Saturday, May 29, 2010

Review: Karry's Auto Body Center in San Francisco


Is my expectation too high? Maybe, in someways because I have a degree in automotive design, but I am a fairly reasonable guy. I wasn't expecting anything extraordinarily such as a liquid smooth finish on the paint form Karry's Auto Body Center in San Francisco but a decent job.

However, they didn't even do the decent job... They even made it worse in some ways. Honestly I have no idea why they are getting so many great reviews on yelp. To me, they cheat customers who they can get away with.

So, this is how it went. One day, I got into an accident and it was the other party's fault. I got an estimate from their insurance company and was looking around for a good body shop and looked into yelp.

There it was Karry's Auto Body Center with 5 star rating with over 180 reviews! It was by far the most popular body shop in San Francisco and everyone was raving about the place (the numbers of the reviews they got is more than twice of the second most popular place in San Francisco) and I thought

"how can I go wrong with this place? They got more positive reviews than anybody else and they probably handle more cars than anybody else which means more experiences and great efficiency. "

That's what I thought, but yes, I was dead wrong.

The schedule:

I took my damaged Mini cooper S to Karry's Auto on May 14th 2010.

I just walked in there without an appointment. Initially I didn't know where the entrance was, so I looked into the shop then I saw a lot of people working on damaged cars...and my impression... wasn't so good.

The place was too crowded and it didn't look professional. I know how the repairing process work and the shop environment was a bit far from the ideal. Then I saw them working on a car with the doors open and let the interior covered with sanding dusts... I should have turn around back then, but I trusted yelp reviews and give it try.

I walked in to the office, and told them I don't have an appointment but the owner gladly took my car in which was nice and told me that he couldn't work on the car right away, but he will be contacting me on coming Tuesday with details which was May 18th so I left my car there.

On May 18th. I waited their phone call till 4pm, but nobody called, so I called them up instead. On the phone, the owner told me that they are in process of working with the insurance company and he told me that when the estimated was finalized he would call me back to let me know.

Everything sounded good, so I waited.



waited till May 27th.

Since another weekend was coming, I picked up a phone and called them up on Thursday May 27th. Then they told me my car should be ready on coming Friday evening or Saturday morning.

They were already finishing up the work ...without telling me any details...Oh well...It was probably OK, as long as the work was done properly, I guess.

On May 28th, finally they called me up and told me to pick up the car on 6pm,
so I went.

The outcome:

I got Karry's around 5:55pm. The owner was still tied up with a customer. And just before 6pm, he was ready for me and showed me the finished car.

At first glance, everything seemed fine..., but as I look into it, I started to see some flaws. The first thing I noticed was fender lines.

They didn't match up.

I asked the owner about it at the spot, then he told me that the hood wasn't fully closed and he push it down farther and it seemed to line up then. And he gave me a paper work and went back into his office.

Before I leave, I opened up the hood and did a quick check up and noticed that the engine room was significantly dustier than it was when I brought it in to the shop.

I didn't care much about it since I can clean that up myself, but I also noticed a holding clip was missing from the insulation installed on the hood, so I went back into the office and told the owner about it then he came back out with a clip and attached it to the hood for me.

Since it was already in the evening, I decided to do the through check up next day and left the shop.

The flaws in details:

OK, it was Saturday and nice and shine. I was ready to look carefully into the car and here are what I found out.

Major concerns:

The hood does not seem to be a Mini factory part.

When you buy cheap knock off body panels for your cars, small details just don't match together especially things like the trim lines. This is what was happening to my car. The new hood is wider than what is should be on both sides. These details are easily spotted by professionals and car enthusiasts. When you try to sell your car like this, they would know something wrong happened to your car.

Trim lines don't much up.

So, these parts lack in precision to begin with and affect other parts of the body as well. Below are the picture of the top of the hood. As you can see, on the right side, hood is higher than where it should be and left side is lower.

The right side:

The left side:

I also noticed their workmanship is very rough and unprofessional. The right and the left, on Both of the bolts attaching the hood is half stripped and there are scratch marks around it.

Not to mention, they left a laser blade inside of the engine room.

What the?

These are minor details but show how they are not taking their jobs seriously. The racing stripes on the hood are applied differently on both sides. The left side starts father from the grill.

And the directions of stripes are different from what I had before.

Lastly, the car came back dustier and greaser. Before I went to Karry's, I waxed the car to show the damage more clearly, so it was clean. But it came back with sanding dusts.

The bumper came back with sanding dusts with water lines and brand new rubbing marks.

The insulation was covered with sanding dusts, stains and hand marks which it did not have (my car is only 34000 miles old). When I touched it, my hand was covered with significant amount of dusts.

When I opened the grab compartment, I saw sanding dusts coming out from there too.

I also saw dirty finger prints on the steering wheel....

I believe they had good intentions, but they try to clean up the interior using a greasy type wax which I usually specifically avoid using. Now my seat feels slippery and make some rubbing noise... and they also kindly put some grease on the instrument panels too...

There is one thing that I liked about their work. Which was the wheel. They made it look like a new again! This was wonderful.


Looking at their portfolio, I believe they are very capable people. However, I got this impression that they are too busy to care about the work they do anymore. The reasons are listed below:

1. Communication was bad. They only called me the day they finished work. Other times, I had to call them up. They didn't even tell me that they were going to use the non-factory part which I really needed to know.

2. Very unprofessional. They work in a dusty environment and the car came back dusty. And they even gave me a laser blade!!!

3. Low skilled workers are doing low skilled jobs. Half stripped bolts, new rubbing marks on the bumper, sanding dusts all over the car... What kind of people are they using?

To untrained eyes, their work seems probably fine, but if professionals see it, they know their job is not what it should be (what I mean is below standard). If you care about the resell value of your car, just don't take it there, take it somewhere less busy, somewhere decent.


  1. You Are very picky !! what was the charge ??
    get the life !!!!!!!!!!!!
    - john

  2. It's clear that your experience at Karry's should direct people to another, more-professional shop. To you have any suggestions/recommendations or do you feel a person can do better anywehre else?