Auto Body Painter Jobs and Career Options

Being an auto body painter is a skilled trade that requires precision, creativity, and technical knowledge.

While a career as an auto body painter can be fulfilling, there are additional career paths available that leverage these skills.

In this article, we’ll explore the various job and career options for auto body painters, including how they can transition to roles such as independent adjusters and body shop estimators.

Understanding the Auto Body Painter’s Job

Auto body painters are responsible for restoring and enhancing the appearance of vehicles by applying paint, clear coat, and other coatings.

This role demands attention to detail, a steady hand, and an understanding of color theory and application techniques. Having a love for vehicles also helps make this job more enjoyable.

  • Key responsibilities include:
    • Preparing surfaces for painting by sanding, filling, and priming
    • Mixing and matching paint colors
    • Applying paint and finish coatings
    • Inspecting and polishing the final product

The knowledge of vehicles, the repair process, shop environment, and love of vehicles makes an auto body painter primed for some other exciting careers.

Career Path 1 for Auto Body Painters: Independent Adjuster & Appraiser

Transitioning from Auto Body Painter Job to Independent Adjuster

Transitioning to an independent adjuster can be a lucrative and flexible career move for auto body painters. Independent adjusters inspect damaged vehicles and determine repair costs on behalf of insurance companies.

They can get work locally in their own area or travel working as catastrophic adjusters.

Independent and adjusters and auto damage appraisers are independent contractors hired on a per claim or per contract basis. This freedom from a typical “job” is attractive to many auto body painters. The difference between an adjuster and appraiser is that the appraiser only writes the estimate and then the adjuster writes the check. An independent adjuster can perform both functions of writing an estimate and writing the check.

The skills gained as a painter, such as attention to detail and understanding vehicle parts, structures, and repair process, are highly valuable in this role.

  • Benefits of being an independent adjuster:
    • High earning potential
    • Flexible work schedule
    • Independence and ability to run your own business
    • Travel

Steps to Become an Independent Adjuster from an Auto Body Painter Job

The steps to become an independent adjuster from an auto body painter job can feel confusing, but if you understand there is a roadmap and certain steps you need to complete it can be very easy.

These steps come straight out of the Independent Adjuster’s Playbook.

Independent Adjuster Path Roadmap - Updated 2024
  1. Licensing: You must obtain the proper licensing to handle claims in your state as an independent adjuster or auto damage appraiser.
  2. Training: You’ll need to get trained in auto body damage and learn how to inspect and assess the damages to a vehicle and create an estimate in the industry leading estimating softwares such as CCC One, Audatex, or Mitchell.
  3. Business Set Up: The next step is to set up your independent contractor business structure, bank account, EIN, etc. so you can legally perform services and get paid for them.
  4. Certifications: Just like a mechanic needs to be certified that they can actually work on a car an independent adjuster needs to prove they can actually write estimates and close claims and earn an industry leading auto damage certification.
  5. Resume: You’ll need to write an adjuster resume that sells companies on your certifications, experience, and ability to actually be able to do the job.
  6. Network: As an independent contractor you’ll need to build a network of other IA’s, industry professionals, and relationships that will help you get work.
  7. Onboard with Firms: The companies that dispatch the work to independent adjusters are called independent adjusting firms or auto damage appraisal companies. You’ll need to submit your information to them and get added to their roster.

    Think of it like signing up as a driver for Uber, but instead to handle auto damage inspections and claims for companies.

Transitioning from Auto Body Painter Job to Body Shop Estimator

The Benefits of Transitioning to a Collision Estimator Job from an Auto Body Painter Job

A collision estimator evaluates damaged vehicles and provides repair cost estimates just like an appraiser or adjuster, but they do it on behalf of the repair shop.

Due to an auto body painters job at a repair shop they are already intimately familiar with this environment and the repair process.

This role leverages an auto body painter’s experience with vehicle repair and restoration, making it a natural next step and can often do so even within the same shop they currently work at.

  • Benefits to Becoming a Collision Estimator:
    • Competitive salaries with potential for bonuses
    • Less messy and less demand on the body physically
    • Consistent demand for skilled estimators nationwide

How to Transition to a Body Shop Estimator from an Auto Body Painter Job

There are several things you’ll need to do to transition from an auto body painter job to a collision estimator position.

While many things are familiar and similar there are new skillsets you’ll need to add your abilities if you want to be a successful collision estimator.

Here are the six steps on the Collision Estimator Path that will help you transition to becoming a collison estimator.

  1. Auto Damage Training: You’ll need to learn to inspect and assess the damages of wrecked vehicles.
  2. Estimating Software Training: Learning to use the industry standard estimating softwares like CCC One, Mitchell, or Audatex (Qapter) is a must.
  3. Certifications: Proving you can actually write auto damage estimates with a collision estimator certification will allow you to transition from being an auto body painter job to a collision estimator.
  4. Resume: Crafting a compelling resume that demonstrates your capabilities and new skills to a shop that needs a collision estimator will help you get an interview.
  5. Job Posting: Finding shops with available positions through websites like Indeed or Zip Recruiter as well as your own shop is important to increase the odds of getting an interview.
  6. Interview: Having a great interview to land you a job as a collision estimator is determined based on your confidence and abilitiy to articulate that you can actually do the job. Chemistry with the shop or hiring manager can also come into play.

Other Career Options for Those Working Auto Body Painter Jobs

Automotive Repair Technician

Auto body painters can transition to automotive repair technicians, where they repair mechanical and electrical issues in vehicles.

  • Responsibilities and required skills:
    • Diagnosing and repairing vehicle issues
    • Knowledge of automotive systems and tools

Company Automotive Insurance Appraiser or Adjuster

Automotive insurance appraisers and adjusters assess vehicle damage for insurance claims, similar to independent adjusters but typically work as employees for insurance companies.

  • How painting expertise is beneficial:
    • Detailed knowledge of vehicle repair processes
    • Ability to accurately estimate repair costs

Training and Certification for Auto Body Painters Wanting to Transition

Continuous education and certification are crucial for career advancement.

Auto body painters looking to transition from their current auto body painter jobs should seek relevant training programs and certifications to stack their skills and make them more desirable in other positions.

  • Recommended training programs and certifications:
    • IA Path: IA Path has practical collision estimator, adjuster, and auto damage appraiser certifications and mentorhsip that proves you know how to inspect and write an auto damage estimate and gets you work… guaranteed.
      I-CAR: I-CAR is great for understanding how a vehicle is repaired and the vehicle is assembled.
    • ASE: ASE is another great certification about the details of vehicle anatomy, repairs, and process.
    • Collision Hub: Colision Hub is a video resource for existing estimators and repair professionals.

Networking and Professional Development for Auto Body Painters Wanting a Different Job

Building a professional network is essential for career growth. Auto body painters should connect with other professionals, join industry associations, and attend events to expand their opportunities.

LinkedIn is a vital resource for finding new auto body painter jobs or for transitioning to new positions within the same industry.

Conferences like SEMA and othe rleading conferences can lead to connections that will take your career further than you can ever imagine.

If intersted in becoming an independent adjuster check out the NACA – National Association of Catastrophic Adjusters conference.


Auto body painting provides a strong foundation of skills that can open doors to various career paths, including independent adjuster and body shop estimator roles.

By leveraging your expertise and pursuing additional training and certifications, you can transition to a new and rewarding career. Ready to explore new opportunities? Start your journey today!

If you would like to talk with one of our auto damage estimating career coaches feel free to give us a call at 844-4-IAPath.

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