by Bryce Adams, News Editor
Source: Auto Body Reconditioning News
Paintless dent repair (PDR) is one of the more highly skilled activities performed by mobile technicians. Despite this, people in the business say the market is being crowded by techs willing to sacrifice quality for profits, pushing prices down for all technicians.
"There were three PDR guys servicing this area in 1992, now there are 60," says Tommy
Clayton, owner of Tommy's Dent Service in Gibsonville, N.C. "There's been lots of
downward pressure on prices caused by low-
Clayton has been making a living as a mobile PDR tech since 1992. Before that, he installed mobile accessories, trim and stripes. "I got into the PDR business with my uncle, who was one of the first in North Carolina to do it," he says. "I went into business on my own in 1998."
He said insurance companies also are cutting PDR tech margins by developing pricing charts that do not take into account the amount of labor involved in repairing certain kinds of dents, as well as the degree of difficulty.
"Insurance companies don't want to pay any more money for dropping the headliner or sunroof, which takes more time" Clayton says. "Some PDR techs are new and they won't argue. The insurance company is not the customer and should not set pricing."
Some dents, such as those in roof rails, often must be repaired using a more time-
Clayton is a founder and current secretary of the board of directors for the recently
established National Alliance of PDR Technicians (NAPDRT), which incorporated in
August 2006. The NAPDRT has about 160 members nationwide. The non-
Siegle said about 70 percent of his work is done from his mobile truck and 30 percent
from his store location, since some customers prefer to bring their vehicles in.
He has two part-
It can be difficult to establish accounts, both retail and wholesale.
"It is hard getting established with accounts because of all the competition," Siegle says. "Some accounts are tired of trying new guys and will be loyal to one or two guys and wait for them. New people getting started in the business, as long as they get in with the right people, will be OK."
Automakers also are creating challenges for PDR techs.
"Adapting to newer vehicle models and the material thicknesses of metals is the biggest challenge," says Mike Wahl Jr., owner of Dents Etc. in Norwalk, Iowa. "There is a large swing toward using thinner gauge metal and aluminum. You also have to be careful of new components, such as molding. It is much thinner now than in was four years ago."
"You need to know your surroundings before you start to tear things apart to get in a position to push out a dent," Wahl says. "You need to be aware of side air bags, which usually are up in the roof line."
Wahl has been in PDR for 10 years and was in the collision repair industry before that. He studied collision repair in community college while working at a body shop.
"I transitioned from collision repair to PDR because body shops were getting strangled by insurance companies," he says. "I had reached my peak in terms of income, and wanted to get out of the chemical part of using primers and paints. I wanted to work in the fresh air and have my own business where I could get out and meet people. I wanted to be my own boss and set my own hours."
While 95 percent of his business is mobile, he also has a shop where he works by appointment only. In addition to PDR, he does windshield chip repair, lockout service and complete detailing. "I don't advertise the other services but will do them on request," Wahl says.
Most of his work is done in retail for body shops and car club members. He relies
primarily on word-
Most PDR techs choose to start in the wholesale business to try to get a lot of work and get their name known in the industry. "You won't make much money in wholesale, but if you have a few good dealers you will have a good volume of vehicles," Wahl says.
One popular method of earning money in PDR is by "chasing hailstorms." Web sites and subscription fax reports tell techs where hail has hit. Where there is hail, there are dented cars.
"Techs will drive there and locate in a body shop, rent space in a tire shop or put
up a tent in the Kmart parking lot," Siegle says. "It's a price-
Siegle said he doesn't chase hail, but he has industry contacts who sometimes ask
him to come and work with them after a hailstorm. "When an area gets hit by hail,
the circus comes to town," says Clayton. "Some guys come into town, set up tents,
offer free estimates and cut-
Clayton said PDR technicians should be certified by Vale National, a company that trains damage estimators and adjusters. "That's a good starting point, but it does not guarantee good work," he says.