Estimating is best defined by the actual root of the word: estimate. No matter what any expert tells me, estimating isn’t an exact science. In fact, if it was an exact science it would be called a repair bill, not an “estimate.”
Look at the cartoon with this article and tell me which one of the estimators is right. If you said, “All of them,” or “None of them,” you would be today’s lucky winner of a Popeil Pasta Maker. (Note to self: Add Pasta Maker to this year’s Christmas wish list.)
I hope this doesn’t insult anyone who makes their living writing estimates. My intent is to illustrate that any one of them could be right. The monkey was willing to do it for three bananas; does that make him wrong?
To nobody’s surprise and to the delight of stockholders everywhere, the insurance company wrote the lowest estimate. If I were put on the stand, I could defend this estimate. It is a visual damage estimate without any tear-down. Does it make the insurance company wrong if there is additional damage behind some of those parts? That’s why it’s called an “estimate,” complete with a disclaimer at the bottom.
I know that this article will result in some hate mail, but the fact is that it’s not an exact science and it’s wrong to say “the damage is the damage.” If that was the case, why does it cost more to have vehicles fixed at one shop compared to another one that’s a block away with the same labor rate? It is subject to opinion, experience, tear-down and a hundred other factors including whether or not it was raining out or 20 degrees below zero at the time of the estimate.
By the way, those “other factors” apply to both repairers and insurers. I’m sure estimate accuracy at 4:45 p.m. on a Friday compared to 11 a.m. on Tuesday is worthy of another article on Insurance Company Estimating 101.
Here’s a good recipe to produce an accurate, consistent estimate. It should include a visual inspection, a lift, tear-down, a thorough washing of the exterior of the vehicle, ample time, 3-dimensional measuring equipment, a preliminary pull if needed, updated estimating software, a live competitive parts database, an experienced flexible estimator, use of best-case repair scenarios, 75 degree sunny weather with no clouds, and of course 20/20 vision.
If you were to have all of those things, you are guaranteed to get an estimate that gets you closer than the guess-estimate. So please stop using the term, “The damage is the damage.” If that was the case, don’t you think that Ron Popeil would have already simplified our estimating lives?