Careers as a Collision Estimator

When thinking about careers in the automotive service industry, many don’t think of the work that goes into repairing a car before a technician ever touches the vehicle. One of the critical roles is that of a collision estimator who is responsible for thoroughly identifying the damage to a vehicle both inside and out to help the customer and technician team ensure a full and complete repair.

What do collision estimators do on a daily basis?

• Work with customers to understand their situation and challenges
• Build and maintain strong relationships with customers and the technical team at the repair facility
• Thoroughly examine and inspect customer’s cars to outline interior, exterior, structural and mechanical issues based on post-collision condition
• Calculating the repair cost for both labor and parts on each affected item on the vehicle; and making a determination on the overall salvage value of the vehicle
• Working with customers to evaluate the most effective approach including repair or replacement to get them back on the road safely
• Effectively working with insurance companies to complete required paperwork and supporting the process to assist customers

As a collision estimator, you play an important role in returning customers to the road at a time when they can be worried, scared, or upset. The path to a career as a collision estimator includes earning an auto-specific education and helps collision estimators gain technical knowledge of car mechanics and repairs. Collision estimators also benefit from experience in other auto positions, such as service or body tech which helps provide a deep understanding of parts and the repair process.

Every day as an auto collision estimator will be different and will continue to change over time. Vehicles will evolve year-over-year and get more complex – from fuel to electronics to plastic panels – and it shows no sign of slowing down. These advances in cars change everything about how auto shops approach repairs and a career as a collision estimator puts you at the heart of the industry.

 

Auto Career Paths

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Auto Service Tech:

Diagnose, repair and perform preventative maintenance on cars and light trucks. Virtually every system on today’s vehicles is electronically controlled by computers, and auto techs use sophisticated diagnostic tools to improve engine performance and repair transmissions, steering and suspension, brake, electrical and heating and air conditioning systems. There is a high demand for well-trained technicians.

Salary: $39,600 median salary1

Education: High school diploma required. Auto-specific certificate or degree recommended.

Traits of the Best Auto Service Techs:

  • Love for hands-on work
  • Drive to take on a challenge and solve problems
  • Motivation to learn and adapt to ever-changing technology
  • Attention to detail when working on cars

Collision Tech:

Use specialized tools, materials and techniques to straighten or replace damaged body panels and structural components as well as perform related mechanical and electrical repairs, restraint system repairs and stationary glass replacement. Employees are in high demand, as accidents are common.

Salary: $43,800 median salary2

Education: High school diploma required. Auto-specific certificate or degree recommended.

Traits of the Best Collision Techs:

  • Attention to detail
  • Committed to keep up with techniques to restore modern vehicles
  • Interpersonal skills to work with the team and with customers
  • Ability to manage time efficiently and deliver repairs on time

Paint Tech:

Automotive paint technicians perform partial and complete refinishing of vehicles, applying the latest two-stage and three-stage paint technology. Create exciting custom paint jobs on new and vintage cars.

Salary: $47,760 median salary3

Education: High school diploma required. Auto-specific certificate or degree recommended.

Traits of the Best Paint Techs:

  • Steady hand and good hand-eye coordination
  • Attention to detail
  • Eye for creativity
  • Interpersonal skills to work with the team and with customers

Service Advisor:

Act as liaison between customers and auto techs to guide car repairs through the shop. Help identify cause of damage and options for repairs. Assist in ordering parts and double-checking car repairs. Deliver repaired vehicles to customers.

Salary: $38,700 median salary6

Education: High school diploma required. Auto-specific certificate or degree recommended.

Traits of the Best Service Advisors:

  • Knack for customer service, verbal and written communication
  • Ability to build trust and relationships with customers
  • Technical know-how of cars and repairs
  • Ability to manage multiple projects at once
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Collision Estimator:

Identifies required repair work and computes cost of replacement parts and labor to restore vehicle to its pre-accident condition using electronic estimating software. Explains estimate to customer and answers questions the customer has about the work needed. Works with insurance company representatives to manage claims.

Salary: $46,500 median salary4

Education: High school diploma required. Past auto experience recommended.

Traits of the Best Collision Estimators:

  • Attention to detail to ensure accuracy
  • Strong set of interpersonal communication skills
  • Customer service mindset dedicated to helping customers get back on the road
  • Ability to manage multiple projects at once

Auto Shop Owner:

Manage the day-to-day operations of an automotive repair facility, including staffing, facility/equipment, customer service, financial, marketing and other aspects of running a business. Often work in other positions within the industry before becoming an auto shop owner.

Salary: Varies based on experience and location.

Education: High school diploma required. Post-secondary education in business and/or automotive repair recommended.

Traits of the Best Auto Shop Owners:

  • Entrepreneurial and self-motivated personality
  • Ability to lead a team and solve problems
  • Go-getter attitude to tackle everyday challenges
  • Attention to detail to ensure shop is profitable and efficient

Parts Professional:

An automotive parts professional handles parts purchases by wholesale and retail customers over the phone, electronically and in person. The parts professional uses electronic catalogs to identify, source, sell and deliver the correct part needed for the job. They assist customers, manage inventory and deal with any returns or warranty issues that arise. Parts professionals work in a variety of settings, from auto parts stores and automotive recycling facilities to wholesale supply businesses and new car dealers.

Salary: $45,400 median salary5

Education: High school diploma required. Past auto experience recommended.

Traits of the Best Parts Professionals:

  • Extensive knowledge of auto repair and parts
  • Committed to customer service and communication
  • Experience in inventory management

Auto Machinist:

An automotive machinist builds, reconditions and repairs entire engines and various engine parts. A machinist operates equipment such as engine dynamometers, drills, lathes, mills and other shop hand tools. Machinists work in auto parts stores, industrial tool and die shops, or even as pit crew mechanics for NASCAR or other race circuits.

Salary: $42,1007

Education: High school diploma required. Auto-specific certificate or degree recommended.

Traits of the Best Auto Machinists:

  • Love for working with your hands
  • Drive to take on challenges and solve problems
  • Steady hand and good hand-eye coordination
  • Passion to work as a critical part of a team