Documenting Collision Teardown Estimates

In collision repairs, a teardown estimate usually requires the disassembly of a collision-damaged vehicle to a point where the automotive repair dealer (ARD) can identify the extent of the damage and generate an itemized estimate for restoring the vehicle to its pre-loss condition. The ARD is required to inform their customer that the teardown might prevent the restoration of the vehicle to the condition in which it was presented to the ARD. When estimating a collision-damaged vehicle with a high potential for hidden damage that cannot be seen by visual inspection alone, using a teardown estimate can be beneficial for the ARD, the customer, and the insurer. Those benefits include:

  • A significant reduction in supplemental estimate revisions, resulting in faster repair times.

  • Providing consumers with a more realistic timeframe for the repair process.

  • Avoiding a vehicle being deemed a total loss after performing extensive collision repairs due to later discovery of hidden damage.

A teardown estimate, as defined in Title 16, California Code of Regulations (CCR) section 3353(c), is a written estimate that is required before disassembling a vehicle or vehicle component for the purpose of identifying the necessary repairs. A teardown estimate must contain the same information that is required in a standard estimate, plus the following:

  • The cost of reassembling the vehicle or component. CCR § 3353(c)(1)(A)

  • The cost of all parts and labor necessary to replace items that are normally destroyed by teardown of the vehicle or component, such as gaskets, seals, and O-rings. CCR § 3353(c)(1)(B)

  • Notification that the act of teardown might prevent the restoration of the vehicle or component to the condition in which it was provided by the customer, if applicable. CCR § 3353(c)(1)(C)

  • The maximum time it will take to reassemble the vehicle or component in the event the customer does not want to proceed with the repairs. CCR § 3353(c)(1)(D)

If an insurance company is involved in a collision repair transaction, it is important for the ARD to remember that the customer, not the insurance company, is the party responsible for authorizing repairs, including authorization of a teardown. (Business and Professions Code section 9880.1(f)). Keeping the customer informed throughout the entire estimating, teardown, and repair process is essential.

By performing a teardown and providing a detailed estimate, obtaining the customer’s authorization to perform the repairs, providing a realistic timeframe for repairs, and keeping open and consistent communication, an ARD can help avoid consumer complaints.

A summary of the requirements for estimates, authorizations, and invoicing can be found in BAR’s Write It Right guide or by referencing Title 16, California Code of Regulations sections 3352-3359. ARDs who want to ensure that they and their employees understand automotive repair laws and regulations can also contact their local BAR field office to schedule a Write It Right presentation.

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