’s Goals In Line With Yours?

Fear inducing stories and low prices may boost sales, but a shop’s approach with you should focus on how it will restore your vehicle, not only on price.

If all you hear is talk about price and restoration project horror stories, and you don’t hear detailed talk about how they are actually going to restore your vehicle, then how can you get a finished product that you really need?

Check the shop’s website to learn it’s goals, how it plans to accomplish them and its recommendations from its current and past clients. What you want to see is a restoration shop involved in its’ industry and community, one that promotes best practices and safe communities.

If the shop you are researching doesn’t post such information on its website, don’t hesitate to call and ask for it. Any good shop would be happy to discuss their industry and community involvement with you on the phone. 

Who Are the Shop’s Owners?

Another good way to find out if a classic car restoration shop is right for you – especially in communities with so many options – is to learn about the people in charge. Evaluate their skill sets, restoration and repair experience and business experience to determine if they are capable of taking care of you.

The names of a shop’s owners and managers may be found on their website, on LinkedIn business pages and other sources. You can also call the company and ask.

Make sure you know the skills and character of the people behind the company.

What Are Other Shop’s Doing?

Put a company’s work into greater perspective by researching what other restoration and repair shops are providing in your area.

Everyone knows the shops advertising on TV, but that’s really only the tip of the iceberg. Smaller and less visible shops do great work and often provide better work and better value.

Those restoration shops involved in industry trade associations fill a vital role. Their involvement indicates a commitment to ethical best practices and on-going learning in an ever-changing world.

To learn what companies operate in your community, use an online search engine or review site like Yelp.

What Are Others Saying?

The classic car repair industry is multi-faceted and ever changing. Getting the opinions of others can greatly improve your understanding about your options and help you pinpoint the most effective restoration company for you.

Ask your neighbors, friends and trusted associates.  They can share their own personal experiences and opinions about what companies are particularly fair and strong.

Take a look at review websites like Yelp. Don’t place too much weight on any one review. Rather, read them all so you get a good overall feel about what others think of the shop.

Contact your local Better Business Bureau for information. Search a shop’s name online to learn of lawsuits or negative customer service or performance issues.

Many states have licensing requirements for classic car repair shops. Make sure the company you are considering has a current license in good standing with the community and state in which you live. 

Is the Shop Stable?

A company’s finances can shed light on a shop’s health and capacity.

In a tough economy like we’ve been facing in the U.S., many classic car restoration shops have gone out of business, leaving their customers scrambling for alternatives. The cost-of-entry into the restoration industry is low, meaning it’s easier for some to decide to open a shop out of their garage today and close it tomorrow.

Ask a shop about its finances. They should be bringing in enough revenue to exceed expenses. You want a shop that is profitable, financially healthy, and with a leadership team committed to serving you.

What Is Your Gut Telling You to Do?

While analysis is useful, it’s not entirely perfect. If you feel a classic car restoration shop is right for you, it may be wise to go with your gut.

Sometimes it can be tough to evaluate if a shop is truly right for your project, especially in the context of a complex, individual issue like car restoration.

You are never going to know everything. Ultimately, selecting a classic car restoration shop is a judgment call, just like buying your home or picking a place to eat. Make a decision and act on it.

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