On the Up and Up: Auto Glass Shops Struggle with Rising Costs

As the costs of auto glass materials rise steadily each month, how are auto glass shops making up for the difference in their reduced profit levels?

The Bureau of Labor Statistics’ latest Producer Price Index data for January 2022 revealed prices for motor vehicle parts increased by 5.2% from a year ago. Adhesives and sealants increased in price by 14.2% from a year ago. Prices for materials related to motor vehicle repair and maintenance increased 2.9% from January 2021.

“Last year alone — urethane went up six different times. That’s unprecedented,” says Jaymie Percival, who owns Superior Auto Glass in Dallas, Texas. Percival has been in the industry for 30 years. She says she was paying $43 for a box of tubes, and says the price would go up a few bucks once every year or two. “But, six times in one year? That’s ridiculous.” Now she’s paying $56 for a box.

A year ago, she paid $130 for a box of 16 tubes for another brand, but now she pays $171. “It didn’t go up a little bit.”

Percival says NAGS pricing has yet to catch up to what auto glass shops have to pay for materials. Percival does not do any job, not even a chip repair on a windshield, for the NAGS list price. She does refuse insurance work when the job does not pay enough. A windshield that cost $45 a year ago, now costs $60-65. “And the insurance companies are not taking that into consideration.”

“[Auto glass material suppliers] have used this as an opportunity to raise our prices,” she says. A year ago, she replaced the windshield in a 2020 Ford Explorer for $300. The customer just called back and asked if he could get her to replace the windshield again for the same price. “No way,” Percival told her customer. The windshield now costs her $370.

“And now you’ve got the war [with Ukraine and] Russia,” Percival says, which means material costs will continue to go up while the supply chain continues to experience shortages. Percival says she has no choice but to pass the added costs to her customers. “Absolutely. I can’t afford to eat that.” Percival has increased her labor rate sometimes up to 25% since before the last hike in material prices.

“For the longest time in auto glass, insurance work is where the money was. That was their bread and butter,” Percival says.

One southwestern auto glass shop owner, who prefers not to be identified publicly for fear of reprisal from the insurance industry, has been in the industry since opening his auto glass shop in 2009. Customers can have their windshields repaired, replaced and Advanced Driver Assistance System (ADAS) cameras calibrated. “It is frustrating that our costs are going up and our reimbursements from the networks are going down,” he says. Networks also ask to take discounts off NAGS listing of windshields. “For me, it gets difficult to maintain margins,” he says.

“We’re seeing less and less money. Meanwhile, our input costs are going way up,” he says, not to mention, labor costs are up, as well as costs to maintain a physical auto glass shop location.

“Every single …cost of goods [item] has gone up incredibly,” he says. “It’s so difficult to bill insurance companies directly. In most instances, it goes to a network.”

“The amount we’re getting paid is significantly less than we’ve been getting paid before,” says the southwestern auto glass shop owner.

In California, Don’s Mobile Glass almost triple ordered windshields and adhesives before the pandemic in an effort to stock up. “We lucked out because we were able to order and bulk up before the pandemic took effect,” says Jacques Navant, technical director. However, Navant says that price increases are common across the industry.

A member of leadership for a large Midwestern auto glass chain, who preferred to remain anonymous to avoid disrupting business relations with insurance companies, says his company buys urethane in bulk so the price increase has been less intrusive.

“We’ve become accustomed to [price increases] now,” he says. “Knowing that we can get our hands on things is a big plus.” In some areas, he says, cost of goods has doubled, and, while he sees supply chain challenges becoming less intrusive in the future, challenges will continue.

“We’re being affected. It’s huge,” says Peter Brown, president of Tiny & Sons in Boston. Buying aftermarket parts, such as windshields and door glass, is expensive now. Brown says an increase in prices was noticed more than a month ago. “The insurance companies won’t pay for it,” he says.

Brown says his business has not been financially impacted yet. “But it’s starting to pinch us,” he says. His company has to watch where products are purchased, plan routes for jobs more effectively and purchase more materials at a time now to ensure materials are available when needed for customers. “All we know on our end — we can’t charge for [the increase in costs].”

This article is from glassBYTEs™, the free e-newsletter that covers the latest auto glass industry news. Click HERE to sign up—there is no charge. Interested in a deeper dive? Free subscriptions to Auto Glass Repair and Replacement (AGRR) magazine in print or digital format are available. Subscribe at no charge HERE.

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4 Responses to On the Up and Up: Auto Glass Shops Struggle with Rising Costs

  1. YVONNE weninger says:

    WE NEED TO STAND UP AND RAISE THE PRICES OF THE LABOR AND STOP LETTING THE INSURANCE COMPANIES DICTATE. NO WAY CAN YOU GIVE DISCOUNTS OFF LISTS WITH DEALER GLASS.

  2. Kris Griffin says:

    Lets get to the root of the problem right now is that NAGS has the ship sailing with no one steering the ship. Numerous NAGS parts don’t have list prices or labor hours and I am talking about 2-3+ year old cars or an even better example of an issue caused by NAGs is 2013-2015 Honda Accord Hybrid that has lane departure but per nags the hybrid does not and it always causes billing issues with fighting the insurance that the car calls for this piece and requires OEM(due to bracketry issues on the Hondas that require dual calibrations we go OEM as its the least pragmatic) and needs a dual calibration but per nags that part doesn’t fit and require calibration. Also at this point we are almost at a break even point on the urethane cost vs kit price. Nags has a fast cure part number but the insurance still pays the same. We are AGSC company and use a rapid cure high modulus low conductive urethane, why is it that we get paid good $ on a European car but on a Japanese import we get paid peanuts for urethane. We do the job right in all cases but only get paid properly on some cases for urethane. Wholesalers need to hold the glass manufacturers responsible for issues with the glass and setup some kind of warranty reimbursement programs as if you have to redo a job due to distortion or bracket issues you go straight into the red loosing your shirt and heaven forbid that you use a 3rd party calibration company.

  3. Brenda P says:

    I totally blame NAGS for much of these issues being discussed. If you look and compare one NAGS published “list price” for a part, oftentimes you’ll notice the next “update” comes out with the NAGS list price LESS than the previous publish date. When does ANYTHING in this world go DOWN in price. Come on….. not fair! And we don’t have the manpower to fight this war. Insurance companies have one goal in mind- less profits for anybody that works with them so they can have more profits. How do we fight this? Would love to know who in NAGS makes these pricing decisions. Until there’s a different way to bill insurance, we’re stuck. And we lose.

  4. Tamara Roy says:

    Everyone in the business knows that the problem lies directly with SAFELITE! THEY are the NETWORK! We do NOT work for them. In MA we pay a registration fee to own and operate OUR SHOP! We should be able to bill at OUR RATES AND NOT THE RATES CONTRACTED BETWEEN SAFELITE AND THE INSURANCE COMPANIES!! Last I checked We are still living in a capitalist country!! I am sick of being repressed, steered or scared away from, and waiting to be paid for sometimes years! Safelite is withholding my money on a job from August 2020!!!! I’m done…. time to write some letters!

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