The Independent Truth Behind an Independent Appraiser or Claims Adjuster Salary
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Earning a living, making the cash, bringing home the bacon, and making it rain are all different ways to say, "making money." It's why we do what we do or why we are interested in doing something different.
People want to know before they get involved in a new career, job, or even helping out a buddy, "what will I get paid?"
In this post I'm going to walk you through the “independent truth about the pay of an auto damage appraiser and independent auto claims adjuster.”
AVG per year of a Claims Adjuster $63,000
The average per year is in the ballpark of sixty-three thousand dollars a year, which is a good income for most adjusters, but this is the average and not where you will start out.
Also. the big thing to realize about being an independent adjuster or auto damage appraiser is that you own your own business. To many adjusters this may be a realization, but it is an essential realization to have. You, as an IA, are a freelancer, and you are payed in the same manner as a freelancer, per piece. There is no salary and no guarantees.
Pay Type – Per File (or per piece)
There are exceptions, such as catastrophic per day pay, but for the most part we are paid on a per file basis. Just like a graphic designer is paid on a per piece or per project basis, independent adjusters and appraisers are paid the same way.
Pay Amount - $20-$80 per file
Currently, the per file basis is on a scale and starts at $20, for photo’s only working for companies like WeGoLook, and goes to $80 working for high end independent auto damage appraiser companies like, IA Net. The responsibilities and expectation raise with the pay. Starting out you can expect to make $20-$60 per file, depending on whether you are completing the industry standard estimate, or just taking photos.
What You Are Getting Paid For
The major tasks you must complete to get paid on a file are,
· Setting an Appointment with an Owner of a Vehicle
· Inspecting the Damage Vehicle
o Driving to the Owners Chosen Location
o Documenting Damage with Photos (get the Guidelines for Required Photos HERE)
o Documenting Damage with Notes
· Create an Industry Standard Estimate using Audatex, CCC One, or Mitchell Software
· Upload Estimate, Photos, Notes, and Estimate Data to Company Portal
· Complete Any Revisions or Supplements that May Arise
Supplements are a request from a repair facility for supplemental or additional repair operations and parts that were not included on the first estimate. As an auto damage appraiser you must reconcile these supplement requests and complete a second upload.
Under most circumstances you are not paid for supplements and there are times you must re-inspect a vehicle a second time once it goes to a repair facility due to questionable damages without getting paid.
Delay in Pay
One of the least likeable things about being an IA, is the delay in pay. What you complete in a month, is then typically paid to you on the 15th of the next month. I’ve had worse pay schedules, but that now seems to be the normal pay cycle.
That’s 45 days from first claim to getting paid. If you are working full time during those 45 days it can be a lot of expenses you may need to compensate for.
Some IA companies shorten the pay cycle, but this is the typical pay period. Just be aware that is how this operates.
Pay Hasn’t Changed in Decades
Another bummer is that this industry pay is stagnant. As inflation has skyrocketed in the past 20 or so years, the pay per file and per year has barely risen for the IA, in fact its slid backwards.
The industry pay hasn’t climbed, but the expectations of the tasks that must be completed has gradually risen. With technological changes in the industry, the price will seemingly continue to go down and the skill needed to complete a claim will be easily acquired.
This is a negative and a positive. The big negative is the industry HAS NOT admitted that they need to adjust their expectations. What was once a highly skilled career is now an entry level position.
These factors are chasing out the skilled appraiser’s due to frustration of higher expectations, less pay, more technology, and for some age.
This is a positive for a newcomer, if the industry comes to accept that this is an entry level position (based on the pay) and therefore should be entry level expectations with minimal experience requirements.
The opportunities are immediate and HUGE for newcomers to the scene who can quickly adapt and survive in a changing insurance environment. But the obstacles sometimes feel equally as huge to people who have not acquired any experience.
Is It Worth It? My Numbers and Experience
I have done many different things in auto damage appraising and adjuster, but at the peak of my local claims career I earned over $80,000 doing local claims only.
This was me busting it 5 (possibly 6 days a week) and putting 80,000 miles on vehicle that year. My taxable “income” was less than $40,000 thanks to the mileage and other deductions.
I earned a solid living, running my own appraisal company, fed my family. Was it worth it? I believe it was.
I believe the average income of $60,000 is the right mark, can you get rich by doing local, daily claims? NOPE. Can you have a job and earn a living while enjoying life? YUP.
Obviously, you can do things to increase your income as you get experience, catastrophic adjusting, heavy equipment, property etc. but you can earn $60,000 within a few years of starting your career as an auto damage appraiser.
How I see it, it’s quicker and cheaper than taking four years of college and hoping to find a job. It’s not guaranteed, but it just might be worth for you if it’s something you want to pursue.
That’s my independent truth behind the pay of an auto damage appraiser.
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