Auto Collision Damage: Repair, Restore, or Replace?

Even a minor car accident can leave your car with an unsightly dent. If the damage is only to a body panel, repairs are usually simple. You will typically be presented with three options. The best one to choose depends on both your budget and the extent of the damage.

Paintless Repair

The least expensive and quickest repair option is paintless dent repair. The auto repair tech will use special tools, like rubber mallets and suction cups, to carefully pull out and straighten the dent. A professional can buff and polish the area so they can remove small scratches in the topcoat of paint. Paintless repair options work best on dents where there is no missing paint or deep scratches. The dent must also be smooth, which means the panel can't be creased or cracked.

Repair and Restoration

When there is paint damage or minor creasing, repair and restoration are possible. The dent will be straightened out as much as possible, then any remaining creases will be smoothed over with a repair compound. Finally, the paint surrounding the dent will be sanded down and smoothed so that a fresh coat of primer, paint, and clear coat can be applied.

The key to successful repair and restoration is that the damage must be repairable with minimal use of repair compound. Otherwise, the compound may crack over time. Deep creases and cracks can't be properly repaired. Further, it is better to have the entire panel repainted as opposed to only repainting the damaged area. This way the paint is smooth and you don't have to worry about paint variations across the panel.


Replacement of just the damaged panel can sometimes be costly, but the repair is typically quick. You can lower the cost by requesting a used panel as opposed to a newly manufactured one. Depending on the make and model of your car, secondhand panels can be readily available at scrap yards. Replacement is necessary when the panel has cracked, rusted out severely, or has a deep crease that can't be effectively smoothed with a repair compound.

The panel will be painted to match the rest of your vehicle before it is installed. If you opt for a secondhand panel, this may entail first sandblasting the panel to remove the old paint and smooth the surface before priming, painting, and clear coating the panel. The resultant repair will look as good as new.

Contact a collision repair service if you need more help determining the best way to repair your car.