What Does a Collision Estimator Do?

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  • Written By: Lori Kilchermann
  • Edited By: Lauren Fritsky
  • Last Modified Date: 02 December 2019
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A collision estimator is a person who calculates the cost to repair or replace a vehicle part, component or entire vehicle. Collision estimator jobs are typically found with insurance companies, body shops and automobile dealerships. Knowledge of vehicles and the methods of repairing them is critical for anyone wishing to become a collision estimator. This is due, in part, to the necessity of often replacing several related parts when a single part needs to be replaced or is damaged.

When a vehicle is damaged from an accident, fire or natural disaster, a collision estimator is typically the person who determines the extent of the damage. The estimator will usually decide if the vehicle requires repair or replacement related to the damages incurred. Several methods and utilities will be used in making this determination, including a bank loan value book, reports of local vehicle sales for comparable vehicle models and repair cost estimates from local repair shops. The cost of repair is typically compared to replacement cost of a typical vehicle to determine the amount of repair that will be authorized for a particular incident by an insurance agency estimator.


Generally, a collision estimator employed by a dealership will be tasked with arriving at a cost estimate for repairing a damaged vehicle. The estimate is often given to a member of the sales staff and weighed against the purchase of a new vehicle. This is a very effective sales tool for many auto dealerships since the amount of the trade-in is commonly the same if the repair is completed or not. The customer is typically given the impression that the trade-in value is much greater than it should be, so the option of purchasing a new vehicle is a very appealing option. It is also a common practice for many dealerships to reduce the cost of the repair slightly when a new vehicle sale is not in the future in order to make certain the repair is completed through the dealership's collision center.

Many collision estimator jobs include a training period that involves the new employee traveling to an estimator school. This makes certain that the collision estimator is trained in all of the necessary procedures that are involved with the various types of required repairs. Frame and chassis collision repair, body panel and interior component repair training are all components of the estimator course. The estimator is typically trained on both foreign and domestic vehicle repair to allow the estimator to work in any type of collision estimation business.


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