Collision Estimator Salary: How Much Can You Really Make?

When considering whether becoming a collision estimator is a good career to pursue, most people want to know the income potential. Collison estimator income expectations can help you decide if this is a mountain you want to climb or avoid in your career — it’s pretty important. 

Learning about the potential of various career paths can help you make the right choices as you get started. For example, a collision estimator can be higher working at a high production shop where they are paid commissions, than working at a small shop that is relaxed and you are paid a flat salary.

In this article, I will review the average salaries for collision estimators, the different ways body shops pay estimators, the income potential, and some tips on getting started.

If you are unsure you may want to explore what a collision estimator is, so you can determine if this career and salary expectations will be a good match for you.

Average salary for collision estimators


Salaries vary in the industry based on location, job description, experience, and type of shops employing you. We can start to draw some conclusions by looking at the available job postings in different parts of the country.

On Glassdoor collision estimator jobs posted, the base salary is $55,000 – $70,000 and there are over 3,000 current job listings on Glassdoor alone. This tells us what the low base salary is and also that there is LOTS of opportunity for work in this industry.

The more interesting data is the pay ranges and how high they reach. Many job postings show that a collision estimator can earn well over $100,000. Collison estimator salaries do vary based on location.

Collision estimator salary base jumps to $70,000 in Los Angeles, while closer to $40,000 on the low end in North and South Carolina. The difference is likely due to the increased cost of living in different states.

When I browse onto Indeed collision estimator jobs in Florida I find the average is MUCH higher than on Glassdoor. The collision estimator base salary begins at $70,000 per year.

I also notice that there are only a handful of base salaries posted below $65,000. These higher salaries are typically reserved for experienced and collision estimators, but the income potential shows to be great for this position.

How much do collision estimators really make?


With all these numbers flying around, what can you actually expect to make as an collision estimator? 

Once you are established in the industry, and have been working a job for more than a year, you can expect to earn over $50,000. When talking with industry leaders and that hire and manage collision estimators, they informed me that after 2 years you should make more than $70,000. This will be higher or lower depending on where you live in the country.

These salary expectations don’t include the valuable benefits that most collision estimators are offered when working at an auto body repair facility. With the United States national average salary at $59,384, being a collision estimator could earn you 48% more or higher. Pretty good.

And it’s also important to consider that you often have control over how much income you make. If you work harder and oversee more repairs, you have a higher earning capacity.

Let’s now look at how a collision estimator’s pay is structured.

Collision estimator pay structure

A collision estimator’s pay can be structure in three different ways.

  1. Hourly wage
  2. Salary
  3. Salary + Commission

Collision Estimators Hourly Wage

A collision estimator salary can be determined by an hourly wage. The average hourly pay for a collision estimator is around $37.00 an hour which equals $77,000 a year. A new collision estimator can start out as low as $21.00, according to job postings on Indeed.

Earning an hourly rate is often reserved for new estimators and once you have experience you can negotiate a flat salary or salary plus commission.

Collision Estimators Salary

We’ve talked about the average collision estimator salary, but I think it is important to point out that the salary is negotiable.

You can request a higher salary depending on your experience and skill set. Just because you are offered $50,000 doesn’t mean that is the most you can actually get paid. Make sure you ask and negotiate.

Make yourself more valuable and your value will demand a higher pay.

Salary + Commission

The most popular way to increase your collision estimator salary to get paid a salary plus commission.

You earn a base salary for being there each day, but you are rewarded for overseeing more repairs. The most cars the shop can fix, the more money you make. This encourages productivity and rewards you for heavier workloads.

As a collision estimator, you can directly affect the repair shops bottom line. When you write an estimate on an owner’s vehicle a big part of your job is to try and get them to book their vehicle for repair.

The better you are at getting cars in the door to be fixed the most negotiating power you’ll have for higher base salary and to request a higher commission rate.

Collision estimator career paths

collision estimator career path

With those numbers out of the way, you can now start to consider if you WANT to actually be a collision estimator. There are many different options with the skillset of a body shop estimate that you could pursue.

You can continue being a collision estimator and negotiate higher pay, more commissions, or pursue a job at a higher production shop.

But there are other position that the skill set you have as a collision estimator has unlocked for you.

Body Shop Manager

As a collision estimator you estimate the damages of the repair, put together a repair plan, oversee the repairs, and update those involved on how the repairs are going.

It can be a logical next step that once you have experience, that you begin to manage all the repairs at the shop.

Body shop managers have a little more earning potential and according to Glassdoor reports can earn over $125,000 a year.

Insurance Adjuster

As a collision estimator, you’ve learned how to write estimates on vehicles that are damaged. This is a valuable skill set to insurance companies.

You could become an insurance adjuster if you wanted to leave the body shop atmosphere. Insurance adjusting offers a variety of different types of employment and ways you can work.

You can be employed as a company adjuster or an independent insurance adjuster.

A company adjuster is a employee of the insurance company while an independent insurance adjuster is their own business that is contracted by the insurance company.

There are a few specific roles that could increase the pay and freedom for experienced collision estimators in the field of adjusting.

Let’s look at a few of them.

Catastrophic Adjuster

Catastrophic adjusters travel to major disasters to handle large numbers of claims in an area. Long days and nights in hotels and in disaster zones accompany the catastrophic adjuster career path. Due to the travel and time commitment required, their pay is typically higher than a typical adjuster.

The income of a catastrophic adjuster can exceed $100,000, depending on how many days of the year they are deployed to disaster areas.

Independent catastrophic adjusters, adjusters who are for rent or hire, have even higher earning potential because they do not have a guaranteed salary. I have known independent insurance adjusters that have earned over $300,000 in a year.

Auto Damage Appraiser

A collision estimator could take their knowledge of inspecting vehicles on the road by becoming an auto damage appraiser.

Auto damage appraisers inspect damaged vehicles in the field but do not settle the claims with the insured. They assess the value of the damages and the value of the damaged vehicle to assist the claims adjuster with the completion of the claim.

The salary of an auto damage appraiser is similar to a claims adjuster and according to Glassdoor the average of an auto damage appraiser $81,254 a year.

But if you work as an independent auto damage appraiser you can earn over $100,000 per year and run your own business.

For those with an entrepreneurial spirit, this is a great use of the skill learned by being a collision estimator.

Want to get started becoming a collision estimator?

Collision estimator is a very rewarding career and can give someone great fulfillment in a job where everything we do matters and typically helps other people who are in tough situations.

If being a collision estimator sounds like a career you’d like to explore, I’d like to invite you to check out the Collision Estimator Path roadmap I created. It is six steps to getting work as a body shop estimator.

I created these steps to answer the questions I get asked dozens of times each week, “How do I get started?”

Many people struggle to find the proper steps that will give them a fast start in this career. I interviewed dozens of successful auto estimate writing professionals on how they got started and wrote out the steps and discovered a strategy for getting started. It will also help you better understand how the industry works if you are interested in pursuing a career as a collision estimator.

We can also help you speed up the process with our Collision Estimator Training, Certification, and Mentorship program.

Keep walking your path and claiming your life.

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