For those who don’t know, my Astra was attacked in Donegal at the end of July. Woke up to the damage on the Saturday morning. The windscreen was fixed for just the £60 excess on the Monday (apparently these guys don’t do weekends). The Garda were nice but never inspired much hope of catching anyone and were ultimately useless. Anyway, having left work I finally got around to shopping around for estimates and thought I’d share my experience for anyone else looking to get a car repaired in the Belfast area.
I actually got one from Bodytech Collision Repair in Carrickfergus a few weeks ago, because they seem to be the only car body repair outfit open on a Saturday morning. They came in at £666 + VAT which was £783.31 to you and me. They seemed very professional (nice modern office, ample parking, full-time receptionist) despite the out of date web site which still reports an operation in the Village area of Belfast (I think they said that branch just closed in March or April, though don’t quote me on that).
I would have probably just gone with that, since getting another estimate outside of office hours was so bloody difficult; I could tell people over the phone what it needed (a new tailgate) but they all wanted to see for themselves. Since I knew I’d have 2 weeks between jobs coming up I thought I’d wait though, and I’m glad I did (so far).
Yesterday I traipsed down to Lisburn to seek out Rankin Cooke, a garage where my dad had had his car fixed following a prang a few years ago. Didn’t seem as “polished” – but maybe a bunch of guys in a garage can do as good/a better job and just don’t think they particuarly need a fancy office and receptionist. It’s just a little awkward to phone and have the person answering just say “Hello?” as if you’ve just called a stranger at home. Anyway, the important bit: £693 (inc VAT) or £650 for cash. Excellent! Things were looking up and I left feeling I might be calling back soon to book her in. I just wanted at least one more estimate.
On to Bangor and TK Motors. Nice web site, professional setup (no receptionist but apparently dedicated estimators instead). Not so friendly as Rankin Cooke or Bodytech. The guy handed me an estimate for £871.57 and I left, trying to suppress a scornful chuckle. Sadly I missed Howell Accident Repair who operate practically round the corner from TK Motors so have no quote from them.
When I got home I came across a web site for Davey’s Accident Repair Centre on the Woodvale Road. The web site is a touch on the hideous side, but it has the important information there. This morning I gave them a call (answered by a pleasant-sounding lady with a “Davey’s Accident Repair”) and tootled on up to get an estimate. After a quick look at the car and a quick phone call (to price the tailgate from Vauxhall, presumably, as seems to be standard procedure) he came up with £650. At the same price as Rankin Cooke, these guys had the separate office and a couple of desks including one staffed by the lady I’d spoken to on the phone. It’d also be easier to get to on the bus if needs be (forgot to ask if that estimate included a courtesy car – I’m presuming Rankin Cooke’s didn’t).
So about ten seconds after leaving to think it over, I returned to book my wee motor in for that long-awaited new tailgate. Watch this space…
Advice to the Garages
If anyone from any of the above garages is reading this, please don’t take any offence to any of it. I’m just trying to share a customer’s experience (that’s a customer who isn’t used to this type of thing) and maybe share a little insight. I did a bit of business management at university and I naturally notice things that could be improved on. It may sound presumptuous to phone up and say this but I’m guessing if you’ve found this story you’ve been googling yourself to find out what people think. So if you’re interested my advice would be:
Rankin Cooke: Just answer the phone with “Hello, Rankin Cooke” instead of “Hello?”. It would make a world of difference. Other than that, maybe an obvious entrance for Joe Public? With the big closed over iron garage door I felt like I wasn’t sure if I should be going in there. Oh and you were the only ones not to hand me some form of written estimate I could take away (TK Motors and Bodytech had printouts and Davey’s handed me a branded card, about 8″ by 4″, specifically for estimates and bookings). I’d like to see you guys (continue to?) do well so I’m not just bitching for the sake of it – wee things like that make a big difference to unsure customers (idiots?) like me. I’m not trying to run Rankin Cooke down, because I would have gone to them had I not found the Davey’s web site later that day
TK Motors: Too expensive. That’s all. Though if you can get away with charging prices like that good luck to you.
Bodytech: A bit on the dear side, but you can see what you’re paying for. Everything was very professional and the guy who gave me the estimate couldn’t have been more friendly.
In my opinion all these guys could do with having a think about their web sites. I wouldn’t have even noticed Rankin Cooke had my dad not mentioned them. If they’d had a web site I would have, it’s as simple as that. Bodytech’s site is obviously dated but even inaccurate information is better than none (as long as that phone number informs callers of the new one) and I think it highlights them better in search results on Yell.com (which is where I started hunting). TK Motors have the best site, it looks ok but it’s design makes it nasty to use.
Having said all that, my own order of preference would have been:
- Davey’s (£650)
- Rankin Cooke (£650)
- Bodytech (£783.31)
- TK Motors (£871.57)
so maybe I’ve just proved that all I’ve said is rubbish and price is the main factor (to a degree at least). I think I’d have paid an extra £30 or so for Bodytech over Davey’s and maybe £50 over Rankin Cooke but there’s just too much variance to justify it. There’s just something reassuring about those wee extras that make the experience more comfortable to someone who is a novice at these things.