Damage Appraisal 101

Damage Appraiser - Auto

At the risk of stating the obvious, car accidents are never fun. Even when nobody is physically injured, there is often property damage to contend with. This is a headache, and not only for the drivers involved. Hopefully, the vehicle owner has insurance that will handle the cost of repairs, but there is still the matter of timing; the vehicle owner wants that claim to be resolved as expediently as possible. The insurance company, meanwhile, wants to do everything it can to keep customers happy, but there’s also a need to keep costs down—to ensure that the repair work is done for a reasonable price.

What Do Damage Appraisers Do?

The role of the material damage appraisal industry is to serve the needs of the vehicle owner and the insurance company alike. Essentially, an appraisal is done to get a fair sense of the scope of the damage, and of the cost of repairs. A skilled appraiser can help the insurance company save money while also turning around the claim as promptly as possible—and that’s something that benefits the customer.

The way the process works is pretty straightforward: When a vehicle owner is involved in an accident, or their vehicle receives damage some other way, he or she files a claim with the insurance company. The insurance company then contacts a damage appraiser—like the ones here at TTA Appraisal—to check out the vehicle and evaluate the damage, providing them with a baseline sense of what the repair work should involve. The insurance company can then use that appraisal information to contract a reputable repair service and get the vehicle back up and running quickly.

A Case Study

Allow us to offer a quick example of what we’re talking about—what an actual auto damage appraisal case might look like. Say a Toyota Camry is involved in an accident, and a local body shop quotes the owner $5,500 to get it repaired. The insurance company is willing to have the repairs made, but wants to have it done at a price that’s reasonable; therefore, an appraiser is sent to the scene to examine the damage, and the appraiser says that the scope of repairs should actually be somewhere more in the $3,500 range.

The appraiser has just saved the insurance company $2,000—no small thing. And that helps the customer, too, because it allows the insurer to keep premiums down. Also, when an appraiser works quickly, and provides a prompt evaluation, it allows the insurance company to move forward in having the repairs done—meaning the vehicle owner is back on the road in as little time as possible.

Damage Appraisal Values

Damage Appraiser Taking Photo of Auto DamageWe’ve touched on a couple of the key values that come into play with material damage appraisal, but they’re worth highlighting in greater detail here. First, a material damage appraiser is expected to provide a quality service. A good appraiser is well-trained and certified in inspecting vehicles and getting an accurate sense of how much repairs should cost; often, an appraiser will specialize in a particular type of vehicle—small cars, agricultural equipment, heavy construction equipment, tractor trailers, trains, boats, even light aircraft. This specialized knowledge allows the appraiser to render a truly precise quote for the damage.

Timeliness is also key—and in many ways, it’s what separates the mediocre damage appraisal companies from the really good ones. The term used within the industry is cycle time—that is, the amount of time it takes for the insurer to contact the appraiser, the appraiser to do the inspection, and the findings to be handed over to the insurance company. Maintaining low cycle times allows insurers to move quickly and not keep their clients waiting any longer than is necessary.

Field vs. Remote Inspections

Here’s something else to consider. Traditionally, appraisals have always required field inspections. That is, an appraiser will actually be dispatched to view the vehicle damage in person before offering an assessment. Field inspections are still pretty standard, and of course there’s nothing wrong with that—though companies like TTA Appraisal are innovating new ways to do inspections remotely, which helps keep those cycle times as low as possible.

Specifically, apps can be used to conduct appraisals remotely. Using either photos or videos, or in some cases live streaming technologies, vehicle owners can sometimes communicate with an appraiser directly, allowing the evaluation to be made without a field inspection being necessary. TTA Appraisal is very much at the forefront of this technology.

Damage Appraisal Spans All Types of Property

Fire Property Damage

It’s worth noting that damage appraisal services are needed for all kinds of property damage—or at least, any property that’s covered by insurance. This encompasses all kinds of vehicles, both privately and commercially owned.

Damage appraisal also encompasses real estate, though. When a home or a commercial building is damaged by fire, flood, hurricane, hail, or any other natural disaster, the same basic principles apply: Insurance companies want to know exactly how much repairs will cost, and therefore a skilled appraiser is dispatched to offer what is hopefully a quick and accurate estimate.

Becoming a Damage Appraiser

Accidents can happen anywhere and everywhere, of course, which means there is always a need for new damage appraisal specialists, all over the country. TTA Appraisal boasts a nationwide network of skilled appraisers and is always on the lookout for new hires, who we can dispatch from our centralized office to address client needs wherever they happen to be. Becoming an appraiser requires formal training and certification, but the work itself is varied and rewarding.

For anyone interested in joining the field of auto appraisers, here are those requirements in greater detail:

  • Most companies will require either an Associate’s degree or a Bachelor’s degree in the field of auto body repair. These degrees are offered at many community schools, as well as vocational schools. Receipt of such a degree confirms technical understanding of all the different things that a vehicle damage appraiser needs to know—about painting, glasswork, frame alignment, metalworking, and beyond.
  • Professional licensure is also required, and can vary from one state to the next; some states will require you to take a class, while others will simply insist on you completing an examination.
  • Additionally, note that some states will require continuing education credits to be pursued on an annual basis.

Once you obtain the necessary credentials, you’ll find that the work of the damage appraiser calls for a diverse skillset; day-to-day activities may include any or all of the following:

  • Investigating, evaluating, and settling insurance claims;
  • Deciding whether insurance policies cover the damage in question;
  • Determining the fair amount for the insurance company to pay;
  • Ensuring the validity of all claims filed;
  • Negotiating settlements or authorizing payments as needed.

Insurance Appraiser Salary – How Much Do Damage Appraisers Make?

According to payscale.com, the average auto damage insurance appraisers in the U.S. make roughly $55,000 a year. Entry level damage appraisers can typically expect a healthy starting pay of $49,000, while those who work in the industry for 20+ years will make an average of $62,000. As you can see in the numbers, while experience in performing damage appraisal services does not necessarily equate to a vast increase in pay over time, statistics indicate career jumps within the industry that do. For example, many experienced damage appraisers may find an opportunity as a body shop manager where annual pay can be as high as in the $90,000+ range. These numbers will vary, just as the demand and competition will from state to state. We recommend you search damage appraiser salary data as in pertains to your exact location via Payscale.com.

Learn More About Damage Appraisal

That’s material damage appraisal at a glance—and if you have any more questions about the industry or about TTA’s place within it, we’re happy to address them. Contact TTA Appraisal at your next convenience and we’ll do everything we can to assist you.