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hey everyone im sure this isn't the right place to ask but i want to ask anyone who has or is working in auto collision repair (autobody man) how is the career? is it stressful? ******y bosses? long hours? pay? enjoyable? satisfying? job security? advancing? do you hate cars now? i know that every career has its up and down but i really would love to hear your answers. my final question is ultimately if you were 23 years old would you pursue this career again or would you choose a different career?

your answers will greatly appreciated. thank you and have a wonderful day.
 

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If I had it to do over again. NO. I got out of it years ago. Because at the time, paint products/technology were changing rapidly and causing problems to the end user.

So many variables and labor intensive. More so back then as a lot more "bodywork" was done. Not just panel replacement. Insurance companies.. That was a story in itself..
 

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I am young relatively speaking but I have about 15 years in this kind of work now. We do everything from insurance work, collision repair, to frame off restorations and everything in between. I personally love it. I like the challenges it presents, the feeling of accomplishment when you know you have touched every bolt in a car and it looks better than it did new. It has its days and some things can be aggravating but you have to just walk away and come back. If you think it is something you want to do I say go for it. Good luck if you do.

Kelly
 

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I should also add that I worked with my dad until I saved up the money to go out on my own. It is a bit more stressful and there is more to keep up with, but I wouldn't change it for anything. IF you can do bodywork and metal repair/fabrication or learn to do so, instead of being a school trained parts changer, you will be in high demand because a lot of parts are not available for some older cars and have to be made. There are a lot of people who can buy and change parts, but very few that have the talent and ability to actually repair something. There are several very skilled people on this forum and a wealth of knowledge to be gained from them. I try to learn something everyday when I log on. Always be willing to learn and remember that there is always someone who has done more than you, better than you have done it. One last word of advice, even though the customer may not own the car forever your name will be on the work forever, so always do work and repairs that you can be proud of and that will last for years to come. It only takes one bad job to ruin your reputation. Best of luck if you decide to go this route.:thumbup:

Kelly
 

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"my final question is ultimately if you were 23 years old would you pursue this career again or would you choose a different career?"

HELL NO, not even maybe. Straight up, don't do it, you'd make more money at Denny's or McDonald's, literally.

Autobody is a sunset industry on the back end of the 'bell curve', it is nearly as obsolete as buggy whips. It will take 5 years hands-on and $50,000 minimun in tools before anyone treats you as anything besides the shop mule or a trainee. That's after-taxes take home pay, (add sales tax - you're the end user). That's everything YOU don't ever get to do, Disney World, Vegas, ski trip to Aspen, ect.

5 years AND $50,000 is a colledge degree, it's also buying a few fixer-upper homes to turn-and-burn, rent them back to section 8 housing for guaranteed money and rate increases, or any other thing you want to do for a paycheck.

As a hobby it's fun, as a job it is actually the bottom of the barrel, don't do it.
 

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Brian Martin,Freelance adviser
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I'm with Kelly, it has been a wonderful living for me and my family.

I went to work full time at a bodyshop one week after graduating high school in 1977. Getting Married in 1979 (first wife) and she never had to work, my forever wife whom I married in 91, never had to work. And we live in the SF bay area, it ain't cheap here. I own a home and pay my bills and save a little all on my income, so yes you can make decent money.

But aside from the money, I honestly can compare it with an actor or someone else in the arts, I have enjoyed what I do for a living for 35 years. I have not limited myself to one part of it, I have done most everything in the industry from used car junk work, full on restoration and custom, paint and body, late model collision, parts sales for a year (couldn't make good money but I loved it) a paint rep where I traveled here and there and had a territory that covered a good part of California including up in the redwood country of the northern areas. I owned a shop, estimated, everything. I have been at the same very large family owned shop for the past 12 years with 8 in the shop three in the office and now a year or so as the partsman. This is a very large shop where we do about 3.5 $million a year in sales. I am open to learning anything new and because of this I could go anywhere in the country and find a job, in a heart beat.

One of my friends who left high school and went right into law enforcement retired, I am ten years away from that. I was talking to another old friend of mine who had also went into law enforcement and when I was telling him how I should have went into law enforcement too (we studied the subject together) he said I couldn't be more wrong. He told me "our friend was retired after 35 years of cleaning vomit out of the back of his patrol car, at seeing the world in the worse possible light, at seeing mothers beat up in front of their children. While you have enjoyed what you do, you have made show cars, you have won awards, you have traveled, you have fixed peoples cars when they were in a very bad time, made things better for them. Brian he said, you have enjoyed the last 35 years and if you need to work 10 more so what, you enjoy it, you are the lucky one, I wish I would have done that."

And I know he is right, I have really enjoyed it, every day of it. One of the greatest things that ever happen to me was meeting someone at a shop near mine when I was in my twenties who enlightened me on protecting my body. I wish I could find her now, I have tried but can't, I owe her a lot. I am as healthy as a horse (thank God) because I protected myself from the harmful things we work with. And I am damn thankful my mom bought me that spray gun for a graduation present. :D

Brian
 

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put up or shut up
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If you want money and less dust go production. If you'll take less and deal with dust just so can see your creations shine than go restoration. Big hits are fun in production but hearing insurance people and estimators talk is annoying. Restoration is a lot funner and less people with suits and ties.
 

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Would you be a bodyman ?

If you dream about cars , spend every penny you get on cars , save up for weeks to buy a junker then go into the car business. If the Idea of taking something ratty and worn out and making it new pervades your thinking, then do it . As you can see , youre going to get many different answers. If you work at a good shop and get a good boss , youll do well . You get paid for what you get done , not by the hour , so if youre fast you can rock and roll , you can make money. If you dont and havnt lived and breathed cars as long as you can remember , sell insurance or swing a hammer but you gotta, work anyway !:rolleyes:
 

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Slow but willing learner
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One thing else to consider.

When I took an early retirement offer from At&T I had several people wanting me to build cars for them. I had the shop space and decided that I would do restoration work for a living. I was never without work and was never cheated out of a dime ....BUT......In less than a year I lost all interest in my own cars. I realized that I could have a career or I could have a hobby but could not have both. I went to work at a heavy truck dealer and went back to playing with my cars for fun.

There are a few people who can work on a customer's car all day and go home and work on there own but they are few and far between. There are also guys who would just as soon work on a customer's car as their own.

For me, My old cars and my social life are all tied together and I don't want to turn it into a living. There definitely is a demand for good technicians. Unfortunately not many of them are earning what they deserve.

John L
 

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Brian Martin,Freelance adviser
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I know one thing, this industry is NOT going anywhere! Some dude in India isn't going to fix Mrs. Smith's Lexus that she wrecked over the weekend. :D

Brian
 

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Slow but willing learner
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I know one thing, this industry is NOT going anywhere! Some dude in India isn't going to fix Mrs. Smith's Lexus that she wrecked over the weekend. :D

Brian
That is true. On the other hand I laid my Harley down last summer when I man made a U turn in front of me. The replacement fairing came prepainted from the factory. Maybe this time 10 years from now those bumper covers may be molded in factory color. :(

John L
 

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Brian Martin,Freelance adviser
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It's been talked about for years, it won't happen. For that matter, Volvo bumper covers have came painted for a long time but that is actually dying off. Think about the stock! How much more room would you need to stock all the colors of all the bumpers compared to just a few of each bumper?

No John, the cars are getting more complex and higher skilled technicians are getting more and more important. Believe me, we have a variety of skills at the shop and there are a couple of guys who are NEVER going to see a complex hit on one of these late model cars, they just couldn't handle it.

With all the different metals and welding needed, and the electronics, holy crap! Just today I had a car leaving and the windows wouldn't work from the drivers door. All that had been done was one rear door panel had been removed. But the windows wouldn't work. I had to reset each window. That of course is just a tiny issue but it's an example. SRS systems, accident avoidance systems. Heck we had an Infiniti G35 that the ABS was messed up because we put a different brand tire than it had from the factory!

It won't be long you will need a college degree to work on these things. It ain't the old hammer and dolly work anymore.

As far as restoration or collision, you make of it what you want to make of it. Personally, I look at doing collision repair on a 2012 Ford Focus the same as restoration on a 1958 Ford Fairlane. If you "restore" that Focus with the same passion as you would a vintage car for the concourse judges it is just as fun. That is how I look at collision repair. I love creating something that didn't exist yesterday, custom work is awesome. But if you don't have any at the time, putting the same passion into a Prius works for me.

Brian
 

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I just re read my above post and decided it may be a little out of line. I believe Brian is correct that the skilled auto body tech will always have a job. There will always be a need for intelligent skilled people who can work with their hands. That will apply to many trades whether they are body men, trimmers, plumbers or carpenters. Years ago it was an apprentice's dream to learn a trade and someday own a business of his own. It is just so difficult for a small business owner to overcome the costs and regulations of doing business and have enough left to pay for health insurance and all the other expenses. I am very skeptical of what the future holds for a small business owners. I told a friend not too long ago who owns his own business, "I admire you but I sure don't envy you".

I was practically a high school drop out. Joined the Navy at 17 and was blessed to have worked for 2 large companies and retire from both. Not many young men without a college degree will be as blessed as I have been. In the years to come good jobs with benefits will become harder and harder to find.

John L
 

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It's been talked about for years, it won't happen. For that matter, Volvo bumper covers have came painted for a long time but that is actually dying off. Think about the stock! How much more room would you need to stock all the colors of all the bumpers compared to just a few of each bumper?

No John, the cars are getting more complex and higher skilled technicians are getting more and more important. Believe me, we have a variety of skills at the shop and there are a couple of guys who are NEVER going to see a complex hit on one of these late model cars, they just couldn't handle it.

With all the different metals and welding needed, and the electronics, holy crap! Just today I had a car leaving and the windows wouldn't work from the drivers door. All that had been done was one rear door panel had been removed. But the windows wouldn't work. I had to reset each window. That of course is just a tiny issue but it's an example. SRS systems, accident avoidance systems. Heck we had an Infiniti G35 that the ABS was messed up because we put a different brand tire than it had from the factory!

It won't be long you will need a college degree to work on these things. It ain't the old hammer and dolly work anymore.

As far as restoration or collision, you make of it what you want to make of it. Personally, I look at doing collision repair on a 2012 Ford Focus the same as restoration on a 1958 Ford Fairlane. If you "restore" that Focus with the same passion as you would a vintage car for the concourse judges it is just as fun. That is how I look at collision repair. I love creating something that didn't exist yesterday, custom work is awesome. But if you don't have any at the time, putting the same passion into a Prius works for me.

Brian
LOL I see we were both typing replies at the same time. I do agree with you 100%

John L
 

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put up or shut up
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It's been talked about for years, it won't happen. For that matter, Volvo bumper covers have came painted for a long time but that is actually dying off. Think about the stock! How much more room would you need to stock all the colors of all the bumpers compared to just a few of each bumper?

No John, the cars are getting more complex and higher skilled technicians are getting more and more important. Believe me, we have a variety of skills at the shop and there are a couple of guys who are NEVER going to see a complex hit on one of these late model cars, they just couldn't handle it.

With all the different metals and welding needed, and the electronics, holy crap! Just today I had a car leaving and the windows wouldn't work from the drivers door. All that had been done was one rear door panel had been removed. But the windows wouldn't work. I had to reset each window. That of course is just a tiny issue but it's an example. SRS systems, accident avoidance systems. Heck we had an Infiniti G35 that the ABS was messed up because we put a different brand tire than it had from the factory!

It won't be long you will need a college degree to work on these things. It ain't the old hammer and dolly work anymore.

As far as restoration or collision, you make of it what you want to make of it. Personally, I look at doing collision repair on a 2012 Ford Focus the same as restoration on a 1958 Ford Fairlane. If you "restore" that Focus with the same passion as you would a vintage car for the concourse judges it is just as fun. That is how I look at collision repair. I love creating something that didn't exist yesterday, custom work is awesome. But if you don't have any at the time, putting the same passion into a Prius works for me.

Brian
I got passion for a Prius, if it's a gravy job. :D
 

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Brian Martin,Freelance adviser
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I got passion for a Prius, if it's a gravy job. :D

How about one hit in the rear and your changing out the rear panel, floor and the frame rails? I DIG it just the same as any other repair, I love this business!

Brian
 

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put up or shut up
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How about one hit in the rear and your changing out the rear panel, floor and the frame rails? I DIG it just the same as any other repair, I love this business!

Brian
til the estimator tells you you're only getting the rail and rear panel then tries to give you 1.5 to bang out the the floor and mud it. I love the fact that everyday you're doing something different and staying clean and not breathing garbage all day. That is a huge bonus with me. Production shops are not kidding about caring for the health of their workers. You'll get lucky to get a free dust mask in a restoration shop...kidding.
 

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Brian Martin,Freelance adviser
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By the way to show you the value in the industry a co-worker of mine just left California after being here about 25 years. She has worked around the autobody industry for all that time and did just about everything. She came to work for us as a tow truck driver and did that for about a week when the receptionist quit. She took over that and next thing you know she was writing estimates. She knows her stuff and did a great job. Well her personal life changed in a big way and she wanted to get back to Missouri to help her elderly mom. She decided this early December. In two days over the phone she had a job as an insurance estimator in Missouri. A couple of days later she had another one lined up as side work.

Brian
 

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Brian Martin,Freelance adviser
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til the estimator tells you you're only getting the rail and rear panel then tries to give you 1.5 to bang out the the floor and mud it. I love the fact that everyday you're doing something different and staying clean and not breathing garbage all day. That is a huge bonus with me. Production shops are not kidding about caring for the health of their workers. You'll get lucky to get a free dust mask in a restoration shop...kidding.
The shop has to provide you with your protection, it's the law. It doesn't matter what kind of shop it is. But I have to tell you, the people I work for, they are VERY serious about you doing the right thing and there is no problem what so ever in asking for any protection. We have welding respirators, particle masks, eye and ear protection, it is all there any time you want it. And if they aren't giving it to you, it isn't that cheap, buy it for goodness sakes and use it!

Where I work we do things right, we follow guidelines from the manufacturers, I even went to the Toyota training center in SoCa. I should show you some of the times we get on stuff, the guys make good bonuses. One guy in the shop does excellent work and gets a $1000 a month bonus. I couldn't keep up with him I'll tell you that. I use to get about $500 tops, he is an awesome tech.

Protect yourself like a crazy man Henry, don't let those "It's just a little big I don't need my protection" times add up! Protect yourself at all times! Believe me Henry, you WANT to see your grandchildren. :thumbup:

Brian
 

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Been doing this for 35 years. Was never really interested in this trade, to make a long story short this is where I ended up. My spare time is taken up with other hobbies not related to body and painting. Every job can be boring no matter what it is. I have been working where I am now for 15 years, primarily painting, it is an independant production collision shop about 10,000 sq ft, doing approx 3 million plus yearly, 95%insurance work. Small town in the oil patch in Alberta. It can be stressful at times to get stuff done right and on time, insurance companies and customers can be very demanding. I've done restoration, hot rods but prefer collision for the money and the variety of different jobs, it's never boring. I found restoration boring, working on the same car for months, while it was nice to see the finished product and you got a sense of accomplishment when it was done, the whole long and drawn out process bored me to tears. Working collision I work on newer clean rust free vehicles with new parts and get a sense of pride everytime I paint something which could be several times a day.

I work flat rate, get payed by the job not hourly. What I have found over the years is there are many and varied types of shops, some in the dark ages and some state of the art. If you find the right shop, they are few and far between, you can make a good living and work decent hours in a clean, dry and warm environment. Find the prosperous looking shop that has a clean office, nicely presented, tidy building, office management that is professional, modern equipment, etc. Talk to the employees, are they wearing proper safety equipment, are they happy and motivated, do they get along? If so it is possibly a good shop to work. Avoid the shops that are sloppy, cluttered with parts laying all over the place, garbage cans overflowing and trash all over the floor, employees not wearing proper safety gear, radios blaring, dirty paint booths etc, there are some real turds out there.

Your not likely to get rich but you can make as much or more than your average tradesman plumber, electrician, carpenter, mechanic, welder, machinist, etc. If you learn the ropes from someone that is good, if you are conscientious and willing to put the time in it's not a bad trade. I find the biggest enemy of the autobody industry is the autobody shops themselves. A well managed shop with talented employees will be nothing but successful. There is a great demand for good shops and good tradesmen..
 
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