It’s been said that, “the best things in life are free”… Auto damage repair estimates are not one of them.

Keep in mind, the market is VERY competitive meaning that the shop estimator/appraiser definitely wants to get your business. Free estimates are usually for customers who agree to have their vehicle repaired at the facility that does the estimating. Usually, the estimate is “free” when it is deducted from the final invoice.

Why do professional shops charge for writing up an estimate? You could ask the insurance companies why they pay their damage appraisers. The answer? They are paid to write up damage estimates.

First, a thorough inspection of the damage must be done. Sometimes measurements have to be taken and external parts have to be removed in order to see if there is internal damage. This is known as a “Tear Down”.    Additionally, while most professional shops use estimating software to improve efficiency and consistency within the market as well as accuracy,  such software programs can cost thousands of dollars.

Second, itemizing labor and every single part and materials to be used, down to the $ 0.10 plastic inserts, clips, fasteners, adhesives, etc, etc, etc, takes time. And there are lots of items. Accuracy and details are important because nobody likes to get a price and then, once work starts on your vehicle, the shop tells you “We discovered more damage” or “it needs more parts than we estimated”. Immediately, the customer may feel they are being taken advantage of.  So, the more accurate the estimate, the better everyone feels about the up-front price. Accuracy takes time. Keep in mind, that as detailed as an estimator may be, he still may not catch every detail. But if he is an experienced and skilled professional, these unseen items can be kept to a minimum.

Third. Making sure the parts are available and if so, where? How long does it take to acquire them? Then, how much for freight or delivery if necessary. This can take hours to complete. While some parts are common, quite often, parts have to be located.

Finally, most shops, estimators/appraisers, purchase and use software that regularly updates what the current market price is for collision repairs. This helps maintain consistency in the market.  But the software can cost thousands of dollars. In addition, repair facilities have an hourly labor rate. Writing an estimate can take hours if there is extensive damage.  So, if a shop charges $40.00 per hour for labor, and they factor in the cost of estimating software, the time spent on data entry, communicating with the customer, printing out a written appraisal/estimate, you can see why they would charge for appraising the damage on your vehicle. But remember, if you decide to let the shop repair your vehicle, the cost of the estimate is usually credited on the repair invoice.

While there are still some shops who offer “free estimates”, many times it is better to pay for an accurate estimate which will provide greater insight into the scope of work and extent of damage. Remember, the cheaper price, “FREE”,  may not always be the most economical choice if you value your time.

Comments are closed.


Like & Follow