How to Write an Auto Damage Estimate in Six Easy Steps

Every time you inspect a vehicle you’ll have dozens or even hundreds of decisions to make and for most new IA’s, that is WAY TOO OVERWHELMING.

I developed this framework to give a step by step process by which you can analyze the damages you are looking at step by step, WITHOUT getting overwhelmed.

When you approach a damaged vehicle you’ll be going through the process of identifying,

  1. Part – What part are you look at that is damaged or being considered?
  2. Operation – What needs to be done to the part?
  3. R&I – Because of the operation chosen for the part are there any other parts that need to be removed and then installed once the repair is done?
  4. Blend – Because of the operation that has been chosen to the damaged part does any other panels need blended/painted as a result?
  5. R&I – If any blends are occurring to other panels do any items need R&I’ed?
  6. Details – Are there any details that need to be documented or added to the estimate?


This is the process you go through with each damaged part to determine all the operations that are needed for an estimate.

Let’s take a little bit deeper look at these 6 building blocks with an example.


When you are looking at damages you’ll inspect the damages from the front of the vehicle to the back.

Locate the front most damaged part.

In our example, luckily you see there is only one panel damaged. It is the metal panel beside the hood, on the left side (drivers side) is damaged. It was hit by a shopping cart and has a dent and a little bit of paint scraped off.

You aren’t totally sure what the panel is called but you sneak a look at the IA Path Auto Damage Appraiser’s Inspection Guide we sent last week and determine that the part is called the FENDER.

This FENDER is the part and that is the first building block of an estimate and you remember it is on the driver’s side/left side.

On your notepad/scope sheet you’ll write down LT FENDER.

First building block, completed!


There are several operations that could be done to this fender depending on the extent of the damage.


Lucky for you this is an easy call. It’s a minor dent and you determine this could be fixed.

So you write down REPAIR next to the fender on your scope sheet.

When using the repair operation you’ve got to determine how many hours the technician will have to work on that panel to fix it.

Good thing you’ve got the handy dandy IA Path Repair Hours Guide and you determine 2.0hrs should get the job done.

You add 2hrs on your scope sheet after REPAIR.

Your line note would look like this,


3. R&I

Now you realize this can’t be it.

The panel will have to be painted and surely you have to write something other than REPAIR for an estimate to be completed.

You are correct.

There are several items that will need to be removed for the body shop to fix the panel (think beating with a hammer, but with some grace… maybe) and painting (also known as refinish which is another repair operation) the panel things will need removed, but what?

Before we get to that I want to let you know the estimating software, our fancy calculator that determines the final costs, automatically calculates the refinish/paint time so you don’t have to worry about that if you are repairing the panel.

But what do we need to remove off the fender?

When a shop removes a part and then installs it back when the vehicle is fixed is called REMOVE AND INSTALL, abbreviated R&I.

This is another repair operation. Each time a major panel is getting fixed or painted there are items that need to be R&I’ed.

Instead of guessing, stressing, or forgetting you can use the IA Path Appraiser Inspection Guide to see what we suggest you R&I if the main panel is damaged.

Underneath the FENDER on the sheet you’ll see a few items listed. These are the things you’ll need to R&I and add to your sheet.

See the orange box?

Add any of those that don’t have stars and only the starred items if they are present, but the first three are a no brainer.

You’d add these line items to your scope sheet.

  • R&I Fender Liner
  • R&I Lt Headlight
  • R&I Front Bumper


And because of the asterisk we check to see if our vehicle has a fender flare and it doesn’t so we’ll skip that one.

Building block 3 is complete!


Whenever a panel is damaged and gets refinished (painted) it will look new and shiny.

The other panels adjacent to it most likely… won’t.

So depending on the type of paint and whether it’s metallic paint or not you’ll want to blend the adjacent panels.

This causes many of our new students to freeze… now do I know which ones to blend?

Well on our appraiser inspection guide you’ll see the arrows on the fender pointing to other panels.


That is indicating you need to consider blending to those panels.

In the fenders case you need to consider blending the hood and front door.

After reviewing the blend guidelines you determine that this light blue metallic paint requires a blend.

You’ll want to add to your scope sheet,

  • Hood Blend
  • LT Front Door Blend


But leave space underneath each one of those on your scope sheet so you can add the next building block.

5. Blend R&I

Now that the hood and left front door are being blended, AKA partially painted, some items will need to be removed and installed off of those panels.

But how in the world could you know what to R&I?

You guessed it!

Use the appraiser inspection guide and see what is listed under the hood and left front door and add those items to your scope sheet! (remember you saved some space beneath the previous lines, it’s for each of these R&I’s)

You’ll add underneath the hood blend,

  • R&I Hood Insulator
  • R&I Washer Nozzles
  • Replace Information Labels (Because you popped the hood and verified they were there)


Under the Lt front door blend you’ll add,

  • R&I LT Mirror
  • R&I Lt Fr Handle
  • R&I Lt Fr Belt Molding
  • R&I Lt Front Interior Trim Panel


You see the asterisk next to the bodyside molding and check, but your vehicle doesn’t have one.

The blend R&I’s the 5th building block to your estimate is complete!



There may be notes you’ll need to add to button up your estimate.

Maybe the owner has something custom added, a stone guard on the fender, or whatever else is miscellaneous.

You’ll also need to add the standard operations like Hazardous Waste Removal, Cover Car, Corrosion Protection etc. depending on your guidelines and vehicle.

In our case we need to add all three.

  • Hazardous Waste Removal
  • Cover Car
  • Corrosion Protection



Now you’ll use this as your instructions of what to input into your fancy calculator we call the estimating software.

Let’s look at all the operations you’ll have once you are done with this example and how it should be organized on your sheet.

  • LT Fender REPAIR 2hrs
    • R&I LT Headlight
    • R&I LT Fender Liner
    • R&I Front Bumper
  • Hood Blend
    • R&I Hood Insulator
    • R&I Washer Nozzles
    • R&R Info Labels
  • LT Front Door Blend
    • R&I LT Mirror
    • R&I LT Belt Molding
    • R&I Interior Trim Panel
  • Hazardous Waste Removal
  • Cover Car
  • Corrosion Protection


There you have it, the 6 building blocks of an Auto Damage Estimate are,

  1. Part
  2. Operation
  3. R&I
  4. Blend
  5. R&I (for blends)
  6. MISC & Notes


and you know how to use it.

Your guide,

Chris Stanley

P.S. If you want more help learning how to write auto damage estimates, building your independent adjuster or appraising business, and getting the 2-5 year experience requirements waived that is what we do..

We can help you in 3 different ways.

  1. Purchase the Auto Adjuster’s Playbook from Amazon
  2. Join the IA Path Virtual Adjuster Mentorship Community & Help Room (free 7 day trial) and watch all the training we give our students in the Auto Damage Crash Course.
  3. Enroll in the Auto Collision Damage Certification. (Experience requirements waived with 40+ IA Firms once earned)

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