How to Assess Auto Damage

by Sam N. Austin

When your car has been damaged in an accident you will want to know the extent of the damage and the cost of returning your car to its pre-accident state. Automotive repair shops, automotive body shops, insurance claims adjusters and others can offer you their estimates. However, you can use standard appraisal practices as a guide to assess auto damage yourself. With this information you will be equipped to evaluate information that other professionals give you and be aware of inadequate or faulty repair procedures.

Document your car's identity. Write down your car's VIN, usually located inside the driver's door frame with the door open or at the bottom of the windshield directly in front of the driver. Note your car's make and model, which are the manufacturer's name and car type, respectively, such as Toyota and Camry. Note the the model year and body style, such as coupe, sedan or wagon.

Document your car's condition. Write a description of and take pictures of the point of damage. Take pictures from more than one point of view, such a straight-on view and a view from slightly above if possible.

Create an actions list. Actions are corrective services that will need to be done such as "repaint trunk lid." The specific actions will vary depending on the type of damage. For example, if there is damage to a wheel, your car might need brake service, wheel alignment and tire balancing.

Create a parts list for parts you want to replace rather than repair. Most professional assessors will favor repair over replacement and recycled/after-market parts over manufacturers' original parts. Include parts that may have been indirectly affected by damage. For example, if there has been damage to an external panel where you car's radio antenna is located, the antenna itself may need to be replaced along with the panel.

Write down all other non-repair costs that you may incur in the repair process, such as the costs of vehicle storage and towing.

Items you will need

About the Author

Sam N. Austin began writing professionally in 1990, and has held executive and creative positions at Microsoft, Dell and numerous advertising agencies. Austin writes on health and well-being as well as linguistics and international travel, business, management and emerging technologies. He holds a Bachelor of Arts in French from the University of Texas where he is a Master of Arts candidate in Romance linguistics.