What to Expect With a Car Insurance Photo Inspection

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Jeffrey Johnson graduated summa cum laude from the University of Baltimore School of Law and has worked in legal offices and nonprofits in Maryland, Texas, and North Carolina. He has also earned an MFA in screenwriting from Chapman University and worked in film, education, and publishing. His professional writing has appeared on sites like The Manifest and Vice, and he is the author of a novel ...

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Written by Jeffrey Johnson
Insurance Lawyer Jeffrey Johnson

UPDATED: Feb 5, 2022

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Key Takeaways

  • A car insurance photo inspection allows an inspector to take pictures of your car to document the overall condition of your vehicle
  • The purpose of a car insurance photo inspection is to prevent fraud and wrongful denial of claims
  • Car insurance photo inspections may be required either before insurance is approved or after an accident for claims processing
  • If you do not complete a required car insurance photo inspection, you could risk losing coverage

If you’re buying car insurance or filing a claim with your insurance company, you could be required to complete a car insurance photo inspection. However, if you have not ever had one performed, you may be wondering how to approach it and what the process entails.

Read about car insurance photo inspections below to learn why they may be required, what the process looks like, and where you can have them done.

You can also enter your ZIP code into our free quote comparison tool above to find a car insurance company that doesn’t require car insurance photo inspections.

What is a car insurance photo inspection?

A car insurance photo inspection is exactly as it sounds — an inspection of your car that involves taking several photos to document the condition of your vehicle. There are generally two different types of inspections. The first is an approval inspection for car insurance, while the second is an inspection succeeding an accident.

Some states may require that you have a vehicle photo inspection done — before obtaining insurance — to protect both you and the insurance company. An inspection can protect you by ensuring that you receive a fair claims judgment, and it also protects the insurance companies by confirming that policyholders aren’t filing false claims for previous damage. In some cases, a pre-insurance inspection can also help reduce your car insurance rates.

If you have been in an accident that requires you to file a claim with your insurance company, a claims adjuster will be assigned to your claim. The claims adjuster or the insurance company may require a photo inspection to assess the damage and to determine the amount to be paid out for the claim.

What happens at a car insurance photo inspection?

A car insurance photo inspection could happen in several ways. Some insurance companies will schedule a time for a claims adjuster to travel to your home to inspect the vehicle themselves, while others may require you to bring the vehicle to another location. Depending on the insurance company, they may allow you to bring it to a repair shop of your choosing, or they may require that you obtain quotes from multiple places.

Some insurance companies will necessitate that you bring your vehicle to an approved location to complete the photo inspection. In this case, you may need to come prepared with the following documentation from your car insurance company:

  • The insurance company’s name
  • The agent or broker’s name
  • Your policy number
  • A description of your vehicle

If you are receiving a pre-insurance inspection, the inspector will take general photos of your vehicle. They may also record the vehicle identification number (VIN), odometer reading, overall vehicle condition, optional features, and accessories.

If you are receiving a post-accident inspection, the inspector will conduct a similar examination but is more likely to mark damage and focus on photographing parts of the car that need to be repaired or replaced. The entire inspection will take approximately 15 minutes.

Once the inspection is complete, the inspector will send everything to the claims adjuster assigned to your claim. The adjuster will then use the information to make an estimate for repairs and for the amount that the insurance company will pay.

Am I required to get a car insurance photo inspection?

If your state government or insurance company informs you that you need to get a car insurance photo inspection, you will likely need to get the inspection done. In most cases, if you refuse a car insurance photo inspection, you could risk losing your coverage.

However, each state will provide a grace period in which you can have the inspection conducted in order to avoid losing coverage. For example, New Jersey gives you seven days, while Florida allows you 30 days. However, many states fall between that range, including Rhode Island and Massachusetts with 10-day grace periods and New York with a 14-day grace period.

While it can be stressful to have to fit another errand or task into our very busy days, it’s easier to have the inspection performed than to deal with the headache of cancelled insurance. And don’t worry about the cost, because photo inspections are generally free.

Where can I get a car insurance photo inspection?

If your car insurance company requires that you travel to an approved location for your car insurance photo inspection, they will generally provide you with a location closest to you.

Some insurance companies — such as GEICO — provide access to easy search tools on their websites to find a list of the locations in your area. However, some insurance companies are deviating from scheduled inspections and opting for photos taken by the policyholder. Therefore, for example, it’s unlikely that you’ll need either Allstate or Progressive photo inspection locations.

However, it’s generally easy to find an inspection location, since they’re typically run by CARCO, the leader in insurance photo inspections. With that being said, most of the locations are individual repair shops that operate under their own names, so you may want to conduct a brief online search for “car insurance photo inspections near me” or “CARCO photo inspections near me.” For a specific state, you could search “New York photo inspections.”

If you’re looking for car insurance that doesn’t require a car insurance photo inspection, start researching companies by entering your ZIP code into our free quote comparison tool below.

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