The changing face of estimates 

December 11, 2023

Vehicle complexity means detailed repair plans are a must in today’s collision shop environment. 

We have seen a huge amount of change in the collision repair space over the last two decades. From how vehicles are designed and engineered, to the materials used in their construction, to how repair procedures are performed. This has also required a major rethink in how collision centres handle processes, from the First Notice of Loss to the time the vehicle is delivered back to the customer. 

Understanding the intricacies of modern vehicles 

A key part to ensuring a successful repair today lies with the estimate. Constantly increasing vehicle complexity means that a traditional estimate written from outside the vehicle is essentially a waste of time today. Instead, vehicles need to be disassembled and measured. Advanced driver assistance systems (ADAS) need to be identified and original equipment (OE) repair procedures must be carefully studied and understood before a collision centre can develop an accurate repair plan—this also includes ADAS on-board and system recalibration requirements. 

If the extent of the damage to the vehicle is not completely discovered and understood prior to the vehicle entering the production phase of the repair, problems and inefficiencies will quickly arise. Because modern repair plans are more detailed and time consuming than traditional estimates, there needs to be proper staffing and training to ensure these plans are successfully executed. Staffing levels have had to increase significantly to manage this process properly, yet many collision centres are still not recovering from these additional costs and simply cannot afford to absorb them due to shrinking repair margins. 

Additionally, there has been a widening gap regarding the skills required for being an estimator versus a collision repair technician. In the past, it was common for technicians to take on the estimator role. Today, however, since there is a large learning curve for new hires, the pressure of fast estimate turnaround times, and of course, and increasing vehicle complexity, shops need to specifically hire people for the estimating role and train them accordingly.  

Clear and concise communication 

In order to manage costs and ensure profitable repairs in this brave new environment, there needs to be clear and concise communication. To date, our industry as a whole has not done a great job at communicating the challenges we face to those that provide us the work (insurers). That is why it is important for them to properly understand the concept of modern repair planning, including the amount of time, effort, and resources it takes to perform the repair correctly. 

In the grand scheme of things, repair planning is now a separate department within shop operations, much like refinishing and body repairs. This means that collision centres deserve proper ROI for it due to the direct costs resulting from the required access to repair data and software, as well as the need for continual training. 

The dates of the “estimate” are rapidly coming to a close and shops—and the industry as a whole—can simply no longer afford to offer free or quick “estimates” when scheduling repairs on late-model vehicles. 

To learn more about modern vehicles, and what to keep in mind when providing customers with estimates, consult the I-CAR catalogue and sign up for a course. 


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