What is an estimator?
An estimator is a person that writes auto repair estimates on vehicles that have been involved in an accident. The estimator must understand the basic car design and know the nomenclature of a vehicle. The estimator must also have good communication skills as they deal with customers on a daily basis. Not only does the estimator have to communicate with customers, but they will also be the contact person for the insurance companies, shop managers, and the shop foreman or technicians. Therefore, communications is a must for an auto estimator. This career pathway is definitely for a people person. In fact, I would even say that a person that writes auto repair estimates for an auto body repair center needs to be part salesman. It is their job to sell them self, the company, the technicians, and the service that the shop provides. Not all technicians make good estimators, but it is a good idea for the estimator to have experience as a technician. Although, there have been people hired without experience and trained by the shop to write estimates.
Who Will Hire You?
There are two different industries that hire auto estimators. One is auto body repair shops and the other is insurance companies. This can also split into other categories in each industry. Collision shops can be dealerships, franchise shops, or independent shops. Some insurance companies hire their own auto estimators, while other insurance companies hire independent auto estimators. When you write estimates for the insurance company your title may be an auto appraiser instead of an auto estimator.
What Can You Expect To Earn?
This can vary on your experience and if you work for a small body shop or an insurance company. However, according to O*Net the national median for an Auto Damage Appraiser is $53,440 and had a growth rate of 7% to 10% in a ten year period. (2006 – 2016) Some collision repair centers will pay their estimators a salary and a percentage of every job that they sell. Therefore, the more estimate sales that the estimator produce, the more income he or she can earn if on one of these types bonus incentives.
What is the first step towards this career?
The first thing you will need is to learn is the basics. You can do this by enrolling in a collision repair program. Many local community and junior colleges offer these programs. This will allow you to learn the basics about the entire industry. Everything from the body repair, structural or frame repair to painting. Most programs incorporate a basic estimating course within the auto program. This will give you a taste of the industry and determine where you fit in best at. You may decide to become a collision or paint technician instead of a person that writes auto repair estimates. Whatever you decide, this training is the first step to securing a job in the auto collision repair or estimating careers. Some insurance companies require that you have a bachelor degree, but many do not. Experience hold a lot of weight with insurance companies as well. The training is your foundation and how you build the building is up to you. What I mean is, once you have your basics down, you have many opportunities and directions to explore.
Where do I find a facility to gain the training?
The best training for your money is going to be at a junior or community college. Community colleges normally focus on smaller groups, which offers lower student per instructor ratio. This leads to a deeper level of learning. They also receive state and federal funding, which allows them to offer quality programs at a much lower cost to the student. Other training facilities include technical schools and private owned schools. Check with your local community college to see if they offer collision repair. If not, ask them if there is a nearby tech school that does. Chances are that they will know where to point you in the right direction. Once enrolled in a collision repair program, you will be on your way to a career as a person that writes auto repair estimates or many other career pathways that collision repair has to offer.
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