Are you talking about panel/paint only when saying they will do it for $x or if it is to be done properly $xxxxx, or just anything to do with repairs???
It's a hard one, just to give an insight into the industry of Panel and paint if I may.
There is a set menu for, lets say, stone chipped bonnet or front bumper,etc, etc, or should I say any shop that deals with "projects" will have this in place. But good luck finding a shop that wants to do "Projects" as they are few and far between. Sure a lot of shops will do that respray for you, but man, how long do they take??? Because they say, sure we will take it on but it will be a fill in job. Just ask B2 about his Ferrari project.
Anyhoo, a lot of the inconsistencies come about from working on insurance jobs day in, day out. Insurance company's are the worst customer you can have. They will look at your quote and hammer it down as far as they can. Which means that corners have to be cut in order to keep the doors open. A lot of shops have the attitude that it only has to last as long as the warranty so the job is done as such. The insurance guys are so tight now days that it leaves no room to do little extras. An example of this happened just this week, guy had damaged his XR8 down one side, but it had damage on the bonnet from another accident. I was mortified by the fact that the insurance bloke just laughed when asked if it could be included and in the end there was no room to do this little fix after the rest was done and the poor young bloke couldn't afford the extra to fix it either(btw it was fixed anyway).
Well, the point I am trying to make is that there is not a lot of $$$$s in "Project" work and the insurance jobs have upset the whole costing side of things.
And the difference between the job costing $xxxx as compared to $x is simply insurance work over project work. Fixing a $3000 Commodore is not like fixing a $200,000 Ferrari. But I know what you mean, it's so hard to find anyone who you can trust and who can give you much info upfront.
I have looked at starting a dedicated paint shop for doing just "projects" but when I have gone back over the books, the insurance work keeps the doors open and the contract work helps subsidize the project work and the project work helps the sanity when doing the insurance work. So without one there is not the other and plus the cost of resprays would have to increase to even stay at the current turn over.
Hope I didn't bore you too much.