Insurance companies are taking advantage of the fact that most of their customers have a smart phone and can easily upload photos. This has allowed more and more insurance companies to write preliminary estimates based off these photos to expedite the claims process. At Frederick Auto Body, we have seen more and more of these photo estimates at our shop – and we find most of them to be completely inadequate to repair the vehicle properly.
There is no substitute for seeing the damage to a vehicle in person. Pictures can not show the damage properly for a variety of reasons. Dents are often time very difficult to see unless the lighting is just right or seen at correct angle. The severity of the dent is also very hard to see in photos – it may look minor in the picture but in person it will look much worse. Often times there is hidden damage the will not be seen in the pictures, either because parts need to be removed or an additional photo needs to be taken. In addition, the quality of the estimate is only as good as the quality of the pictures. Unfortunately most customers do not know how to take photos that accurately depict the severity of damage to the vehicle. And even with the very best photos it is still sometimes almost impossible to write a thorough estimate.
So why does the insurance company do it? The answer is simple – TO SAVE THEM MONEY! The insurance company will tell you they do it to save time and expedite the claim, but that is not their real motivation. Photo estimates allow the company to pay much less labor costs for adjusters on the ground. It is far cheaper to have a group of clerks processing claims in a call center then having a trained professional in his car looking at a few cars each day. The second cost savings is a bit more insidious. By writing an obviously low estimate the customer may simply take the lesser amount without question – even if there is no way this will cover the actual damage to their vehicle. They will either keep the lower amount and not fix their car (which is well within their rights if they choose), or take the car to a low quality shop to have a substandard repair. Either way, the insurance company saves money by paying less then the cost of a proper repair.
The best thing a customer can do is to take the photo estimate and their vehicle to a quality repair shop like Frederick Auto Body to have the estimate properly re-written. We have had many of these low photo estimates come though our shop, in come cases our estimate is 2 to 3 times higher then theirs! Our estimators are certified, and have been trained to look for all the related damage to every vehicle. Sometimes a light disassembly is needed to see all the hidden damage, which we usually do at the beginning of the repair process. We work for our customers, NOT the insurance company. They have an obligation to repair your vehicle properly, and we make sure they do. So if you have an estimate written by an insurance company, bring it to our shop. We will inspect the vehicle the RIGHT way, and make sure your car is as good as new.