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June 09, 2014 10:10 PM

Buyer Beware: Storm Chaser Dent Repair

Sioux Falls, SD

The biggest hail storm to hit Sioux Falls in a decade has tens of thousands of customers swamping body shops to get their cars repaired.  It's that kind of business that attracts out-of-state storm chasers who specialize in dent repair. 

The hail came down in buckets and hours later, the phone started ringing at Pierre's Body Shop, including calls from storm chasers looking for work. 

"By 6 o'clock on Thursday afternoon, I'd already been approached by four to five. Friday, I was approached by another 10 to 12. We're going to see hundreds of out-of-town paintless dent repair people fixing dents," Owner Dean Van Heerde said.

Van Heerde isn't the one hiring them though.

"The storm chasers; I don't have a clue who they are. I don't know what kind of workmanship or product they're going to put out," Van Heerde said.

While many body shops will hire them, others will set up shop along busy streets, as they did last September, along Minnesota Avenue.  But the Better Business Bureau says before you give one of them your business, check them out. 

"Are they licensed?  Are they insured?  And are they bonded?" Jessie Schmidt of the Better Business Bureau said.

If they're not working for an existing business, storm chasers must get a South Dakota sales tax license, which would also require transient companies to post a bond.

"Ask what their warranty or guarantee is, because we know they're not going to be here long term," Schmidt said.

Van Heerde says owners don't have to worry about their dents coming back, but they do have to worry about the job being done right. 

"Some paintless dent repair people will drill access holes to get to the backside of the panel to fix the dent.  That is unacceptable to us and any insurance company," Van Heerde said.

Storm chaser dent repair businesses are also subject to the Three Day Right to Cancel Rule. That gives you three days to check out the company before you have any work done, even if you signed a contract.  If you cancel, any money you put down must be refunded within ten days.

Van Heerde estimates some 50,000 cars were damaged by hail.  He says it's just going to take a lot of patience for people to get them fixed.

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