This is an updated version of an article we originally published in 2009.
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 necessities, without which the job becomes difficult if not altogether impossible.
Since 2009, technology has given adjusters new and better options for almost everything they need. It’s also made one of our items near obsolete. With the help of a professional independent adjuster, we’ve updated our ‘must have’ list, as well as included a few helpful hints from someone currently in the field.
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 – and much of that depends on the types of claims you’re handling. In many cases, and in many areas, a sedan or coupe will work just fine. For other situations, especially CAT claims, something a little more robust is often needed to maneuver through flood, storm, or wind damage. In this author’s opinion, a light truck (read: not a shiny new F-350 turbo diesel dually) is a great balance between providing the space and toughness you may need, without going overboard.
A few things to consider when selecting your office on wheels:
- It needs to accommodate your ladder. More on ladders below.
- Fuel Economy. Adjusters can drive 100 or more miles a day so while a huge truck may seem attractive up front, keep your gas costs in mind.
- Traffic. Deployment can take you anywhere…including heavily congested cities like New Orleans and Miami. And with good time management being a key to success, it’s important to consider what will help you get in and out efficiently.
- Cost. Don’t put yourself under massive debt to buy a work vehicle. It’s not necessary – or worth it.
- Perception can be an important part of establishing trust with a claimant. Fancy, expensive cars and high crime areas don’t mix well. An old pinto that backfires probably won’t leave the impression you want in a million dollar neighborhood. Bottom Line: drawing as little attention to yourself as possible is usually best.
You don’t need a fancy vehicle to adjust claims.
Navigation Device (GPS) Helpful Navigation and Mapping Apps
Smartphone navigation capabilities have really made a separate GPS device obsolete so I’ve replaced our original #2. If you have one you are familiar with and love, there is no harm in using it, but at this point, there isn’t a real need to invest in a separate GPS.
Pro-Tip: No matter what you use, it’s important to have a convenient and visible way to mount your device in the car for safety.
Newer, better mapping and navigation apps have started to pop up and gain traction among drivers. Google and Waze are two of the most popular with adjusters. Google can link with your calendar to sync your schedule with driving directions. For example: pull up your next scheduled claim, click the address, and the map comes up for you. Waze can figure out the most efficient route for multiple destinations and list them in order for you.
Must-Have #3: Laptop Computer
The days of hand-writing claims are over. Today’s adjusters estimate, prepare, and deliver everything electronically (often from the field), so you’ll need a reliable and capable laptop computer. You don’t need all the fancy bells and whistles, but you do need a quick machine. And one that can take a bit of a beating as you’ll take it with you everywhere.
Rather than provide specific computer requirements as I did in the original article, I would recommend visiting your favorite computer store and talking with the salesperson. Bring the specs for popular estimating software (Xactimate and IntegriClaim are most common) and ask the tech to show you the lowest priced laptops that can successfully and quickly manage the software. You can always build up from that point, adding more features if there’s room in the budget.
Some adjusters have started using tablets instead of laptops and software companies are still working to make this a more friendly option. While I can see the advantages of a light, handheld tablet, I wanted to offer a word of caution. The technology for tablets is still a bit behind the conceptual curve. There are mobile versions of some software (XM8 offers one), but you have to pay a premium for it and basically learn as you go. And at the end of the day, you only know the tablet version. For this reason, we recommend starting with a great laptop and then looking at upgrading to a tablet if the cost and software improve at a later date.
Must-Have #4: A Good Ladder
Roof damage due to hail and high winds results in tens of thousands of claims a year so property adjusters should be prepared to spend some time on roofs. Unfortunately, most accidents befalling claims adjusters involve ladders so having a good quality, stable ladder is vital.
Although a safe ladder is important, there really isn’t one definitive answer that works best for everyone. It depends on what sort of claims you are working and your vehicle so let’s consider a few advantages and disadvantages of ladder styles.
There are three main types of ladders – folding, wood, and telescoping.
- Folding ladders are a nice, space saving option. Many fold into 5 feet and can fit in almost any car.
- Wooden ladders are the most stable however they are heavy and cumbersome. Wood is a must if working around power lines.
- Telescoping ladders are the most compact but can be unreliable if not from a quality manufacturer, or if used improperly.
As we mentioned, roof claims are a huge part of the business and you will need a 28-foot ladder to access second story roofs. Unfortunately, most folding and telescoping ladders don’t come in a 28-foot option. So while I wish I could give you one great ladder option, ultimately, most independent adjusters need both a compact, folding ladder and a 28-foot ladder.
Must-Have #5: Digital Camera
A claims adjuster must represent as accurately as possible the damages, or lack thereof, to the claimant’s property. And when it comes to claims, the details matter. The best way to capture those details and close claims quickly is still a good digital camera. Some claims with multiple types of damages can require dozens, if not hundreds, of photos that need to be uploaded quickly and easily accessed.
Pro-Tip: Make sure your camera is secured before starting your inspection, especially if you’re going to be on the roof. Digital cameras are notorious for high battery demands so be sure to have a few spare sets and extra memory cards before going out to scope claims.
The great news is that digital cameras have only become more affordable in recent years while offering better features and technology. You will want something smallish, lightweight, and easy to work. Anything over 7 or 8 megapixels isn’t really necessary, but the more memory, the better. GoPro’s popularity has upped the standards and impact resistant cameras are much more readily available today. While adjusting isn’t exactly an extreme sport, camera drops from a ladder or adverse weather are job hazards so invest in a camera that can stand a little of both. Gear retainers like the one available from Bullybag are a great way to ensure your camera is secure but still accessible and usable while you work. Lastly, taking advantage of the protection plans offered at most retailers can help protect your investment.
Must-Have #6: Measuring Devices
Initially, an adjuster makes two broad determinations when assessing damage: what is damaged and how much? You can’t figure out the ‘how much’ without a measuring tool.
Pro-Tip: You should still buy and carry a traditional 100 foot measuring tape with you at all times for back up.
Our original article recommended a basic 25-foot measuring tape to start, however technology has upped the game here as well. Most adjusters today are using a laser measuring device or systems. They are easier for the adjuster to handle and, when used properly, offer a more accurate measurement. You can purchase lasers starting at around $50 and spend upwards of $1,000 for systems that integrate with your estimating software. For our ‘must haves,’ a reliable 100-foot laser measuring device will work fine to start your career. I recommend spending some time in the field before deciding if you need to spend more on something with advanced capabilities.
Must-Have #7: Tool Belt
In addition to your digital camera and various measuring devices, there are few items more indispensable to a claims adjuster than your tool belt. This is truly where you carry almost everything you need. Standard contractor tool belts will do – but you run the risk of items falling out of the open pockets (ahem…..your camera) or adjuster specific equipment not fitting securely, or at all, on a regular belt. There are some great adjuster specific toolbelts on the market these days that are worth the investment.
Pro-Tip: Always put your tools back in the same place on your belt. You won’t need to look to grab an item and it will help you recognize if something is missing before you get on the roof.
For example: this BullyBag Ultra Pouch was designed by an insurance adjuster and military veteran who wanted to be hands-free and have fewer obstructions when climbing. The streamlined pouch has pockets for everything an adjuster needs while on the job. From business cards, chalk, measuring devices, and multiple gauges, there’s a place for it all. The gear retainer we mentioned above can be attached to your camera so you never drop it off a roof. The hip paddle design makes it easy to put on and take off and the single pouch configuration doesn’t restrict movement or weigh you down. Want to take it up a notch? The BullyBag Bandit Ultra Pouch and Side Scribe will carry everything you need – including clip boards and notebooks, plus the scribe converts to a messenger bag.
BullyBag offers a special discount for AdjusterPro readers. Enter code: PRO10 to receive 10% off your order.
Another option is the CatManDo System by Custom Toolbelt. This product was also designed by a claims adjuster who wasn’t satisfied with using a standard contractor belt for claims work. This belt has a more traditional ‘wrap around your waist’ style and offers a host of moveable/detachable pockets that can be customized to fit your needs.
Both of these adjuster-focused companies offer packages where you can purchase many of the tools you’ll need along with the belt.
Must-Have #8: The Adjuster Dress-Code
Adjusters are almost always expected to observe a dress code. The particular code may vary from company to company but in general, you should expect to wear a sharp polo and khakis. Jeans won’t cut it and t-shirts, unless distributed to you specifically for wear in the field, are too informal. You’ll want to look polished and professional, while still being comfortable enough to bend, crawl, and climb around a job if you need to.
There is a lot of great stuff available, but here are a few of our favorite things:
Pro-Tip: Aside from looking unprofessional, you should avoid overly baggy or draped clothing for safety reasons.
- Comfortable, durable footwear is a must. Shoes or boots with good traction are also important, especially on roofs. Cougar Paw Boots have some great options for those spending a lot of time up high.
- Duluth Trading Company offers some great workwear that looks professional at both the start and the end of the day.
- Quality seasonal wear is also important. Sunglasses that offer excellent protection and coats and gloves that you can still perform your duties in are wardrobe must-haves.
Having the right gear is critical for an independent insurance adjuster because it enables you to close claims with maximum efficiency. And if there’s anything we’ve learned from our time in the industry, it’s that an efficient claims handler is an adjuster who will never go hungry.
If you’re interested in learning what it takes to become an insurance claims adjuster, read our 5-Step Guide.