ADAS March/April 2022

The Cost of Calibration Across the U.S.

By Rebecca Barnabi

Tiny & Sons contracts out calibration services to a company that performs calibrations—about 25 during a busy week, and another 20 at local dealerships, says president Peter Brown. However, the customer’s auto insurance must approve the price before the calibration service is performed.

Brown says that if a customer goes straight to a dealership for a calibration, the customer gets paid. But if the calibration goes through Tiny & Sons’ contractor, his company waits to get paid. “We can’t explain it to the customer,” Browns says. “There’s no fixed cost you can use.” Calibration is like when someone reprograms a laptop. “You’re doing a software update to a vehicle, and it should take this number of hours to do it, but you can’t say [for certain],” Brown says.

Rick Valentine owns Intermountain Auto Glass in Boise, Idaho, where set pricing is in place for calibration. “Though sometimes, regardless of the insurance company, we have to lower the price,” Valentine says his company  does not lose money on a job. He says that if insurance will not pay enough for a calibration, his shop will collect from the insured or not take the job.

“There is a broad range in pricing,” Valentine says. His shop has been performing calibrations for more than four years and has three calibration machines to ensure work does not have to be sent to a dealership.

His shop will not release a vehicle that has not been calibrated. He says if a
customer does not want calibration, his shop does not take the job. “You cannot not perform a calibration if it’s required.”

In the automotive industry since 2004, Kris Griffin founded Calibrators of the Carolinas in 2019 in the Charlotte metro area of North Carolina. “My biggest thing is there are still vendors out there not doing [calibrations].” The big thing I see is the lack of consistency in pricing.” However, Griffin does not think auto insurance companies should have fixed pricing for calibration because the job depends on the difficulty of the calibration. The more difficult, the more time the technician will spend performing the calibration.

For example, Griffin says that some Honda models require dual calibration,
including a 30-minute test drive. More consistency is necessary with pricing for calibrations.

Lou and Rose Denning opened Denning Auto Glass in 2003 in Coldwater, Mich. “I’ve not had any trouble,” Rose Denning says. The shop began offering calibration services more than three years ago and does two to four each week. She says some auto insurance pay better than others, but Denning Auto always gets reimbursed for calibration services.

Denning, who handles auto insurance and other paperwork for the company, says she bills the service as recalibration “and it’s dynamic and it’s retail, not dealer.” “And I have to get prior approval [from the auto insurance],” she says. Some insurance companies require the paperwork at billing time, while others tell her to keep the paperwork on record. “But they require us to have it on file,” she says. The required paperwork includes pre-scan, post-scan, and that the calibration was successfully completed on a vehicle.

A Precision Auto Glass Inc. is owned by Mark Jones Jr. and Joanne Mendelson, with locations in Daphne and Mobile, Ala. In business since 1993 and providing calibration services for three years, Mendelson says of calibration: “It’s here to stay.” The company makes sure to get pre-approval from auto insurance companies to perform calibrations, and must provide pre-scans and post-scans. “I haven’t heard anything negative regarding
reimbursements,” Mendelson says.

Mendelson says the company sets a price for calibration for each vehicle model. “Sometimes, it varies of course depending on what insurance company, but we don’t have any major issues [getting reimbursed],” she says. “It’s all about the customers. You got to put them first.”

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