2015 Ford F-150 Lowest Cost of Repairing

Certified body shops may be the lowest-price, highest-quality option

Published: February 06, 2015 03:00 PM

2015 Ford F-150

A sledgehammer can be an attention-getting device—especially when a prominent media outlet thuds one into the best-selling vehicle in America. The goal of a recent Edmunds.com video was to see what it would cost to repair an aluminum-bodied Ford F-150 pickup truck. But the unintended result was a reminder to do your own homework.

Edmunds recently took a sledgehammer to the rear quarter-panel of a new F-150. Edmunds concluded that it cost much more to repair the 2015 model than it would to fix the previous steel-bodied version. The problem is that Edmunds took its damaged truck to a body shop that wasn’t certified by Ford to work on repairing aluminum.

Why is this such a big deal?

Because aluminum weighs less than steel, the material can help improve fuel economy. Not only does it reduce the weight of the body, but also as a consequence, smaller powertrains can be used and other components can be similarly downsized, compounding the benefits. That’s what makes aluminum appealing to carmakers such as Ford, Audi, Jaguar, and Tesla, and why you can expect this material to be increasingly common on new cars.

Consumer Reports advocates for the increased use of aluminum because it's good for consumers and for the environment.

But aluminum is a more finicky material to work with than steel, and to fix damage after a fender bender requires special tools and training. As more automakers embrace aluminum, consumers will face the challenge of finding repair shops qualified to work on the alloy.

Ford has gone to great lengths to train and certify its dealers and affiliated body shops to perform necessary repairs. Such shops are easy to find on the dealer locator at Ford.com.

Ford says that many shops are able to repair aluminum damage, even without certification. However, the company advises that major collision repairs should be performed by aluminum-capable Ford body shops or National Body Shop Network members (dealers and independents) that have received appropriate instruction.

That locator lists six F-150 aluminum repair shops within 50 miles of Edmunds' headquarters in Santa Monica, Calif., with one about 17 miles away.

In the words of Ford President and CEO Mark Fields, “We trained over 750 dealers to be certified. Unfortunately, this dealer that Edmunds went to was not one of them.”

We asked Edmunds why it didn’t take its F-150 to a certified shop. In a statement, Scott Oldham, editor in chief of Edmunds.com, said:

"As with any vehicle in Edmunds' Long-Term testing fleet, our F-150 experiment was designed to simulate a service experience of any regular truck owner. Like many of these owners, we took our vehicle to the nearest Ford dealership for the repairs. The service advisor said that his facility could handle the repairs, and we trusted him to get the work done.

“While we were surprised to learn from the advisor that the repairs typically cost twice as much and typically take twice as long on the new aluminum-bodied truck as the steel-bodied truck, we were able to confirm those facts with a trusted local independent body shop. In the end, the work was performed within the time and the cost that was quoted to us, and we were satisfied with the quality of the repairs.”

However, Consumer Reports’ own analysis shows that the aluminum parts on the F-150 cost about the same as steel parts on last year's truck, and because the new F-150 is designed to make replacing panels easier, in many cases labor charges may be lower.

Generally, Consumer Reports' data shows that independent repair shops score better in our service satisfaction survey. But in the case of specialized work such as this, we recommend you go to a certified dealership. If you decide to go to an independent, make sure Ford has certified them as well.

Insurance companies seem to agree. Our research has also found that owners of the new aluminum truck aren’t being charged more for collision insurance than the outgoing model.

The jury is still out on what ownership costs will be in the long run, but thus far, repair costs seem to be in line with the previous-generation model.

Stunts aside, F-150 owners in need of a qualified body shop can use the Ford.com locator tool to find qualified locations in their area.

Jim Travers

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