These pictures were taken by one of our estimators of rear-end damage to this vehicle. Our estimate included replacement of the rear bumper cover and replacement of the broken tail light. The customer’s insurance company requested that they use the insurance agency's estimating app that requires them to upload photo’s of the damage. A desk appraiser writes an estimate from what they can see in the photos and usually issues payment to the customer with the estimate. The customer did as requested, and sent photos through the app. The insurance estimate came back with 3 hours to repair the bumper cover (this tear would require replacement) and nothing for the taillight (clearly broken).
Now, don’t panic over the shortage! When the car comes in for repairs, the insurer will pay for any additional work that needs to be done to make it right. As a body shop, we have several concerns with photo app estimating.
1) The biggest problem with these apps only want to write up an estimate based on the damage that is visible through the photo. This reliance on untrained eyes when documenting damage can cause problems with finishing the project in a timely manner. We photo document damage every day, so we are adept at illustrating damage. We also have a good eye for potentially dangerous damage that can render the vehicle unsafe. It may not always be visible in photos or noticeable to the untrained eye.
2) While the insurer will pay additional for supplements once the vehicle is in the shop for repairs, they typically won’t pay any more if you don’t get it repaired. So in many instances, you may be short paid a considerable amount of money.
3) The estimate is a blueprint for the repair. If we get a lousy blueprint to order parts for, it can cause delays to the repair process. This effects you by adding to the time you are without your car.
We don’t see photo app estimating going away any time soon in our society of convenience. Our advice is if you are going to use these services, have your body shop look at the vehicle first to make sure it is safe to drive, then ask them to help with your photos to make sure they can see all of the damage in the pictures. Once you get the estimate back, schedule your repairs with the shop and make sure you give them a copy of the estimate. Always share the estimate with the shop even if it is more than what the shop may have written. The only way for the shop to bill additional for damage is if they know what the insurance company has already paid for.