Every new adjuster started out the same. No tools, no subscriptions, and not sure what they need- exactly.
Well, its really hard to tell EXACTLY what your list will be after you get going, but there are a several basic things you will need regardless.
Get A Good Laptop
When starting our with your new adjusting career, the one tool you will most likely not be able to live without is going to be a decent laptop.
Now, that doesn’t mean that you need a laptop with all of the latest bells and whistles, just a decent one.
So, what makes a decent laptop? It might surprise you to learn that it doesn’t take a whole lot to make a good laptop you can work with when adjusting. You’ll probably want to make sure you shop for features- not pricing. Here’s a few features that I have found to be “key” when looking for a laptop I can live with when adjusting.
- RAM- 4G minimum (8+ preferred)
- Hard Drive- 500G minimum
- 9 Number Keypad
- SD Card Slot
So, this list seems pretty short doesn’t it?
Those are the top 4 things I need in every laptop that I use. Upgrades can be added over time to a basic laptop to make it a top performer, so I don’t worry too much about the latest bells and whistles or manufacturer.
When looking at laptops, RAM is going to be extremely important in getting your programs to all work together quickly. This will save you time on every file you work on, and trust me- You will be working on ALOT of files.
Every time I sit and watch my laptop work to figure out where it is supposed to go next when I am moving between programs or sketching and estimating I know that is costing me time and money. It WILL drive you crazy the longer you work with it. The more RAM you can put into your laptop, the happier you will be with it.
GOOD ADJUSTER TIP
A little tip when upgrading your RAM- Many times you can upgrade your RAM when you purchase your laptop for a few more dollars. Make sure the upgrade won’t void your warranty, however.
You should be able to find a “decent” laptop for $3-400 today. I currently run 16G of RAM in my laptop, and that was a self installed upgrade from 4G. It helped me “like” my laptop again 😉
Hard drive size really isn’t much of an issue to me. I know, alot of people will want to sell you the biggest hard drive possible toughting all of that extra storage space. Realistically, I doubt you will ever use all of the space on a 500G hard drive, much less a 1T drive.
Bigger isn’t better when it comes to hard drive selection for your laptop you use for adjusting claims. My set up includes an external 500G drive, so you can see why I don’t worry too much about the size of the internal hard drive. Speed on the other hand is important, and the majority of the “affordable” laptops today will all have the same class of hard drive installed. Just pick the best laptop for the value, and make sure you have 500G minimum. That’s what I do 😉
A 9 number keypad on your laptop will prove very useful over time. It is a little cumbersome to begin with because you will need to get used to where your hands need to be positioned for typing on the keyboard, but in the long run you will be glad you have a 9 number key pad.
The benefit of a 9 number keypad will far out weigh the adjustment you will need to make over time in my opinion. When you start working claims you will have many, many numbers you will need to input into your forms, etc. Policy numbers, claim numbers, phone numbers, all of them will be made easier to input and save you time which is the overall goal when processing your claims 😉
A SD Card slot is a pretty basic accessory with all computers today. I am mentioning this , however because it is possible today to buy a laptop that you want to use for adjusting and not get what you need regarding an sd card slot.
When looking for a laptop I make sure the laptop I am interested in has a sd card slot. Then, I look at where it is located. Will it be easy to use? When using the laptop in my truck will it be accessible? Will I run the risk of damaging my laptop if I flop it in the passenger seat (which I do) and the sd card is still installed?
Just check the ergonomics of the location and usability of the sd card slot. You will use this sd card slot ALOT during your claims processing career. Make sure you like it- its a marriage 😉
Get An External Hard Drive
This one will cost you sooner or later, so I decided I should make sure to put it on this list of things I value in my bag of tools for adjusting claims.
The last thing you want is to be on deployment somewhere and have your laptop not boot up. Ask me how I know- Been there, done that.
I can tell you first hand that it is not a good feeling when your laptop take 4 hrs to perform and “upgrade” and then will not boot up so you can access your files or estimating program. Of course, this will never happen until you have just been assigned 50 files that you need to have completed in the next 7-10 days.
Talk about panic. Save yourself the trouble and get an external hard drive as soon as you can reasonably afford one. Good deals can be found on them, and trust me when I say they are worth it. It’s nice to know that all of the information you need for your files are not trapped inside your laptop.
If your laptop truly dies, then your adjuster files are still completely accessible via another computer. Even if you lose your current estimates, you still have your photos that you collected during your inspections. And trust me, those can number in the thousands during a deployment, or over a few months of daily claims adjusting.
In addition, your estimate files will generally be uploaded or exported anyway, so set up your file system on your external hard drive so that a copy of everything for your adjuster file is saved on the external hard drive. This will create a natural duplicate system of saving your photos that are included with your estimate and report, and the actual estimate.
More than likely an Xactimate subscription will be required for you to work up estimates and compile your photos and reports for the claims you will be adjusting.
While Xactimate deserves it’s own category here all together, I have added it here because it will be extremely important for processing claims in most cases.
Unfortunately, there is no “cheap” way to do this one. The best way I have found to handle it is to get started with your subscription of xactimate and build on it. Buy the best plan you can to get started. When you get some cash flow, buy the next plan you can afford.
Keep building on that, ask for subscription money for holidays or birthday presents. Do whatever you can to keep building on your subscription of xactimate. When you reach a 1 year subscription start a savings plan to set back a percentage of your claim money to keep building on that.
If you can afford to buy another year before your 1 year subscription is up, I would recommend it. Buying 2 subscriptions in the same tax year should be deductible on your taxes, so you will have bought next year’s subscription and get to reduce your taxable income with both purchases and still be 1 year ahead of the game.
This takes discipline, but in the long run you will always be one year ahead on your subscription of Xactimate. That is the best way I have found to save money on this part of the tool kit.
Get a Decent Camera
A decent camera is going to be a huge time saver for you if you get the right one. What’s the “right” one, you ask….. That’s a good question, and one that most of us don’t think about until we are busy running claims and have to take a few hundred pictures in as efficient a time frame as possible.
The key that I have found to having a good camera that will help you get your claims done efficiently is finding one with good cycle times between photos. You will want your camera to go from taking a photo to taking the next photo as quickly as possible.
Over time your photo taking skills will improve, and when they do that 2 second preview is going to KILL your time on claims.
Trust me, when you’re on a roof and it is 100 degrees outside you don’t want to spend any more time than is absolutely necessary taking photos. A 2 second cycle time on a 9/12 pitch roof is not going to make you happy when you have to take 100 photos of that thing!
I look for a camera that has a couple of features as a minimum.
Rechargeable battery is definitely at the top of the list. If you have a camera that uses AAA batteries you will go through ALOT of them. Burning through AAA batteries is only going to increase your costs when running claims. Not to mention you won’t ever have a dead battery until you are half way through your day and you have 3 more claims to inspect.
Charging your camera between claims is a huge benefit. Generally you will have several chargers in your truck or car going anyway, so adding a camera with a rechargeable battery isn’t going to be difficult.
The second feature that is an absolute must is quick cycle times. This one you can’t tell unless you get to try the camera out. I buy my cameras at stores where I can try them at the electronics counter. Use the camera, put it through your “test”. Check the cycle time between photos, play with the settings.
You’re going to use this tool every day on every claim you run, get a camera you can not only live with but one that will improve your speed and accuracy.
Laser Tape Measure
A laser tape measure is going to be one of your biggest time saving tools. Measuring rooms, buildings, windows, doors all takes time and a simple click of the button will render the distance you need to make your drawings of the buildings you are adjusting.
There are a few choices when you are shopping for a laser tape measure, but I use one that is “middle” of the road.
It’s going to be rare that you will need to measure distances up to 300′, and it is very likely that you will need to measure distances over 20′. So, get the best laser tape measure you can afford that will measure distances up to 100′ or so.
I use a Bosch, but there are other brands. Technology today is very consistent, so it would be very unlikely that you will buy a laser tape measure that is not accurate or won’t work for you.
This single tool will be your biggest time saver when you have to measure an entire home, or a multitude of rooms. Trust me. It is worth every penny. My only other advice would be to make sure to pack extra batteries in your truck or car. I have had them die on me between claims, and that sucks.
It’s About Saving Time
As you can tell each of these tools is more about saving you time when processing claims than they are about making your job convenient for you.
Time will be your enemy on almost every claim you adjust. Using a few of these tools or tweaking the ones you currently use will go a very long way toward helping you get your files turned around as efficiently as possible.
Once you get everything in sync you will be able to process your files and inspections incredibly quickly and efficiently. All this will add up to time savings for you on every estimate, file, inspection, photo, and measurement you compile.
Do you have a favorite tool that you use for adjusting claims? Questions about the tools you might need or that I have listed here? Leave a comment below- I’m always happy to help if I can 😉