Auto Body vs Mechanic: What's the Difference?

When considering whether you need auto body vs mechanic repairs, many people make the mistaken assumption that mechanics are qualified to perform all auto repairs. A lot of people view cars as a pile of parts that can be screwed and bolted together by anyone with the right tools.

These assumptions often lead to dissatisfaction with the repairs performed, which isn’t really fair to auto body shops or mechanics. It’s like going to a general practitioner for a facelift and being disappointed by the results.

What Does a Mechanic Do?

When a car needs repairs, especially following a collision, the first stop for most people is a mechanic. They never consider whether they need an auto body vs mechanic. For cars with no body damage, a mechanic is usually sufficient. They have the tools and expertise to remove and replace damaged components to get your car moving again.

Mechanics can evaluate all of the mechanical systems, and make necessary repairs. If the vehicle doesn’t have body damage, and the owner needs an engine light checked or some engine noises looked at, a mechanic is the way to go. For anything involving the vehicle’s appearance, it’s time to move on to an auto body shop.

What Does an Auto Body Shop Do?

For cars with body and mechanical damage, an auto body shop is the best option. Like mechanics, body shops have the tools and knowledge to make the vehicle safe to operate. They can also perform the necessary body repairs to get the vehicle looking like it did before it was damaged. When it comes to auto body vs mechanic services, the body shops win hands down in the aesthetics arena.

That’s because auto body repair is about much more than just removing and replacing parts. The entire appearance of the vehicle needs to be evaluated, and a holistic approach undertaken to make it look like it did before the collision. Even a low-speed collision can cause changes to the entire body of the vehicle. Panels can shift, twist, and even kink, far from the point of impact.

An auto body shop can evaluate these changes, and determine the best approach to restoring the appearance of the vehicle.

The Art of the Fix

Anyone can look at a dented fender or cracked bumper and decide that it doesn’t look right. What about the body panels opposite from the point of impact? While not directly damaged, they still suffered through some of the same impact forces as the fender or bumper. They could have moved or deflected, causing misalignment or damage to the paint.

When deciding between auto body vs mechanic repairs, the devil is in the details. An auto body shop can check to ensure that other parts of the auto body are still properly aligned, and that there’s no hidden damage. Removing and replacing a single panel doesn’t ensure that the rest of the car will look the way it’s supposed to.

While a mechanic certainly has the tools and know-how to replace a body panel, they don’t offer paint services. The expense of equipment and licensing is too prohibitive for a shop that doesn’t paint every day. To get the panel replaced, and also get the car looking like it’s supposed to, you need an auto body shop.

An auto body shop can repair the body, and match the existing color of the paint, providing a finished product that looks like it’s always been on the car. This is an important step, as the color of a car fades and new panels must be painted to match the paint on the rest of the vehicle.

A Note About Painting

Shops that focus exclusively on mechanical repairs don’t paint. Aside from the cost of the licensing, training, and equipment, painting is a time consuming process. The time that goes into painting a car is time that most mechanics would rather spend making repairs and getting the car out of the shop.

Spraying paint is all about preparation. Proper alignment, filling, sanding, and cleaning of the body panels is essential to laying a good coat of paint. The rest of the vehicle needs to be properly masked to prevent overspray that leaves excess paint on other panels or even windows.

When it comes to auto body vs mechanic, mechanics don’t have the equipment, licensing, or time to perform all of these steps. An auto body shop will perform these same steps numerous times a day, making it a worthwhile investment for them.

Know Your Needs

This isn’t about who’s better at their job. auto body shops and mechanics both have extensive training and experience in their fields. While these fields have some overlap, they’re not interchangeable. Deciding whether to have repairs performed by auto body vs mechanic is about deciding what repairs are needed and what results are desired.

For strictly mechanical repairs, there’s no beating a good mechanic. However, when it comes to the aesthetic appearance of the vehicle, auto body shops are the only way to go. Proper auto body repairs will help get the car back to its original appearance, and help offset any loss in value that a collision can cause.

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