Whatever you do, don't crash your car until January.
A dire shortage of staff and months of waiting on car parts to arrive has put Hawke's Bay panel beaters under the pump, with many now saying they are fully booked until after Christmas.
Endless Panel Repairs owner Shane MacKenzie says the industry is in the worst shape that he's seen in his 12 years of operation.
"It's always been a strange industry - you own a shop, but you're run under by insurance companies," he said.
"[But at the moment] we are constantly under the pump and it's not slowing down.
"We have a delay with parts, and then a delay with customers. We've been waiting for eight weeks for bulk parts to arrive from Germany for a late-model Mercedes."
The shop started to "feel the crunch" with lockdown, he said.
"We are booked pretty much until December end," MacKenzie said.
He said the amount insurance was paying was not keeping pace with the cost of keeping on staff, and that meant it was now "not an attractive trade for people to work in".
He said the shop had lost two staff members to better money, and now has a total of six staff, including two part-time administrators.
"The workload, the shortage of staff, it's the worst I have seen."
He said he had advertised on Trade Me for staff, with little success.
"It's not going well. We advertise, but don't get applications."
Insurance Council NZ insurance manager John Lucas said the staff shortages occurring in the collision repair industry were "no different" to staff shortages affecting other trades, across automotive or construction sectors.
"Insurers regularly review repair allowances to ensure what is being paid is fair and reasonable, and is equitable across the industry to ensure insurance premiums remain affordable for Kiwis," Lucas said.
"Insurers are committed to ensuring repairs are completed as quickly as possible for their customers and work with the collision sector to enable this.
"Sadly, many of the trades sector have been impacted by Covid-19, resulting in skill shortages, restrictions on migrant workers coming into the country and knock-on effects of supply-chain delays."
Village Panel Repairs owner Shane Bassick, of Havelock North, said the state of the industry meant he had made the decision to shut up the shop he's owned for 18 years.
The panel beater closed last Thursday, and Bassick said he was sure his staff would not be out of a job for long.
"The insurance companies make it hard, they've taken common sense out of it."
Bassick said he'd been in the trade since he was 15, he's now 52.
"It has changed a lot over the years, and tech-wise we have seen a lot of improvements, the fun has been taken out of it.
"A lot of guys, back then, would take pride in their work and now it's just a matter of one in, one out."
A "major shortage of staff" was the reason City Collision Repairs, Onekawa, was struggling.
Owner Chris Greaney said he'd owned the shop for 10 years, had been a staff member for another 10, and the panel-beating situation was "a 100 per cent worse now".
"We have a major shortage of staff and that can be down to a few factors - lack of apprentices coming through, a struggle to get them to fully qualify."
He said the qualifications were harder now and apprentices needed to be "quite on to it".
"We are finding that those that are coming through either aren't up to the task, or can get better elsewhere."
Greaney said immigrant workers, who were typically well qualified, were now a "no-go" because of Covid-restrictions.
"It's pretty tough, and we've been majorly impacted."
He said waiting for car parts was also an issue, with a minimum of 12 weeks extending to a maximum of six or seven months.
"We have been waiting seven months for some parts for a ute."
He said there were 14 staff members at the shop, and there were staff members around to assist, but it was still hard going.
"I used to be able to recruit easily, but now I advertise for three to six months and we can't get a single application."
He said there was no silver-bullet solution to address the shortage, but things could still be done.
"Our trade needs to be marketed better.
"If I can go into schools, talk to people remotely interested and tell them what the trade is and let them know of all the advances which have been made in panel beating.
"Then we might attract more people to the profession."