What Auto Repair Estimates Are and What They Are Not – The Basics of Auto Estimating

What Is An Estimate

Auto Repair Estimates may be called different things including, damage report, or several other names, but they are all the basically the same thing. However, it is more than just a sheet of paper listing the total cost of repair on it. It is a contract or an agreement between two people. Just like with real estate, the owner and buyer must agree on a price and sign a contract of their agreement. A damage estimate is the same way in many ways, as there should be an agreement between the shop and customer and the customer should sign the agreement to authorize the shop to repair the vehicle.

One thing that you need to explain to the customer, which is misunderstood many times, is that the total amount is just an estimate. They do not guarantee the exact amount of the completed invoice. There may be hidden damage or many other factors that may change before the car is complete. As an estimator, it’s your job to have excellent communications with the customer. You need to let them know that an estimate is subject to hidden damage. You must also understand that the estimate or signed agreement is only good for items that are written on the repair sheet. If any additional work is needed, you will need to contact the customer and agree on the new amount. This is called a supplement, which may include additional parts or labor as needed.

We used to write all auto repair estimates by hand using Mitchell Estimate Guides. This involved writing all the damage on a sheet and looking in the guide to get all the parts prices, and labor needed to appraise the job. Computer generated sheets have simplified and taken over the hand written estimates, but when learning how to estimate, I believe it is crucial to learn all the basics first, which requires estimating guides, a blank estimate and a pen. Learning to hand write estimates is the foundation to becoming an effective estimator. Just like every house or building must have a strong foundation, an estimator must master the basics first.

Most guides and computer systems are set up with the same sequence. Starting with the front bumper cover and ending with the back bumper. This is important to know as you want to write the estimate in the same order to write a clean sheet. For example, if you are writing an estimate on a car that has damage in the front end, start with the front bumper and move towards the back of the car one part at a time. Bumper cover, front grille, right front fender, etc. Now when you use the guide it will be easy to follow along adding the prices and labor times.

Every shop will need someone to write estimates for the customers. Some shops may have more than one estimator. Insurance needs the assistance of estimators as well. When you work for an insurance company writing auto repair estimates your title may be auto estimator or auto appraiser.