Far exceeded my expectations. The short story is that Steven Liu at Auto Body Garage is an honest man, and went above and beyond what is just required, to make the car I brought in look like new.
The long story begins with a car, borrowed from my girlfriend, that got sideswiped by an 18-wheeler while parked in Potrero Hill. This was a 1996 Civic 4-door, and the truck basically started by ripping up the rear bumper and denting the rear fender. It then continued to gouge some scratches in side of the car, before proceeding to leisurely knock the driver's side door mirror clean off. I took it to Auto Body Garage after seeing high ratings and unusually strong recommendations from many people on CitySearch. Lisa, a manager at this small shop at 4th and Bryant, helped me estimate a low plan and a high plan for payment, based on using remanufactured vs. new parts and other tricks. I approved everything and went on my way.
Based on the feedback I'd read, I was optimistic that this would be a good experience, but I was surprised when Steven started calling me every few days with updates about parts, and telling me the status with the insurance company and estimator. I also noted that he had a habit of mentioning that he'd found other broken parts on the vehicle as he was fixing the stuff that the insurance company had agreed to pay for. I had never worked with a mechanic like this.
Tonight I went over to get the car, and finally met Steven. It turns out that he's very young for someone in the industry -- still in his 20s -- and he owns the shop. I learned that he's always been interested in how cars work, and started the garage 8 years ago to pursue his interest. He also mentioned that he almost had to shut down the shop in the early days, but that it was saved by a wave of referrals from his first set of customers. He emphasized that he wanted to run an honest shop, and that it did pay off in the end.
When we were done settling up, he brought the car around, and I was amazed. It turns out that he had also repaired all of the small, off-estimate parts that he had mentioned. Little things, like a cracked tail-light and a deep scratch in a front panel that the insurance company didn't pay for. He even hammered out a small bump in the hood, which wasn't even part of the accident. I have to say that I was indeed expecting the doors, mirror and bumper to be repaired to better than before the accident. But this was totally unexpected: the entire left side of the car was basically brand new. Shiny new, like I had somehow traveled back in time. He did this before meeting me, and it was totally unrequested, totally on his own time.
I am so happy with my experience that I am going to bring another car in for some repairs next month. I'm also going to tell all my friends. This is the first mechanic I've ever known that went beyond making me feel like I got a fair deal. Steven made me feel like I got something extra -- truly rare these days, and for this industry.