The Reality of Photo-Based Estimating

When it comes to repairing your car, you want the best work you can possibly get. But let’s face it: your definition of “best” probably isn’t the same as your insurance company’s. If they’re like most, they’re less interested in quality than they are in speed – or efficiency, as they like to call it. Which can lead them to do things that are downright detrimental to the integrity of the repair process.

Case in point: photo-based estimating.

In photo-based estimating, pictures are taken of the damaged vehicle and submitted for a virtual repair quote. Seldom is the photographer a trained claims adjuster. More often it is you, the car owner, taking the pictures yourself.

While there is the benefit of not having to take your automobile in for an estimate, the positives of photo-based estimating pretty much end there. The process only captures the most obvious damage, and doesn’t measure such important details as angle of impact and energy path at all. And the more expensive the car, the more costly the unseen damage is likely to be.

Of course, that hasn’t stopped more and more insurance companies from jumping on the photo-based estimating bandwagon and using it to help them cut costs – and people. Last year, Allstate alone eliminated more than 500 claim adjusters from their payroll.

During the Collision Industry Conference in Palm Springs earlier this year, naysayers took to the mic to decry the shortcomings of photo-based estimating and claims that it increases efficiency. Several articles in the industry press back them up. According to this report in Body Shop Business, Clint Marlow, director of claims innovation for Allstate, acknowledged that the best way to gain a full scope understanding of what damage has been done is to disassemble the vehicle – not just take a picture. And this piece in Autobody News points out that while a photo estimate may be effective to get the ball rolling, it should by no means be seen as an end-all, be-all solution.

The bottom line is this. A picture may be worth a thousand words, but it can’t compare with a hands-on expert inspection of a damaged vehicle. If you’re like most GCAB customers, you’ve made a very significant investment in your car. If it has to be repaired, you want it done right.