Do you want to become an auto damage appraiser? Have you been trying to figure out how to become an insurance adjuster, and get started without wasting lots of time or money?
Perfect. Being an independent auto damage appraiser who handles auto insurance claims on a daily basis, has unlocked mine and my family’s dreams, and I want to help do the same for you.
Let’s get started,
Choose Between Independent or Staff Auto Damage Appraiser
Performing auto damage inspections for a living is a GREAT job. I’ve done it for 11 years and have enjoyed it thoroughly.
Before being an auto damage appraiser, I was throwing boxes at Wal-Mart, and I had never changed the oil on my own car by myself, so whether you are a grease monkey or have little experience with cars you can do this!
I got started as an independent auto damage appraiser working for myself as a 1099 contractor, others sometimes started working at an insurance company like Liberty Mutual or Geico.
Each option has benefits and drawbacks.
Becoming an Independent Auto Appraiser
- Setting your own schedule
- Getting paid per claim
- Having a higher earning potential
- Can work for different companies
- Harder to find work
- Covering your expenses on your own, including travel costs, insurance adjuster tools, etc.
- Having full responsibility over your business
- Work may not be as frequent as desired
As an independent appraiser you can make your schedule, work for multiple companies, and decide how many or how few claims you want to inspect per day. Independents typically earn a higher income than staff appraisers.
The drawbacks are that YOU are your own business. Which means you must get accounts, contracts, and work can be inconsistent, and all of the expenses of running the business are on you.
Licensing requirements for independent adjusters vary by state. In some states, you’ll need the right licensing before you can practice. There are also a variety of certifications, such as the State Farm adjuster certification, that you can obtain.
Becoming a Staff Auto Appraiser
- Work is always provided
- Job expenses are covered
- Receiving all the benefits of Corporate Jobs
- Work and income are consistent
- Working on a corporate-set schedule
- Having a salary cap
- Working for only one company
Staff appraisers earn a salary, and many have benefit packages. You can work for companies like Geico Insurance, Liberty Mutual Insurance, Allstate, Progressive, or a smaller company. Most are given cars to drive around, expenses are covered, and there is no concern about finding work, you’ll always have that.
The drawbacks are that you are in a corporate environment. Your activity is monitored, you work the hours the company sets, and you can feel stifled in your decision making. Insurance adjuster salaries are capped for staff adjusters, in contrast to the income of independent appraisers.
It also can take months of interviews to get hired. Most want you to have a college education to get even an entry-level positions.
Once you decide which type of auto damage appraiser you want to become you must pursue that with LOTS OF VIGOR. The rest of this article will address how to become an independent auto appraiser and if you need help on becoming a staff adjuster you can check out a great set of articles at Owl Guru and if you are looking for a staff adjuster job check out the job boards at Zip Recruiter, Indeed, or Glass Door.
If you want to learn how to become an independent auto damage appraiser… read on.
If you want more information on the average auto damage appraiser salary, you can read this article or listen to the podcast I did called The Independent Truth Behind An Auto Damage Appraiser Salary.
Create Your Business As An Independent Auto Adjuster in 7 Steps
In my book, Independent Adjuster’s Playbook, I walk readers through a proven roadmap called the Auto Adjuster’s Path, which has three phases to becoming a successful independent adjuster or appraiser. The first phase combined crafting your skill and creating your business into a single Phase called “Create Your Business.” I am going to insert an excerpt from that book here.
In Phase 1 the main goal is simple: Walk away with a complete business that is legally ready to go to work. The purpose of Phase 1 is to allow you to enter the next phase with everything in order so you can focus on successfully getting and completing work.
By the end of Phase 1, you should be confident from an administration point of view by having a bank account, the proper insurance, and the correct adjuster’s/appraiser’s license before ever getting work. By the end of Phase 1, I also want you to feel confident in your craft and ability to properly write an auto damage estimate. Phase 1 is made up of the following steps.
- Get an Appraisers or Adjuster’s License
- Start Auto Training
- Obtain Your EIN
- Establish Your LLC
- Open a Bank Account
- Get Proper Insurance
- MILESTONE: Open for Business!
(The MILESTONE at the end of the list of steps lets you know when you have completed the phase, i.e. you know you’ve finished Phase 1 when you are officially and legally open for business.)
Step 1 – Get Your Appraisers License
Not all states require you to have an auto appraisers license, and this is your first step to your new career, determine if you need appraisers or adjusters license to complete auto damage inspections in your state.
Start by calling your states insurance commission office and inquiring if a license is required to inspect vehicle damage, calculate the worth of the vehicle, or to write an estimate. In certain states you may need to take a test while other states are just an applications and a fee.
Some states that do require an auto damage appraisers license are,
- New York
- North Carolina (No test just a fee)
- Rhode Island
- South Carolina
If you live outside of one of those states, YOU DO NOT have to have any license to handle auto claims as an auto damage appraiser, but always call and confirm with your state’s insurance commision just to be sure.
Step 2 – Start Your Auto Training
Becoming an independent auto damage appraiser isn’t hard when compared to getting a degree or the huge runway other careers have, but it isn’t like getting a job either. You must learn a skill by getting trained before you will get a chance to work claims.
What does an insurance claims adjuster do, and where do the assignments come from?
Most of your work, when first getting started, comes from independent auto appraisal firms like ACD, SCA, or IA Net. Think of these companies as temp agencies that find independent appraisers to handle claims for various insurance companies. They are looking for SKILLED appraisers with experience, but don’t let that discourage you there are ways to break into the industry.
Ways to Learn
There are a few different ways you can get the experience and skill required by independent appraisal or adjusting firms so you can qualify for work other than having years of experience working as an appraiser.
- Body Shops – You may have to start out working for free or by sweeping the floors and working your way up at a repair shop, but I know many great IA’s who started at a body shop and learned to estimate auto body damage and the auto body repair process.
- In Person Classes – Classes in this industry are typically called boot camps. (because the purpose is to get you up to speed in a hurry) Usually, these classes last three or four days and require you to travel to Texas, Alabama, or somewhere in Florida, to get hands-on training on how to inspect and write an auto damage estimate.
The #1 in-person industry recognized training is a two-week training put on by Vale Training Solutions.
- Online Training – Lastly, there is online training. This option is becoming increasingly popular in the insurance industry. I started my own training company, IA Path, to make it easier to become an independent auto adjuster and auto damage appraiser. I saw that online adjuster training was not up to par in the insurance industry compared to other industries. This option is a good fit for people who are still working, have busy schedules, or cannot make a trip to a distant state.
You can check out our auto damage certification that will help you become an auto damage appraiser or adjuster online and comes with a 1 year mentorship.
We’ve also got a post on the best free insurance adjuster training, where you’ll find tons of free resources.
Regardless of how you get your auto claims training, there are four key things you need to learn. These are the essential keys to your future career and the entire purpose of going through a training course.
- Knowing the parts of the vehicle
- Taking proper photos
- Identifying damage
- Writing an estimate
If you are looking for a low cost option to start learning, I published the auto estimating manual I give my mentored students. You can grab a copy on Amazon. The book is called the Auto Adjuster’s Playbook.
Once you have decided how you want to be trained as an auto damage appraiser, you are ready to start building your business and to start your journey to becoming an auto damage appraiser.
This step isn’t about getting fully trained, just get started or enrolled in the training of your choice.
Step 3 – Obtain Your EIN
Nobody likes when I say this three-letter word, IRS, but they play a major role in your business. They end up playing an even bigger role if you don’t consider them from the very beginning. By setting up your company correctly (first by getting an EIN), you will avoid some major headaches later down the road.
To obtain your EIN, visit IRS.gov, to apply for the EIN. It’s not difficult or time-consuming, and you’ll typically have it within a day or so. Alternatively, you can type in “Obtain EIN” into Google and choose the IRS.gov online application website.
Step 4 – Create Your Business Entity
If you’re looking to get straight to work, setting up an LLC is a no-brainer to get you started. There are many companies online that will help you file your LLC quickly. Companies like LegalZoom.com and IncFile.com make it easy to form an LLC. Alternatively, you can go to Google and type in “file an LLC in [stateof your choice]” (For example, “file an LLC in Arizona.”).
To start your LLC, you will need your EIN, your chosen business name, and a bit of information about your business. I used IncFile. to start my LLC. It made the process easy, and I recommend them.
There are some advantages to incorporating as a corporation (instead of an LLC), but if you want to go through that headache, talk to your accountant. I am not good with accounting.
Step 5 – Open a Bank Account
At this point on the Roadmap, you already have your EIN and your LLC. You are now able to open up a bank account for your business legally. You can go right into your local bank’s branch and open up a business banking account (though, read further to see if your local bank is the best option).
This step is important because you need to separate your business income from your finances for tax purposes.
Let me stress this point; do not receive business income directly into your banking account! Your business account needs to be separate from the account you already use to pay for groceries. Your company is an LLC. You are a separate entity from your company. Without an account used only for your business, you will encounter many headaches. (I know I did…)
Step 6 – Obtaining Proper Insurance
Now that you have your business bank account set up, I recommend you call your current auto
insurance provider (Geico, State Farm, Allstate, whomever it is you’re with) and tell them you’re going to start doing some subcontracting work using your vehicle and that you need to raise your limits.
They may ask you what limits you need to do. However, for now, find out what is standard. If the insurance company is not trying to swindle you, the limits should be something like $100,000 to $300,000 as your policy limits. Go ahead and raise them; you are going to need it.
Also, acquiring Errors and Omissions insurance is highly recommended because it protects you if you make a mistake, and someone sues you over your mistake.
Errors and Omissions help protect professional advice, service providing individuals, and companies from bearing the full cost of defending against a negligence claim made by a client and damages awarded in such a civil lawsuit.
Talk to an insurance agent to learn more about errors and omissions insurance.
Step 7 – Become Auto Damage Certification
It’s now time (if you haven’t already), to finish your auto-training. Remember what you’re trying to learn from your auto training:
- Knowing the parts of the vehicle
- Taking proper photos
- Identifying damage
- Writing an estimate
Of course, those are just the bare bones. Learning how to do the job of an independent auto damage appraiser or adjuster is not as easy as some would think.
When you earn the IA Path Auto Damage Certification you’ll get the 2-5 year experience requirement waived with our 40+ IA Firms that recognize the certification.
No matter how you got trained its time to wrap up your training and officially open up your appraisal business!
Milestone – Open for Business!
Congratulations, you are now open for business! You’re done with Phase 1 Now that you are now officially open for business, did customers rush to hire you? I didn’t think so. All of this work you’ve done and no one even knows that you have an amazing service to offer to people! It’s going to get fun now. Let’s head onto Phase 2.
Promote Your Independent Appraiser Business In 6 Steps
Now that you’ve created your business, it is time to get work! Just like if you had opened a local bakery, nobody knows that you bake cakes unless you tell them. The same goes for being an IA.
Nobody knows that you handle claims, or are even willing to handle claims unless you tell them. Self-promotion is part of our job as independent business owners AKA independent auto damage appraisers.
In Phase 1, you laid out the foundation for your business and career; now it is time to start working on what your prospective clients and peers will see. During Phase 2, I will help you to increase the odds in your favor by giving you the promotional edge.
In Phase 2 we do the following steps,
- Get Software Training
- Set Up Your LinkedIn Profile
- Create Your Resumé
- Photo Rosters
- Get on 4 Daily Rosters
- Purchase Software
- MILESTONE – Get Your First Claim!
Step 1 – Auto Software Training
It is now the time in the Path to learn the estimating software for writing claims. Now, you may be wondering, “Why is Software Training is the first step in promoting your new business? Well, the reason why you want to train on this before promoting yourself to people is simple: People are going to ask if you know how to write on CCC One or Audatex? You need to be able to answer “Yes” truthfully and honestly.
You’ll want to get CCC One training because it is the leading auto damage estimating software in the industry.
Step 2 – Set up Your LinkedIn Profile
Now, this step is optional, but I highly encourage it. Keep in mind; I hate social media! I’m one of those guys that’s not on Facebook (and I don’t ever plan to be). However, LinkedIn is supposed to be the “professional network” for social media.
LinkedIn is an online resume and tool for business networking which makes it a perfect avenue for IA’s to promote their business and to network with others in the industry.
Now, if you are going to do this step, know that setting up your LinkedIn profile the right way is important. Just like a poor resumé, an inadequate LinkedIn profile looks bad, and it can make you appear worse than you would if you didn’t have one.
We created an Independent Adjuster’s Guide to LinkedIn will help you understand why LinkedIn is so important. If you need additional help as an adjuster setting up your LinkedIn Profile, I walk you through the entire process step by step inside the Networking Adjuster’s Playbook, and Independent Adjuster’s Playbook.
Step 3 – Create Your Resumé
Now that you have a LinkedIn profile, you probably are wondering, “Why didn’t I just fill out a resumé?”
You set up your LinkedIn profile, correctly? Don’t worry if you skipped it, there are options for you as well, but if you did set up your LinkedIn profile, it is going to make this step so much easier.
Having a good insurance adjuster resumé is important in the career of independent adjusting, but LinkedIn gives you a digital, living, breathing, and always changing resumé. Most companies still want a traditional resumé.
So, it is good to have one.
If you need help sprucing up your resume the Adjuster’s Resume Playbook is the ultimate guide to getting your experience into a job producing adjuster resume.
Now, if you want to dive deep into doing more with your resumé, you can find a course on how to create an adjuster resume that comes with a resume template and walks you through the entire process.
Step 4 – Get on Photo Rosters
Now that you have a digital presence beefed up your resume, and started interacting in online networks, the question becomes, “Who do I need to talk to, so I can get to work?”
Photo rosters are for companies with services that take photos of damaged vehicles and property (or whatever a customer’s needs are). Photo rosters offer a great opportunity for a new IA to get experience scheduling appointments, inspecting damages, and taking photos.
Making photo-only claims allows an IA to get comfortable with the estimating process without the pressure of having to write the entire estimate.
Top Companies IA Path recommends for Photo Only Claims
Step 5 – Get on 4 Daily Rosters
The magic happens when you learn how to use Google and LinkedIn to find IA firms in your region and your state. If you do this properly, you will never have a shortage of people to contact.
Right now, if you go to LinkedIn (assuming you’re connected to me on LinkedIn), you can start searching in the upper part of LinkedIn for appraisal or adjusting companies.
You can also search for auto damage companies and independent adjuster companies, in and around your state. Reach out to them., let them know you write auto claims, and let them know you’d like to be a part of their team.
If you graduated from the IA Path Auto Damage Certification we give 40+ companies that want to work with you, all you have to do is apply.
At LEAST apply and get on four daily claim company rosters. This will make you diverse as an independent auto damage appraiser. Continue to apply to more firms as you move along in your career.
I’d apply and get on with the following companies to find my first 4,
Nationwide Daily Firms
- SCA Claims – sca.claims
- ACD – acdcorp.com
- QA Claims – qaclaims.com
- IA Net – ianetwork.net
- Sedgwick – www.sedgwick.com/autoappraisals
- Primeco Claims – primecoclaims.com
Step 6 – Purchase Software
Remember, taking your training for CCC One?
In this part of the process, it is time to get the software that you learned. Purchase it, get it installed, and get ready to rock and roll!
The auto estimating software typically costs around $200 a month. Moreover, if CCC One is quoting you something higher than that, they may be upselling you on something up. Talk to them to find out how you can get the cost lowered. Do not get into an estimating software agreement for longer than a year when you are starting. The savings you receive are not worth being locked in.
If you contact the IA Firms and get onboarded with them prior to getting the software, they also have discounted pricing available.
MILESTONE! – Get Your First Claim
Congrats! You are now done with Phase 2 when you receive your first claim. You’ve now become a bona fide money-making machine, well maybe not machine yet, but you’ve earned your first dollar, and the first is always the hardest.
Now that you have your business set up, you are trained, you are networking online, on company rosters, and have your estimating software, you have got many options. You can continue to grow your daily claims business (which I highly recommend) and continue to expand the type of claims that you handle, or you can keep working daily claims while working towards being able to handle catastrophic claims.
Remember, you are now your boss, and you have demonstrated that your business can generate profits. Whatever you decide to do is entirely up to you.
Start Your Independent Journey!
It is now time for you to start walking your journey. Take the necessary steps and follow the Auto Adjuster’s Path show in this article to become the auto damage appraiser you want to be. Keep it simple, one step after another.
- Decide Independent or Staff Appraiser
- Get Trained
- Create Your Business
- Promote Your Business
Have a plan, stay focused, and don’t get discouraged. Becoming an IA can be a tough journey to take alone if you want to do it with others by your side. I highly encourage you to join the IA Path Community.
With over 750 members we are all walking this path together and there is always someone to answer your questions or to encourage you.
If you’d like to schedule a phone call with me, feel free to check my calendar for available times by clicking HERE.
Keep walking and CLAIM YOUR LIFE. You can do it because we are IA’s.
P.S. This article has many excerpts from my Amazon #1 Best Selling book the Independent Adjuster’s Playbook and if you want more strategies and tips on how to become an independent auto damage appraiser grab your free copy by joining my email list below.