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Finding the Restoration Shop for You: Tips for Selecting the Perfect Partner

A classic truck in front of a hot rod shop in Edmonton

Deciding what shop to entrust your vehicle to can be a tricky. Once you've made the choice to take your classic or custom to a professional shop, whether you've first tried the DIY angle or you want professional help with your build right off the hop, there are some things that are useful to consider.

An underqualified shop can do a lot of damage to both your vehicle and your wallet.

First consider what type of shop you're looking for, there may be a shop out there that has expertise in what you're trying to achieve. Building a slammed truck, drift car, 30's coupe, resto mod, or a Mopar to factory specs? There are all sorts of specializations within the automotive restoration and customization world. While doing online research, try looking for something specific to help narrow down your choices.

An old abandoned Auto Repair shop in Alberta

Feeling confident in the shop you choose is very important. If you are building or restoring a vehicle, you are potentially going to be in a years long partnership with the shop that you select. Going to speak to shop owners in person is integral. An email or phone conversation is one thing, but seeing the shop first hand is a must before pulling the pin. Take a look around, are there projects that look like they've been collecting dust? Does the shop floor look relatively organized and orderly?

In this instance, it's more than ok to judge the book by its cover, first impressions matter. If something puts you off, trust your gut.

Your communication with the owner or manager is also a telling sign, how do you feel about your interaction? A shop that wants your business might tell you only what you want to hear and not what is realistic. If a shop is giving you a price that is much cheaper than others, be skeptical; especially if the information they give you regarding the ins and outs of your proposed project seems insufficient. This is where talking to a few different shops can come in handy. Consider whether you leave confident, with more information than you came in with, or if you end up with more questions than answers. Transparent communication about your project is a must, even if the news isn't always good news. Problems and solutions need to be discussed right from the start so that customer and shop are always on the same page.

Pricing is obviously another important thing to consider when comparing shops, is the estimate you are given justified, does it all make sense when broken down into parts, labor, materials, etc.?

Shopping based solely on price almost never ends well, cheapest is not usually best.
Antique cars being restored at a shop in Edmonton

Be wary of an estimate that's significantly lower than comparable shops. Are they considering everything in the estimate they provide, or are they leaving some things out. Unfortunately there are shops that will undercut just to get your job in the door, only to surprise you down the line with additional thousands of dollars in unaccounted for parts or labor. It is better to start with realistic numbers to avoid unpleasant interactions between shop and customer down the road. The last thing you want is to end up with your vehicle stuck somewhere, paying monthly but seeing no forward progress. As a shop, the thing we hate to hear most is of bad experiences and money wasted at other shops before a customer has success in finding a positive experience.

Last, but definitely not least are credentials. A reputable shop should be able to show you previous work as well as connect you with previous customers to vouch for their work. If a shop is newer, but you feel good about your interaction with them, it's always a good idea to ask about certification at the very least.

You'll likely have more confidence in someone fixing your vehicle or fabricating parts if they have some formal training or journeyman certificate.

If all you see are social media posts, you are not getting a realistic example of what a shop is capable of. There is a lot of smoke and mirrors online these days, and not a lot of real world regulation of sketchy shops providing dubious work. It is always preferable seeing examples of work in real life versus online.

In short, do the research necessary before hand so that you can set yourself up for a positive and successful experience and get behind the wheel of your dream car sooner. There is nothing more depressing than having a project bounced around from shop to shop, spending more and more unnecessary money as you go. Thinking you are saving money by shopping based on price alone will almost always end up costing you big, whether it is in the time it takes for your project to actually be completed or the money you ultimately end up spending getting screwed around. If you don't have faith in the shop working on your vehicle, don't be afraid to cut your losses and find a new shop. Remember, your relationship with whatever shop you choose for your build will likely be a long one, so make sure you choose the partner that's right for you.

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