Making a responsible decision to become an insurance adjuster, particularly an independent insurance adjuster, means knowing what equipment, gear, or “stuff” an adjuster should have in the field. Because independent insurance adjusters operate as independent contractors, they are frequently required to supply their own adjusting equipment. In general, there are 8 things that every independent adjuster should plan to have in the field. These items are not merely luxuries, but more like necessities, without which the job becomes difficult if not altogether impossible.
Here are the 8 Must-Haves:
Must-Have #1: A Vehicle.
This is a bit of a no-brainer. The real question is what kind of vehicle an independent adjuster should drive. Some folks are under the impression that a claim cannot be properly handled unless you first arrive in an F-350 Turbo Diesel Dually. Certainly there are benefits to having a powerful truck in the field but in this author’s opinion the better vehicle alternative is probably a smaller gas-efficient car. With foldable and telescoping ladders available everywhere, you can stow your ladder away neatly in any average-size sedan or coupe’s trunk. Independent adjusters might drive a hundred or more miles daily so the issue of fuel economy should not be taken lightly. Further, negotiating your way through a heavily-trafficked street in Miami or New Orleans is far easier in a nimble Accord than in a blocky Hummer. And finally, in some areas, adjusters may just as soon not draw attention to themselves. Pulling into a high crime neighborhood in a $50,000 automobile wouldn’t make me feel altogether easy. For my money, I’d prefer to just pass under the radar in an ’01 Camry. Obviously the question is finally resolved by what kind of vehicle you are comfortable with. But keep in mind that the job can be done just as efficiently in a small coupe as a full-sized pickup.
Must-Have #2: Navigation Device
A good GPS system might be the single best investment an independent adjuster can make. Independent adjusters, especially when working catastrophic claims, might scope four to six properties in a day. These properties may be spread out over a surprisingly wide geographical area. Using a traditional paper map is laughable when compared to the amazing speed and accuracy of a dash mounted GPS system. In fact, I would estimate a GPS system saves an adjuster at least of an hour a day in missed turns and forced stops to consult the Rand McNally. Project this over a month and you have a good 30 hours, or over an entire day, of time saved. That’s an extra four or five claims closed per month. In some cases I would estimate that a GPS system can increase an adjuster’s efficiency by as many as 10 claims per month. Cat adjusters are paid per claim, so that’s an extra $2,000 to $5,000 in pocket per month. And finally, the frustration alone that a GPS prevents is worth the price tag.
A dash mounted GPS is a good option. Most models have more features than you will ever use so keep it basic and don’t bother with anything over $700. A far lower priced option and one that is still absolutely packed with features is a program like Microsoft Streets and Trips. This $100 program is meant to be installed on your laptop and comes with a GPS device that connects to your computer via a standard USB plug-in. Streets and Trips allows you to take 10 destinations, find your current location, and calculate the quickest way to visit all 10. This is an excellent feature when planning your day’s claim route.
Must-Have #3: Laptop Computer
The days of hand-writing claims are essentially over. Electronic preparation and delivery of estimates is now standard and a laptop computer is the technology for the task. Xactimate and MSB IntegriClaim are the most commonly employed estimating programs and have minimum system requirements. Count on having a laptop with at least a 1 GHz processor, 512 MB of RAM, 1.5 Gig of free hard drive space available, and a monitor resolution of 1024X768 or higher. With that in mind, don’t let unconscientious salesmen or websites push heavy graphic packages or upgraded sound cards if you are buying a new laptop. You want to write estimates with this computer – not play Halo on a network in a college dorm.
Some adjusters have recently begun using tablet laptops (laptops with touch screens that swivel and fold down on themselves). In theory an adjuster could take such a laptop on a residential or commercial claim, hold it like a clipboard, and write the majority off the estimate in electronic form at the property. As usual, however, the technology for tablets is slightly behind the conceptual and promotional curve. I’d recommend waiting a few more years for the workability of the technology to catch up with the concept (which is a good one).
Must-Have #4: A Good Ladder
Roof damage due to hail and high winds results in tens of thousands of claims yearly and property adjusters should be prepared to spend some time on roofs. A good ladder is your connection to the roof. Most accidents befalling claims adjusting adjusters involve ladders and the interchange between ladder and roof. Having a stable ladder should help give an adjuster peace of mind.
There are three types of ladders in common usage. Foldable ladders are an excellent option for adjusters. They come in a variety of models all of which will generally break down to around 5ft in their folded state. This is small enough to fit into virtually any trunk unless your adjusting vehicle of choice is a Miata. Wood models are even becoming available in fold-up form and are a better option than aluminum when working in areas where encounters with power lines may be of concern. Another highly compact ladder is the telescoping ladder. Telescoping ladders are generally the most compact ladder on the market today. The primary drawback, and it is a big one, is that a step will occasionally disappear when sufficient weight or the wrong directional force sends a rung of the ladder zipping into the one below it. This can have disastrous results. If you are going for compact, I’d recommend the foldable variety. Traditional ladders are generally quite stable and secure but can’t match the versatility of the foldable ladder.