Demystifying the dent
In the context of "first-world problems," there are few feelings worse than getting a dent in your car. Whether you paid $5,000 or $50,000 for your ride, that sickening thud of backing into an immovable object – followed by the realization that it will cost thousands to fix – will be stuck in your craw until you suck it up and shell out for an expensive repair.
Enter Nick Sanfilippo. His job, as owner of Acci-Dent auto repair, is to make you smile – and walking around his body shop, you will see several customers in a good mood.
It's pretty much the opposite of what you expect to see at an auto body shop, but Sanfilippo is used to these reactions when he tells customers that their dent repair will cost just a few hundred bucks – sometimes one-tenth of the estimate from the car dealer.
"We have such a nice niche market," says Sanfilippo, who grew up around the car business. "About 90 percent of our stuff is under the insurance deductible. To repaint a whole bumper is usually $600 and under, which is a lot less than a $1,000 deductible. We help you not make an insurance claim, because once you do, it brands the car."
Sanfilippo says he can relate to the anxiety customers face when they ponder getting dents fixed, so he tries to make the process as painless as possible. "When you send me that picture, right away, I can tell you exactly how much it's gonna cost and how long it's gonna take," he says.
Acci-dent doesn't repair frame damage, but it can handle anything Sanfilippo would consider "soft." He has a full-sized paint booth on site and can computer-match colors to blend properly, and uses a combination of new-school and old-fashioned techniques to bring a car back to like-new.
That's why he says that up to 60 percent of his clients are nearby auto dealers. Located in Glendale, at 6045 N. Flint Rd., he works directly with car managers, and in his lot, it's not unusual to see some very high-end cars getting fixed up. "Last year, our best car was a McLaren," Sanfilippo says humbly.
Working on cars like that is challenging, he says, because his employees have to take out the ECU, and other shops may charge $6,000 for that, alone. "Other dent companies don't want to do the work that we do because they don't have enough experience," he says.
But, optics aside, Sanfilippo gets more personal satisfaction from cleaning up an older minivan than he does a supercar.
"My favorite job isn't necessarily the McLaren or the Maybach," he says. "My favorite job is the Honda Odyssey with 120,000 miles on it. They don't want to spend $6,000 to get all their dents and bumpers fixed. We take all the dents out, wet sand and buff the headlights, and touch everything up. Then for $500 they trade in their vehicle for three grand more."
That's a pretty long-tail view of the body work business, but Sanfilippo knows that first-time customers become repeat clients. He's fine with texting photos back and forth with his customers, and always sets them up with a loaner car. That way, the next time hail damage puts pock marks in their expensive investment, they know they can come back for honest work at honest prices.
Sanfilippo says the average price to fix a dent is about $250 – going up to $600 for bumper work – but he tells his employees that the secret to his 20 years of longevity is building his network by running an ethical business.
"We give them an extremely fair price, and then we get other family and friends," he says. "The other day, a customer told us, 'You guys are the best – Miltown Metal Magic.' I thought that was the nicest high compliment."
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