Should I Become an Auto Appraiser?
Auto appraisers are typically hired by insurance companies to inspect vehicles damaged in accidents. They often travel to the site of the vehicle, take pictures of any observable damage, and assess how much the insurance company should pay for repair costs. The job also entails negotiating parts and repair costs with shops and suppliers, as well as negotiating settlements with claimants. Many hours might be spent in noisy auto repair shops. Appraisers must keep-up-to-date on changing auto repair techniques, polices and claims laws.The following table describes career qualifications for auto appraisers:
|Degree Level||High school diploma or GED, although some employers prefer formal training and a college degree|
|Degree Field||Auto body repair|
|Licensure and/or Certification||Adjuster's or appraiser's license and valid driver's license often required; auto repair certification often preferred; requirements vary by state|
|Key Skills||Analytical ability, verbal and written communication, interpersonal and customer service, mathematics ability, knowledge of word processing, spreadsheets and appraisal software, auto body and mechanical knowledge, familiarity with digital camera operation, willingness to travel locally|
|Salary||$63,420 per year (Median salary from May, 2014 for auto damage/insurance appraisers)|
Sources: Online job postings (October 2012), U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics
Step 1: Earn a Degree or Certificate
Since auto appraisers must inspect damaged vehicles and assess repair costs, employers often prefer formal training or knowledge of auto body repair. Aspiring appraisers may earn a technical certificate or an associate's degree in auto body repair technology at a vocational school or community college.
The hands-on learning techniques used by many schools and colleges equip students with working knowledge of auto body repair using current methods and practices and train students in diagnosing automotive problems. Understanding the design of the automobile and metalworking, glass installation, painting and frame alignment used in auto construction is essential. Schools and colleges often follow industry standard training and certification programs such as I-CAR, National Institute for Automotive Service Excellence (ASE) and the National Automotive Technicians Education Foundation (NATEF).
- Learn basic computer skills. An auto appraiser should have knowledge of computers and software for job requirements such as record keeping and communications. Since appraisers often travel to client sites, employers will issue laptop computers for mobile work needs. Necessary skills include Microsoft Office programs, especially Word and Excel, and the ability to use appraisal software.
Step 2: Become Professionally Licensed
Licensing requirements for auto appraisers are state-variant. Some states require pre-licensing education or experience, while other states require the individual to pass a licensing exam. A fee is often required when the license is first issued and upon renewal. States requiring a license to work as an auto appraiser may also require yearly education credits towards license renewal.
- Maintain a clean driving record. A driver's license and a clean driving record are required as a condition of employment since many auto appraisers must travel to the site of an automobile accident or to automotive body shops. Some agencies also issue company vehicles for appraisers to travel to client sites.
Step 3: Decide to Work Independently or with a Firm
The auto appraiser may choose to work exclusively with one insurance firm or independently as a 1099 independent contractor. Those who choose to work as an independent contractor may work with multiple insurance agencies.
- Maintain familiarity with changing laws and policies. After acquiring a license if one is required, auto appraisers must remain up-to-date on new and changing state and federal laws and how courts handle insurance claims. Many companies hold seminars ensuring their employees' familiarity with new policies and laws. Appraisers may also obtain continuing education through the National Automotive Technicians Education Foundation's Continuing Automotive Service Education (CASE) program. Taking advantage of continuing education programs may increase job opportunities and enhance career advancement.