What is a Collision Estimator?

A collision estimator creates an estimate of repairs and a repair plan for a damaged vehicle. They write these estimates on behalf of the vehicle owner and auto body repair shop they work at.

This article will summarize the role of a collision estimator, discussing their responsibilities, qualifications, benefits, challenges, and opportunities.

What is the difference between a collision estimator and an adjuster or insurance appraiser?

There are different roles, and terms, other than collision estimator, that get used for people who write auto damage estimates.

The key thing to realize is that the estimators work for the body shop. They aren’t an employee of an insurance company.

Here are some alternative terms for the term collision estimator:

  • Estimator
  • Body shop estimator
  • Auto body estimator
  • Automotive repair estimator
  • Collision repair estimator
  • Vehicle damage assessor
  • Auto damage appraiser
  • Collision damage estimator
  • Auto collision consultant
  • Automotive claims estimator
  • Auto body repair consultant

You’ll also hear the term appraiser or adjuster related to writing auto damage estimates.

Traditionally, an auto damage appraiser or insurance adjuster is writing estimates for auto damage claims on behalf of the insurance company.

The difference between an appraiser and an adjuster can be summarized like this,

“An appraiser writes the estimate the adjuster writes the check.”

The adjuster is the one settling the claim and writing the check on behalf of the insurance company.

An appraiser is typically assisting the adjuster by determining the value of the damages and of the property that was damaged.

An adjuster can also fulfill the roles of an appraiser.

Contrast this with the collision estimator who works for the body shop. They write the same types of estimates, but they oversee the repairs of the vehicle.

It is important to understand these different roles because an estimator will communicate with the appraiser and/or adjuster of an insurance company if the insurance company ise paying for the repairs of a vehicle.

What is a Collision Estimator’s Roles and Responsibilities?

As a collision estimator, there are a lot of different things that you have to do as a part of your role.

While an estimator doesn’t directly work for an insurance company, many shops have agreements to write estimates on behalf of the insurance company. Shops write these estimates hoping to repair the vehicle at their shop.

Shops that work closely with insurance companies like this are engaged in a “direct repair program” AKA “DRP”.

Now let’s look at the roles an estimator plays in a body shop.

Estimate the Damages

  1. Review insurance policy details & insurance company guidelines (if a DRP assignment)
  2. Review the facts of loss with the vehicle owner or through a report
  3. Assess the damages to the vehicle
  4. Estimate the cost of damages using estimating software like CCC One, Mitchell, or Audatex
  5. Submit any additional costs to the vehicle owner or insurance company for supplemental payment (supplement)

While this part of the job is where the collision estimator gets their title, it is only one part of the job. There are other roles, duties, and responsibilities you need to be aware of.

Communicate With All Parties Involved in the Claim

Communicating is one of the most underrated and overlooked roles of a collision estimator.

This is the primary job of a collision estimator, to communicate with all parties that are involved in the repair process including,

  • Vehicle owner
  •  Shop management
  • Repair technicians
  • Insurance adjusters and appraisers
  • Parts department
  • Repair vendors (for subcontracted repairs)
  • Etc.

One of the biggest ways a collision estimator keeps vehicle owners happy is by calling them every few days on the status of the vehicle’s repair.

Oversee the Repair

A collision estimator is overseeing the repair of the vehicle.

If a repair technician needs something additional, beyond what the estimator wrote on the repair estimate, the estimator is the one confirm the need and request it.

All updates of repairs to the vehicle owner and insurance company typically come from the collision estimator.

The collision estimator is often the one to request and sometimes is also the one to order the parts needed for the repair technicians to fix the vehicle.

Collision estimators oversee the repair by,

  • Communicate with the technicians
  • Monitor progress of the repairs
  • Update all parties on the status of repairs and/or issues
  • Responsible for billing the insurance company/owner for the repairs the proper amount
  • Completing a final inspection and QC of the repairs

What is a Collision Estimator’s Skills or Education Requirements?

Education Requirements for Collision Estimators

Collision estimators do not have any formal education requirements.

It doesn’t matter if you have a degree, a high school diploma or a GED.

The only requirements that matter are the requirements of knowing how to do the job.

Technical Skills Required for a Collision Estimator

Collision estimators are required to have the skill and knowledge required to do their job.

A collision estimator needs to,

  • Inspect and assess damages on a vehicle
  • Properly take photographs proving the damages
  • Create an industry standard estimate in CCC One, Mitchell or Audatex (Qaptar)
  • Understand how the technicians repair the vehicle and what they need to fix it

Skills and Attributes of a Successful Collision Estimator

While anyone can be a successful collision estimator, not everyone will enjoy the responsibilities of overseeing a vehicle’s repair and the constant communication and interaction required.

Certain skills and attributes contribute to a collision estimators’ success more than others.

Some of the most important skills and character traits are:

  • Strong analytical and problem-solving abilities
  • Excellent communication and negotiation skills
  • Attention to detail and organizational skills
  • Ability to take ownership of mistakes and failures
  • Teachable and able to learn new things fast
  • Skilled in persuasion is essential for driving shop revenue and earning commissions by getting vehicle owners to choose their shop for repairs

What are the Benefits of Being a Collision Estimator?

  1. Working as a collision estimator provides job security. The role of being an estimator requires a strong skill set that is always in demand. You can pick up and move to another part of the country and have a job quickly. People are always wrecking their cars, and someone has to organize and oversee the repairs.

  2. Being a collision estimator also provides a strong network within the auto repair industry that allows for new opportunities to open to you.

  3. There is also comradery and teamwork required in a shop. This atmosphere is often fun, enjoyable, and can result in lifelong friendships.

  4. You will never be bored as a collision estimator. It is a fast-paced and sometimes challenging job that causes the day to go by in a blur.

  5. By helping people get their cars repaired you are helping make people’s lives better. This is a stressful time for vehicle owners and you can make the process go much smoother.

Some of the biggest benefits to being a collision are,

  • Job security
  • Guaranteed income
  • Health and other job benefits
  • Earning potential is high
  • Competitive pay based on experience and expertise
  • Lots of career growth opportunities
  • Employment opportunities nationwide

Challenges Faced by Collision Estimators

Being a collision estimator isn’t all roses and sunshine.

It can be a very tough career.

Some of the hardest parts of being a collision are,

  • Not enough repairs
  • Too many repairs (heavy workload)
  • Uncomfortable conversations with unhappy customers & partners
  • Standing on feet for many hours of the day
  • Working with computers and various software programs
  • Dealing with problems that are outside of your control

With this long list of negatives and many more that I haven’t listed, the next logical question is this.

Is Being a Collision Estimator a Stressful Job?

Being a collision can be a very stressful job.

The Burned Out Adjuster’s Playbook mentions,

“Stress, by definition, is your body’s reaction to a challenge or demand.

Your body’s reaction to a challenge or demand.

Stress in short bursts is valuable and healthy. By definition “eustress” is a psychological benefit to us. It is what gets us to complete a project on time, make two extra phone calls to meet quota, or what helps us turn off the TV and find a job.

The problem comes in when we face too many challenges and too many demands. When we live in a state of stress rather than using stress as a catalyst for our best work.”

I’ve mentored over 900 auto damage estimating writing professionals and here are some tips for handling stress as a collision estimator.

  • Know your why
  • Continue to learn new skills
  •  Create boundaries for your work
  • Be comforted that you aren’t ultimately in control
  • You are just here to help keep everyone informed and do your best
  • Get advice from mentors and others that have been where you are

While you are an employee of the shop, you must take ownership of the vehicle being repaired. This is an important responsibility and honor.

The mental shift can be tough for some people, but for those that do, they can claim their life, thrive, and enjoy their new career.

What Collision Estimator Jobs Are There?

First off, let’s talk about how a collision actually gets a job.

How Does a Collision Estimator Get a Job?

A collision estimator is almost always guaranteed work if they can perform on the job.

But what types of shops are hiring you?

There are several different types of companies that would be interested in hiring a skilled collision estimator.

Who Hires Collision Estimators?

  1. Independently owned body shops
  2. Multiple shop operations (MSO’s)
  3. Auto damage appraisals firms
  4. Dealerships with repair shops
  5. Independent adjusting firms
  6. Companies with fleets
  7. Insurance companies
  8. Municipalities

Most new collision estimators will get their work from MSO’s, large chain body shops.

These shops have many opportunities because they have so many locations that need estimators. MSO’s are often more friendly to someone that is newer and willing to let them grow within the organization.

5 Big Body Shop MSO’s That Hire Collision Estimators

Types of Estimates a Collision Estimator Can Handle

While “collision” is in the collision estimator’s title, they often are required to write up other types of damages.

Some of the most common types of estimates a collision estimator will write will be:

1. Collision Estimates

A car wreck is the most common estimate you’ll write. There are 36,164 car accidents every day and over 13 million a year. You’ll be writing a lot of collision estimates.

2. Vandalism/Theft Estimates

There are over 1 million motor vehicles stolen each year in the United States. These are often recovered, and damages are found to the exterior and interior of the vehicle. The ignition system, dash, and glass are commonly damaged items and an estimate must be written and repairs performed.

3. Hail

If you live in an area where hail occurs, you’ll see a huge surge of estimates being written on hail damaged vehicles. There are estimated to be nearly 3 million hail damaged vehicles a year. Hail season is between March-September. Learning how to write auto hail estimates using paintless dent repair methods is a must as an estimator.

4. Deer Hits

Cars don’t just hit each other, they also hit animals. There are 1.5 millions deer vehicle collisions each year.

How to Become a Collision Estimator

It can be frustrating when you try to become a collision estimator.

What order do you do what in? Who will train me? Where do I start?

The Collision Estimator Path is a six-step roadmap to getting you your first job fast.

6 Steps to Becoming a Collision Estimator

  1. Auto Damage Training
  2. Estimating Software Training
  3. Certification
  4. Resume
  5. Job Postings
  6. Interview

I’ll break down the Collision Estimator Path and each step into a bit more detail.

1. Auto Damage Training: Learn How to Scope a Damaged Vehicle

As a collision estimator you’ll need to learn how to photograph, inspect, and assess damaged vehicles.

Understanding the repair process is also a must if you are going to be successful as a body shop estimator. The Auto Adjuster’s Playbook is a low-cost resource that helps you understand the process of inspecting a damaged vehicle. While it is written for adjusters the principles of inspection and writing estimates are the same.

2. Software Training: Learn How to Write an Industry Standard Estimate

You’ll want to learn how to inspect and write auto damage claims using the CCC One Estimating Software so you can write estimates on some of those 19,937 cars that are wrecked each day.

3. Certification: Prove You Can Do the Job

Once you’ve been trained you’ll want to prove to the world it didn’t just go in one ear and out the other. By earning a collision estimator certification that proves you know how to inspect and write auto collision damage estimates you’ll set yourself apart.

In the past, estimators had to start as a helper, detailer, or parts person and be promoted into the collision estimator position, but with the proper certifications and training you can start as an estimator.

There are only a handful of certifications available for collision estimators, and each have a focus on a particular aspect.

4. Resume: Create Your Estimator Resume

Once you’ve earned a certification you now need to update or create your estimator resume.

Making sure you present your past experience as applicable to the auto damage industry is crucial.

Your resume is typically required when you apply for a position..

5. Job Postings: Find a Job in You Area

There are usually thousands of positions for collision estimators posted on the internet at any given time.

Some of the most popular online job boards are,

Even if there are no job postings in your area, call to the local shops and ask if they are in need of an estimator. More than likely, you’ll find one willing to interview you if you are confident in your ability to write a professional auto damage estimate.

Word of caution. They will probably test your skill to write an auto damage estimate. Be sure you are prepared and can do the job before applying for or setting up an interview.

7. Interview: Ace Your Estimator Interview

People want to see confidence in their estimators.

You’ll need to be confident without cocky and be prepared to answer questions that arise.

Often, the shop will do a test estimate to see how comfortable you are with writing an auto damage estimate.

They are looking to see if your personality will fit in their shop. Be sure you are also interviewing them to make sure this shop is a good fit for you.

How Do You Find Collision Estimator Training, Certification, or Mentor?

Having a collision estimating mentor is like having a shortcut into the industry.

Many new estimators are told, “You don’t have enough experience.”

And the logical question is, “How do you get experience if no one will give you a chance?”

When I got started in the industry I have a mentor that trained and vouched for me to companies he was connected with.

I didn’t know it at the time, but that company had a 2-year experience requirement.

A collision estimating mentor not only trains and connects you to people, but assists you with your claims on a daily basis.

At IA Path we offer a 1 year Collision Estimator mentorship program that includes our Auto Collision Damage Certification & CCC One Certification so you can get any experience requirements waived.

Typically, most estimators complete the certifications in 30 days and move onto getting interviewed at local shops.

We help our certified estimators get interviews by calling local shops and vouching for you. It’s up to you to ace the interview, but we’ll provide you the skills, ability, and opportunity.

Then you have our support to answer questions on your estimates for the rest of the year.

You’ll have the option to add on an additional year at a reduced rate the following year if you are enjoying the support and community.

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