Dents and Dollars! Paintless Dent Repair,
A Profitable Add-On Service
by Stephen Powers and Prentice St. Clair
If you have
been thinking about adding another profit center
to your auto reconditioning operation, paintless
dent repair (PDR) should definitely be on your
list of possibilities.
The advantages are many and the disadvantages
The first and primary advantage that comes
to mind is the fact that you are already in an
auto-related industry with an established clientele
that already trusts your work.
To drop another auto-related profit center
like PDR into your existing operation will be
In addition, offering PDR will attract
a broader new customer base that will benefit
both your PDR business and the other auto reconditioning
services you offer.
First of all, what is paintless dent repair?
PDR is a method of removing small dents
and dings from the painted sheet metal panels
of a vehicle using a specialized set of tools
and techniques to carefully "massage"
out the damage without affecting the paint. PDR
techniques are typically limited to repairs in
which there has been no damage to the paint.
However, some PDR technicians also offer
professional paint touch-up (yet another profit
center) for those dings that involve small paint
eliminates the need for expensive and time consuming
traditional auto body work for small dents that
almost every car has experienced.
We've all seen them, those small dings
resulting from the impact of a wayward shopping
cart or carelessly opened door in a parking lot.
And, as Joe Babbey, sales manager for Rightlook.com
in San Diego, California points out, "A good
hail storm can wreak havoc on a dealer's lot full
of cars--can you say, 'gold mine?!?'"
The Advantages of a Paintless Dent Repair Business
Let's talk about some of the many advantages of
No product cost:
Unlike your current operation, product
cost is virtually non-existent.
Yes, there is an initial investment in
tools and training, but once in operation, there
are no supplies that need replacing.
An experienced technician can execute a
$100 repair in about 10-20 minutes--you do the
Although PDR has been around for several
years, the average car owner on the street is
not yet familiar with it.
Yet the average car owner can also probably
point out to you every ding on his or her late
Imagine the customer's reaction when you
indicate that you can remove most of those for
a fraction of the cost and inconvenience of traditional
auto body work.
customers are everywhere!
Just as in other auto reconditioning services,
you have a huge potential customer base that includes
new and used car dealerships, auto auctions, rental
car agencies, insurance agencies, car washes,
detail shops, body shops, and, of course, retail.
PDR can easily be added to your current
If you are mobile, the space requirements
for a set of PDR tools is minimal.
Thus, no worries about having to purchase
a new or larger vehicle.
On the other hand, if you operate a fixed
location, no need to add a new bay for PDR; the
work can be done right where you usually do your
And best of all, whether you are fixed
or mobile, you have a captive audience.
For a vehicle that is already in for detailing,
paint touch-up, interior repair or windshield
repair, it takes just a moment to walk around
it to inspect for dents and dings.
Better yet, it takes just one more moment
to say to the customer, "By the way, I noticed
a couple of dings on the driver door.
We can take care of that for you right
PDR training and equipment will cost $5,000
to $15,000, depending on the quality of the equipment
and how much training is actually included.
Comparing this expense to start-up costs
in other businesses, even the high end of the
range is certainly a minimal amount to spend,
especially when you consider the profit potential
of a well-run PDR operation.
You are offering the customer an option
that costs about one quarter that of traditional
auto body work.
Plus PDR takes from a few minutes for a
small repair to about an hour for multiple repairs. Compare this time requirement to the several days that a traditional
body shop requires to effect even the smallest
Today's consumer is concerned mainly with
convenience and saving money.
The greater of the two is convenience,
and with PDR, you can offer both.
Disadvantages of a Paintless Dent Repair Business
Well, there's really only one, which centers
around the fact that PDR techniques involve a
certain amount of finesse.
Because of this, it is not wise to simply
purchase some PDR tools and a training manual
and try to do it on your own.
Instead, you really need to have extensive
hands-on training from a qualified professional
And, yes, this puts your start-up cost
at the more expensive end of the scale mentioned
Also, you can expect to spend one to three
weeks in training with a high-quality training
Furthermore, this finesse can really only
be developed through extensive practice.
Therefore, it is strongly recommended,
even after extensive hands-on training, that the
new PDR technician practice several hundred repairs
at, for example, a junk yard or low-end used car
the case of the latter, offer the work for free.
Get in there and practice your new skill
until you are competent and confident enough to
go into any large car dealer and do a great job.
This may seem like an extensive commitment to
a new profit center, but remember the profit potential.
More importantly, remember that you have
a leg up on the person who has never been in the
auto service industry.
Since you have experience in this industry,
you already possess many of the qualities necessary
for success with PDR (e.g., mechanical inclination,
sales ability, determination to succeed).
Nonetheless, you may want to consider having
a dedicated employee devote full-time effort to
learning PDR so that your glass business does
not suffer while you add PDR to it.
Tools and Training
research PDR training providers, you will find
that there are a number of options available.
In choosing a PDR training outfit, Joe
Babbey from Rightlook.com makes the following
be misled by the promise of an extensive or highly
specialized tool set.
A common misconception regarding PDR equipment
is that, the more tools you have, the more dents
you can repair.
In fact, a skilled PDR technician uses
less than ten tools for 80% of all repairs, despite
the fact that many PDR training outfits will offer
expensive kits with dozens of tools.
Most companies buy their tools from one
of three manufacturers.
The bottom line is, the tools are basically
the same, so focus on the quality of the training
you will receive.
best training is in a setting that provides a
low trainer-trainee ratio with extensive supervised
practice and the opportunity to work extensively
on real cars.
Length of training should be two or more
weeks for the proper amount of supervised practice.
Beware the training company that says,
You're ready to go make some money!"
As mentioned, earlier, extensive individual
practice is needed even after the training experience.
sure that the training outfit will provide you
with extensive marketing information and advertising
great to have a new skill, but if you are not
educated on how to market that skill, you might
as well not have it.
Although you are probably already familiar
with basic marketing and advertising techniques,
it is essential to learn special tips and tricks
that are particular to the PDR business--and there
look for a company that will provide you with
continuing technical support far beyond your initial
training foundation, because you will have questions
when you get back home and apply your new skill.
A good provider will have regular technical
updates, phone support, and may even invite you
to return to the training facility to sit in on
a future class, if you feel it's necessary.
The bottom line is that, given the proper investment
of time and effort, paintless dent repair offers
a tremendous potential as an added profit center
to the established auto reconditioning business.
Powers is the president of Rightlook.com in San
Diego, California and can be reached at (858)
Rightlook.com offers training and equipment
for paintless dent repair and other automotive
Prentice St. Clair is a consultant to the
auto appearance industry and can be reached at