Aluminum Body Repairs Part 3 (With Video) - 2015 Ford F-150 Long-Term Road Test Member, Administrator, Moderator Posts: 10,237
edited January 2015 in Ford

imageAluminum Body Repairs Part 3 (With Video) - 2015 Ford F-150 Long-Term Road Test

We hit our long-term 2015 Ford F-150 with a sledgehammer to test the theory that aluminum is more expensive to repair. After a week in the body shop, the repairs are done and we're breaking down the cost.

Read the full story here


  • nuievenuieve Member Posts: 43
    In other words, you didn't find out anything new, just wasted a bunch of money and ruined your car. Congratulations... I guess?
  • chrisb12chrisb12 Member Posts: 9
    Your approach to get the cost of steel repair was based on pulling numbers out of the air. Your real cost to fix the aluminum fender was about $2100. The labor rate was $60 per hour. You can't compare "would have/could have" to was unless your have hard facts and your analysis seems to be missing those for comparison. The Ford cost of a new fender is kind of telling though -- I'm thinking you might have a difference in the 20% to 30% range right now but as the number of aluminum car(s) and work goes up I'd expect the rate to stabilize at a lower rate than 100+ per hour (more people know how to do it, competition, etc.). I had been iffy on buying a Tesla because of the aluminum body -- based on this analysis what's not to love?
  • dmccreadydmccready Member Posts: 1
    Aluminum isn't foreign to the automotive industry. Jaguar, Alfa Romeo, Audi, Porsche, all these companies have been implementing aluminum in their body designs for years. Because of this, most shops(in my area of Canada at least) are quite proficient in repairing these types of materials already. Now I don't mean to say there won't be an incurred price hike for fixing aluminum bodies - of course there will be - but we need to ensure the right brush is being used to paint this technology.

    Ten years ago, the idea of having an in-vehicle navigation and computer system was heresy. That would make a vehicle so much more expensive! What about when it breaks? How much is it going to cost to fix? Who will fix it? Or local dealership would have to retrain all of their techs and buy new equipment!! Now look at where we are with not only navigation and in-vehicle technology, but with collision mitigation and accident avoidance - and dare I point out massaging seats in many new luxury(and domestic) brands? I doubt many people regret the price increase when they command start their vehicle from the comfort of their home, only to jump into a climate-adjusted interior complete with a heated steering wheel!

    Yes. Aluminum is harder to fix. It is more expensive. It is also the next step in automotive technology, and be that there is naysayers to every risqué advancement this technology will change the face of the light truck market. I can't wait to see what comes next. I love the aggressive competition between domestic brands, and Ford has bet the farm on this, I look forward to year-end sales results.

    On a side note, I do appreciate these posts, I really do. But I also feel it necessary to point out that posts like this are what consumers use to do their research, and reading it from both a consumers point of view and a salespersons point of view, it would be easy to take this as a warning to prospective buyers. Education is key, but bias isn't. Thanks again for the post! Great stuff!
  • gofortheneckgofortheneck Member Posts: 42
    Wow, an article at that actually is rooted in real-world motoring concerns?! Kowabunga!
  • kyolmlkyolml Member Posts: 37
    I still think you need to hammer the same spots in the your LT Ram and see how much does it cost. You already spent the money on this why not do a full on real scenario comaprison
  • bankerdannybankerdanny Member Posts: 1,021
    When you go to sell are you going to disclose the repaired panel directly (as opposed to just pointing them to the blog?). This is less of an issue with non-rusting aluminum than with steel, but still, a repaired body is a repaired body and would have an impact on what I would be willing to pay.
  • cotakcotak Member Posts: 89
    Aluminium is similar enough to steel.

    Edmund should raise the stakes and hammer that i3 and see how much carbon fiber cost to repair. I suspect you can't and it's simply a part replacement job.
  • kirkhilles1kirkhilles1 Member Posts: 863
    Okay, so here's my takeaway from all of this. First off, that sensor part - wow! $887! As our cars get increased "awareness" repair bills skyrocket. Next, its quite interesting that he admitted that the "cash" rate was $60 per hour when the "insurance" rate was $120. I don't know if the rate changes versus steel versus aluminum, but it sure sounds like they double the price for insurance companies.

    I haven't been in many accidents, but nowaways don't they just typically just REPLACE damaged parts instead of REPAIRING? In which case, you'd pay for the $887 tail light, plus the $967 part + other parts + painting + labor.

    Here's the thing, though. I'm not sure I believe $60 per hour from the dealership if a body shop charges $105 for aluminum work. I think you might have gotten the "Edmunds" deal. You come in with a "gee, I don't know what happened, but can I take pictures all along the way" story and magically the price drops.
  • emajoremajor Member Posts: 332
    Nice to see the Edmunds corporate motherhive letting you guys off your leash for a bit. It was an interesting exercise that couldn't control for all possible factors, but I think a few relevant points were obtained here:

    1. Hourly repair rates for aluminum are higher.
    2. Aluminum repair may take many more hours to complete.
    3. Multiplying 1 & 2 together creates a very expensive repair relative to steel.
    4. Like some medical providers, apparently body repair facilities also rip off insurance companies compared to out-of-pocket clients.
    5. You (or your insurance) should be arguing to have a complete panel replacement rather than a repair if the labor costs get anywhere close to the price of a new panel. Consumer beware.

    $900 for a taillight assembly is retarded expensive. I hope these collision avoidance systems are preventing enough fender-benders to pay for their additional cost to the insurance companies and therefore you and I.
  • kokomojoekokomojoe Member Posts: 150
    So now take a 2014 F150 smash the side panel with 2 hits from the BFH and see how much it would cost. That would be the only true way to compare repair costs
  • duck87duck87 Member Posts: 649
    chrisb12 said:

    I had been iffy on buying a Tesla because of the aluminum body -- based on this analysis what's not to love?

    Edmund's test only really covers the "dings and dents" scenario. What they didn't do was an actual collision repair, with frame damage, and here is where the Ford has the big "advantage" over expensive lux vehicles like the Tesla Model S, in that it still uses a conventional steel ladder frame rather than the aluminum monocoque designs on cars like the Model S.

    It's one thing to repair a dent on a body panel, but where the REAL difference in aluminum vs. steel comes through is in actual collision repair. If you actually damage the frame in an aluminum car, you can expect a hefty bill, or even an early write-off.
  • cowichancowichan Member Posts: 5
    In my experience body shop rates have always been higher for insurance companies than personal rates. How long does your body shop wait for payment when you pick up the vehicle you're paying for? My experience has always been a trade, keys for cheque. Not true for insurance companies.
  • misterfusionmisterfusion Member Posts: 471
    Why does everyone keep saying that Edmunds now needs to do the same test on a regular steel truck? The Ford guy basically TOLD him the cost of a steel repair -- it's right there in the post. Beyond that, any real-world test would be pointless for comparison, because at that point there are too many variables affecting the price (e.g., dealer vs. independent shop, city, disposition of service adviser, etc., etc.).
  • chol92594chol92594 Member Posts: 208
    For a lot of people, I don't think the increased repair costs will be a big deal. Consumers who buy these trucks as work vehicles normally don't worry about the dings and dents they acquire over time. For example, my dad's 2007 Tundra has its fair share of dents and dings, especially around the box and tailgate, because he used to be a contractor and carried supplies and materials to and from job sites. He never bothered fixing these because he knew that it was just the nature of using his personal vehicle for work. It's an SR5, not Limited, so it's not the most luxurious model, which makes it ideal as a work and personal vehicle. Now that he has a "desk job", so to speak, he's planing on buying a current gen F150 in a few years; this time, he won't have to worry about battle scars from jobsites since he's no longer a contractor.

    On the other end, you have people who buy these trucks fully loaded, essentially for use as luxury towing vehicles. I know plenty of people who have fully loaded F150s, Rams, etc. who use them to tow things on a regular basis and need that capability, but still want a luxurious car to drive day in and day out. Buyers who pay that much for a truck normally have comprehensive insurance coverage that will handle any collision damage outside of their deductible, so the actual cost of repair is mostly irrelevant to the owner. There might be a small increase in premiums due to the complexity and added time/cost of repairing aluminum, but most people who spend enough on this new F150 (or any new car) don't mind it because it's simply the nature of the changing ways of automotive design and figure that the small price increase is worth being able to keep their car in good shape.

    This was definitely an interesting test by Edmunds, although I'd hope that they would disclose the damage and repairs when selling the vehicle. It's hard to say about the hourly labor rate; maybe the guy really did feel bad for you, or maybe he was trying to make it seem like you were getting a deal. Perhaps one of their employees is a fan of Edmunds and saw your posts about this. I'd love to hear the conversations at that body shop if they ever found out the truth of how the F150 was damaged.
  • sxty8stangsxty8stang Member Posts: 58
    The real question about Ford and aluminum is, are they going to avoid the amazing amount of problems they've had with paint not adhering correctly to Mustang hoods and Expedition tailgates, a problem that's been ongoing since 2005 and STILL hasn't been fixed consistently on 2014 cars. Best part of all? Ford refuses to acknowledge the problem officially so owners are out $2,000+ for new hoods. Frustrating as hell part of owning my 2011 Mustang.
  • lray801lray801 Member Posts: 1
    Why should edmunds also damage and repair a steel truck? Simple: The aluminum body reacts differently than the steel simply because it's thicker. If you hit a steel body just as hard as the aluminum body, who's to say the sledgehammer doesn't make a big ol' hole in the steel? If that happens, how much is that going to impact the repair costs? Certainly the steel would've suffered more damage, which would take more time to repair, thus driving up the cost.
    You can't compare equal repairs assuming the same cause.
  • fordson1fordson1 Unconfirmed Posts: 1,512
    "And three: It's really fun to smash things with a sledgehammer."

    Grow up.
  • darthbimmerdarthbimmer Member Posts: 606
    fordson1 said:

    Grow up.

    On the contrary! Please hit more of your vehicles with a sledgehammer. In fact, make it standard part of your long term test plan. Do it in the name of journalism.
  • legacygtlegacygt Member Posts: 599
    There's a brief mention of insurance premiums here. If the new F-150 proves to be more costly to repair (these posts indicate yes but the exact magnitude is difficult to understand because it's hard to know if you're getting a "deal" or not on the labor) insurance companies will figure this out and F-150 premiums could increase.
  • subytrojansubytrojan Monterey Park, CaliforniaMember Posts: 120
    I think the taillight and its associated replacement labor should be removed from this analysis/comparison because the taillight and replacing it isn't a real factor. The price of it would theoretically be the same on an aluminum- or steel-skinned vehicle.
  • misterfusionmisterfusion Member Posts: 471
    edited January 2015
    FWIW, there is an engineer on Allpar who says his (aluminium) A8 costs the same to insure as an equivalent steel car (can't remember the make) that he owns. But he's old, so of course his insurance is cheap... (hi Bob!) :P
  • mittzombiemittzombie Member Posts: 162
    edited January 2015
    cowichan said:

    In my experience body shop rates have always been higher for insurance companies than personal rates. How long does your body shop wait for payment when you pick up the vehicle you're paying for? My experience has always been a trade, keys for cheque. Not true for insurance companies.

    Sounds like you need a new insurance co. and or body shop.

    I have had 3 majors repairs over the last`15 years or so. I dropped off the car at the shop, they had the rental car place bring me a car that was waiting for me. I brought the rental car back when my car was ready and drove off. They negotiated all adjustments with insurance for me before I picked it up, and I was done. I would have got a bill for the deductible if it was my fault..

  • mittzombiemittzombie Member Posts: 162
    Considering this F150 only gets about 1 mpg better than the old steel body one it does not sound worth it, certainly not if you use it for a work truck.
  • explorerx4explorerx4 Central CTMember Posts: 17,324
    Edmunds kind of took it on the chin from Consumer Reports about repairing this truck. Ouch!
    2020 Ford Explorer XLT
  • garyd9garyd9 Member Posts: 1
    I would like to see the same hit on a Steel panel and then compare repair with repair, not a repair with a fictions assumed repair. My experience is that impact for impact, alloy resists damage better and that the same hit on steel may have resulted in a lot more damage. And you cannot include the light as this would have been a common cost. this is a Demonstration fail.
  • jerryjones1jerryjones1 Member Posts: 1
    edited December 2016
    I think most aluminum F-150s with extensive collision aluminum damage will be salvaged. I have a salvaged/rebuildable title 2016 F-150 XLT Super cab in Ft. Lauderdale area and no one will touch it. It was t-boned on the left lower passenger side door and lower left front trunk bed below the mid section under the fuel filler. No apparent frame damage. Just cab damage lower left rear passenger door and door frame opening. Passenger door still opens and closes.
    Side and curtain airbags deployed not the front.
    No one is doing aluminum except for small dings and dents. They want to just replace whole cab and bed. If it was metal repair wouldn't be a problem. When insurance companies start writing off aluminum F-150s with extensive aluminum collision damage the insurance for them will go up.
  • SomethingSomethingSomethingSomething Northern VAMember Posts: 1
    Okay, so the aluminum body only costs 1 tail light more to repair than the steel. That seems reasonable. I can't believe this story casually brushes over the fact that the GD tail light is 887.25, meh, now let's talk about this paint work.

    The technology being shoved in these cars is going to kill its longevity long before the aluminum starts to pit.
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