Unfortunately, the short glib answer is ‘you don’t’.
There are many repair facilities working with or toward Next Accident Ready repair principles and it is these industry participants that will be able to provide the right repair now. But there are far more that are not yet working with these principles and the problem is that to a lay person these facilities are not differentiated by appearance or presentation from those that do strive for Next Accident Readiness.
Last week I was talking to a knowledgeable car owner about RFINA repairs and she understood quickly what I was saying. She then asked ’how do I know I am getting the right repairs, what questions can I ask.’ I thought for a few seconds and could only answer ‘there really are no questions you can ask, because the questions themselves require a knowledge of repair procedures.’
There will not be many car owners who would be able to ask;
Does your shop have electronic 3 dimensional measuring and a solid 4 point anchoring system with the capability for a 5th or 6th anchor point if needed?’
Do you have a damage report writer who can tell your technician exactly what metals are used in the structure of my car and what repair or replace procedures have to be followed?
Are your technicians trained in the use of a resistance spot welder, silicone bronze MIG brazing, and high strength steel MIG Welding?
Do you have access to OEM grade scan equipment that will allow you to perform a pre-repair systems diagnostic scan as part of the damage report and then a post repair scan to ensure that all systems are fully functional?
Do you have a very good professional relationship with my insurance company that will allow them to authorize all needed repair procedures and parts?
Most people would sound like they were reading from a script with these questions.
Perhaps a question that could be asked is ‘are you confident that your equipment and staff will allow you to repair this damage in a way that returns my car to true pre-accident safety’.
The answer should be a thoughtful and confident, with perhaps an offer of a look at some of the equipment and/or the offer of a copy of the repair documentation after the repair is completed. If the answer is ‘sure we’ve fixed lots of these cars before’ that may not be as confidence inspiring.
In the past one or two years, more progressive repairers have become actively involved in training and certification. If the repair shop has current certificates and staff training designations posted this is another sign of a facility that is paying attention to rapidly changing repair requirements.