With damages ranging from minor hail dents on the outskirts of the storms to total losses directly in the tornadoes’ paths, Miami Valley drivers are facing longer than usual waits as area collision repair shops process tornado repairs alongside usual auto body work, leaders of the companies said.
The backlogs could last for months, they said.
“It probably at least tripled the amount of work flow that we’re seeing right now. And most of the body shops in the Miami Valley are running into the same thing,” said Tim Trimbach, president of Trimbach’s Body Shop in Tipp City.
Voss’s chains of auto body shops have seen about a 20 percent jump, Gerber Collision & Glass in Huber Heights has seen a 75 percent influx and Maaco Collision Repair & Auto Painting on Needmore Road is also seeing a jump in the number of vehicles coming through — along with parts sales — according to leaders in each shop.
As the body shops continue to schedule repairs further down the line, they’ve been talking to each other to find some of the best strategies to deal with the influx, Trimbach said. Trimbach and Gerber have both brought in paintless dent experts from out of town. Trimbach has four, he said. Gerber has two, said Mark Campbell, market support for Gerber.
“Damage that might take us five days to repair, they can fix in five hours…it’s not requiring any paint. It’s really like magic to watch. And that’s all these people do for a living, and they chase storms across the country,” Campbell said.
Most auto body shops are also increasing hours to process more vehicles each week and are handling more extensive damage that takes longer to repair than normal, the shops said.
“The tornado damage vehicles are $5,000 to $10,000 in repair versus our normal repair would be a couple thousand dollars,” said Dean Price, president of Maaco. “I think it’s going to maintain for a few weeks, and then it’ll start to die down. And then we will probably start to see the people that don’t have insurance.”
Claims representatives at Dayton-based Wagner Insurance Agency have had an increased number of calls about auto policies, but most calls coming through are still for homes, said Kyle Bergsman, a new business producer at the agency. Customers with home and car policies have also put an emphasis on having their homes taken care of first, Bergsman said.
“The tornadoes have caused an increase in auto claims, and we expect for there to be more once the dust has settled and people have gotten the ball rolling on a home claim,” he said.
Some auto body shops have estimated it could take through the summer and up to nine months until the number of repairs is back to normal, similar to the hail storm that blew through the Miami Valley in 2012 and damage from the Xenia tornado of 1974.
This time more damaged vehicles are being called total losses, said Jack Leet, fixed operations director at Voss Collision in Centerville.
“With all the electronics in cars today, water damage is just as bad…There’s a lot of cars out there still with the windows knocked out; it’s just going to total them because the electronics in the car (cost) so much,” Leet said. “You will repair fewer of them because of the extent of the damage.”
Because of so many total losses, car sales in the Miami Valley could increase, Leet said.
The closer an auto body shop is to the heart of the damage, the busier it will be, Bergsman said. Some who don’t want to wait as long may choose to go outside of the Miami Valley, but Bergsman said to be careful to make sure repairs will be guaranteed by the shop if customers veer outside those recommended by the insurance company in case something related to the original claim becomes an issue down the road.
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