The Accuracy of Collision Photo Estimates

After you’ve been in a collision that requires auto body repair, one of your first tasks will be to schedule an estimate with the insurance company. Usually, the adjuster will come out to your location (home, work, school, etc.) to see the damage in person, take notes and shoot some photos. Sometimes insurance adjusters will tell you to send them photos that they can review remotely, and give you an estimate based on photos alone.

While this may be more convenient for both parties, it’s not always the most accurate way to go. In fact, photo estimates for collision repair insurance claims can leave you as the driver at a big disadvantage. Not only could you be left to drive an unsafe vehicle, you could get saddled with steep out-of-pocket expenses. After any kind of accident that compromises the body work on your car, you should always get it looked at in person by a qualified mechanic who can confirm it’s safe to drive.

Photo Estimate, Defined

Many of the big auto insurance companies give their policy holders the option to obtain a fast estimate for damage by allowing them to take photos and video on their phones and upload them on the company’s app. Sounds great, right? Saves you time, right? Well, maybe, but in the end, it could be doing you more harm than good.

It’s not a good idea to bypass a physical inspection of the damage by your mechanic. In addition to potentially driving an unsafe vehicle, you could find yourself with a check from the insurance company that comes nowhere close to covering the full cost of all the repairs. This means you have to come up with the difference.

In many cases, if you use the photo upload feature, you forfeit your right to choose your own inspector and mechanic.

Are Photo Estimates Accurate?

In many cases, no. Damage to your car could be far worse than you can see with the naked eye.  Plus, you may not know the best angles to take photos from, compromising the ability of the adjuster receiving the photos to notice the real damage. An inspector who comes out to take their own photos will know what to look for and will know the best pictures to take.

Because vehicle damage can be much worse on the inside than it looks on the outside, the only way to ensure your safety is to bring your car to a trusted auto body shop for an in-person inspection. You may see a minor dent and think nothing of it. But your mechanic may find unseen damage underneath that could compromise adjacent areas. Don’t skip this step, as you could be putting yourself and passengers at risk.

On one hand, it’s good that insurance companies are trying to make the claims process easier and quicker for their customers. However, if an inaccurate estimate is the result, the process is flawed and it’s just not worth the convenience. Lacking a professional inspection, photos alone can’t provide a high level of accuracy when it comes to assessing the totality of vehicle damage.

When a Car Insurance Estimate is Wrong: What Do You Do?

If you find that your insurance estimate is too low because you got a higher one from an actual mechanic to fix the damage, you do have some recourse. You could file a supplemental claim so you can get reimbursed for your out of pocket costs; however, you will still be responsible for paying the difference up-front. That means you have to come up with the cash (cash you may not have at the moment) to pay the mechanic so you can start driving again.

All is not lost if you have already used your insurance company’s photo estimate feature to get reimbursed for auto damage. Provided your insurance company agrees to cover the extra repair costs, you can get the money back.

Notify your insurance company that you wish to submit a supplemental claim. Do this in writing or by certified mail. Ask your provider what information you have to provide so that the process can be quicker. Keep all paperwork and receipts from repairs on you, and make copies.

Just be aware that sometimes, issues related to a collision don’t reveal themselves until weeks after the initial accident and repairs. If you can prove the newly-revealed damages stemmed from the original accident, your insurance company may pay out a supplemental claim.

In Conclusion

It can be a hassle to have to submit a supplemental claim weeks later, as you’re probably tired of dealing with the insurance company by now. But this extra effort is worth your time to get cash back. In the end, it’s all about the time you’re willing to put in to the process. We highly recommended relying on photo-only estimates, and recommend instead that you take your car into our mechanic shop for an accurate idea of repair costs. This is the only way you can legitimately know how much it’s all going to end up costing you.

We have quick, convenient appointments, and are always upfront with you about how long the repair will take. Come in and speak with one of our technicians today!

Contact Hance’s Uptown Collision Center

As you know, Hance’s Uptown Collision Center specializes in collision repair. If you have been in an accident that requires this service, don’t hesitate to give us a ring. Our team would be happy to get your car looked at it, give you an estimate and timeline, and schedule you for service. To book your collision repair appointment, contact us in Dallas or Plano. We have a seven-step collision repair process designed to make the whole process easier on us.


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