Profit Center: Proper PDR Estimating

Profit Center: Proper PDR Estimating

Having trouble estimating for paintless dent repair and hail damage? Follow these steps for success.


Estimating paintless dent repair (PDR) and hail damage can seem like a foreign language to many body shop and insurance estimators. The difference in methodology can seem overwhelming, especially in large catastrophe situations. Counting thousands of dents in 30 minutes and understanding the differences in each dent’s repair can seem impossible. The nearly 100 percent supplement rate backs this up. The PDR professionals thinking the insurance companies are lowballing each estimate and the insurance companies thinking the PDR companies are gouging them often leaves collision repair centers trapped in the middle and playing mediator. A look at how PDR is estimated and the needs of the PDR repair can eliminate most if not all of those concerns.

A Few Simple Steps

There are insurers that do lowball. For example, refusing to pay full R & I on the detrim of vehicles is lowballing. There are also PDR companies that gouge. Charging for R & I  processes not completed or needed is gouging. I find that most insurers and most PDR companies are looking for the same thing: a happy customer, the owner of the vehicle.

Here are a few simple steps that can help alleviate many of the hassles and supplements associated with PDR estimating:

  1. Clean the vehicle
  2. Estimate the vehicle inside using PDR lighting
  3. Use the PDR company’s guide/ matrix
  4. Use standard book time for any R & I
  5. Understand the up charges PDR companies use

These few steps can go a long way in creating an accurate PDR estimate. Lets look at each of these steps individually.

sidebarCleaning the Vehicle

A clean vehicle seems almost a given, but without one, an accurate estimate is impossible. There is simply no way to obtain an accurate estimate with a dirty vehicle. You simply cannot see all of the damage. Also, you cannot determine previous damage. A clean vehicle is needed for a proper estimate and repair, whether it’s a paintless dent repair or conventional collision repair.

PDR Lighting

Estimate the vehicle inside using PDR lighting. It’s impossible to estimate PDR outside under sunlight. This is the single most important step. Even estimating a vehicle inside without using PDR lighting by the most qualified PDR technician will lead to an inaccurate estimate that will ultimately need supplements. The vehicle has to be estimated using the type of lights it will be repaired under. There is simply no way to see all of the damage using regular shop lighting.

This step presents huge challenges for insurers and body shops alike. Insurance adjusters in the field often have no way to inspect a vehicle inside, much less using a PDR light, and this is probably the greatest cause of supplements in the industry. There are products on the market to help identify dents, but the single most needed piece of equipment is a full size (30- to 48-inch) PDR light. These lights are excellent aids in the vehicle check-in as well as pre-vehicle delivery in collision repairs.

Using a Guide or Matrix

Use the PDR company’s guide or matrix. Computer estimating made its way into PDR estimating well over 10 years ago, but most of these estimating systems are based on the PDR matrix. Each individual PDR company is responsible for setting their own prices.

Some DRP agreements will stipulate that a certain matrix be used. This can present problems for the collision center because most are not very well versed in PDR estimating. The PDR company being used for the repairs should be consulted, and any differences in the guides should be worked out.

One point to remember is these are only guides. There may be damage that is “off the chart,” but it can still be a better repair and cost effective to use PDR.

The guides are very simplistic, but can be very difficult to use accurately. Basically, the dents are counted. Panels that have a lot of dents can be divided into quadrants, counted then multiplied out. PDR guides divide dents into coin sizes, but it can be very difficult to size dents according to coin sizes. Even the most experienced PDR technician will typically underestimate the dent sizes.

It’s imperative that the dents be measured using PDR lights. If any of the dent is visible outside of the coin, it goes to the next size up. The average size of the dents is used. Dents larger than a 50-cent piece are charged at a per dent basis. The dents are counted and included with the dent count and would be considered “half dollar”-sized dents. Then, the added amount for the oversized dents is added to the panel after the upcharges are factored in. There are two sizes of oversized dents, single oversized (50-cent piece to hen egg size) and double oversized (hen egg size and larger). As the name implies, the double oversized are charged at double the single oversized.

R & I

Use standard book time for R & I. Avoid using “all-inclusive” R & I charges. Also, look for not-included items. Most pillar trim is not included in the Proper PDR Estimatingr R & I. Some taillight and/or headlight R&I may not include bumper removal. Make sure to look for full R&I time. “Drop” times are very inaccurate and should not be used.


Understand the upcharges PDR companies use. The most difficult part of the PDR estimate has to be the upcharges. Standard upcharges for PDR estimates includes exotic metals (aluminum, HSS and UHSS), large roof repair (minivans, SUVs, extended cab trucks, crossovers, vans and crew cab trucks), double panel (roof rails, tops of doors and deck lids) and body line (multiple dents in the body lines of the panels). There is no limit on the amount of upcharges a panel can produce. Plus, there are no panels exempt from these upcharges.

Best Option

The best option is having a PDR company on site to estimate hail repairs, but it’s not an option that’s available all the time. Working with a knowledgeable PDR estimator can help immensely.

A shop should ask the PDR repair company to provide basic estimating instruction. Most PDR companies will  help teach your estimators. There are also online resources available. The National Alliance of PDR Technicians has released a video on YouTube to help with estimating: The video is an in-depth guide describing PDR estimation using a hail matrix.

You May Also Like

Is Your Auto Body Shop a Hobby … or a Business?

So you want to provide safe and properly repair vehicles to your customers … even at a financial loss?

When reading this article, you’ll notice that I’ve touched on some of this information before. However, this information warrants repeating, as many quality-oriented repairers have yet to embrace and implement it in their businesses.

A Different Viewpoint

Many times, I’ve heard repairers say, “All I want to do is to serve our customers with safe and properly repaired vehicles and give them the best experience I can.” Really? Even at a financial loss and incurring significant liabilities?

BodyShop Business 2023 Executives of the Year

Greg Solesbee was named the Single-Shop Executive of the Year, and Charlie Drake was named the Multi-Shop Executive of the Year.

This Could Be Your Last Text

A sign I saw on the highway that said “This Could Be Your Last Text” reminded me of my son’s recent car wreck.

SUNY Morrisville Auto Body Program Makes Students, Cars Shine 

A 1997 Mustang Cobra is getting the chance to shine again, thanks to students in Alexander Graf’s auto body technology classes.

3 Strategies to Improve Your Insurance Protection

If you’re looking to improve your shop operations and set yourself up for success in 2024, remember these three insurance strategies.

Other Posts

A Scary Moment Reminds Us of the Importance of Proper Collision Repairs

My son’s car wreck reminded me that we literally hold people’s lives in our hands in the collision repair business.

The Auto Body Business: Common Sense Isn’t So Common

At this point in time, collision repairers need to reevaluate their businesses and do whatever is necessary to not just survive but thrive.

How to Determine the Value of Your Auto Body Shop

Whether you’re looking to sell, expand or transition your shop, understanding the value of your business is essential.

Squad Goals: Empowering Women in Collision Repair

Eight strong, smart, skilled women help Jason Wong guide his two CARSTAR locations in San Francisco.