Initially using pictures as a condition report sounds like a no-brainer. It takes less time than manually performing a condition report and gives you an image rather than an illustration or description. However, there are some issues to consider before using pictures as a replacement of the condition report performed on the Bill of Lading.
Images: A solution or a problem
For the purpose of a condition report, pictures are a double-edged sword. There is no doubt that the visuals it provides seem like a perfect tool, but in reality, there are some real problems with this type of inspection. Photos and videos can actually be quite misleading when it comes to the exterior condition of your vehicle. Lighting, dirt, and the angle of the camera are just some of the factors that can affect the images or videos. Over the years there have been many attempts to replace the handwritten condition report that the driver performs on the Bill of Lading. Unfortunately, we have seen many issues created by misleading images and videos.
Smaller dings, dents and surface scratches are not consistently visible in photos and video. It’s common to take two pictures of a vehicle which seem to prove two different things. One image will clearly show a ding or dent whereas that same ding or dent is not visible at all in a picture taken from a slightly different angle or direction.
Images: Chain of custody
When you are shipping your car, there is a trail of paperwork that tracks your vehicle from origin to destination. Each time your vehicle changes hands, from you to the carrier as an example there is an exterior condition report performed on the Bill of Lading then both parties sign off on it. This trail of paperwork is called a chain of custody and is intended to document the legal custody of your vehicle as well as the condition at each point. This trail of paperwork is the key to verifying that your vehicle arrives in the same condition it was shipped.
In the event that there is transportation damage during shipping, this paperwork will be required by the insurance company. Without the Bill of Lading and condition reports most insurance companies will not recognize or even file a claim. We have also found that insurance companies typically do not accept pictures or videos as a legally documented version of the chain of custody, stating that there is no way to prove when they were produced or if they have been edited in any way.
Pictures do have their place
Rest assured that if you do wish to take pictures or a video, it may still have some value. It probably will not be valuable as documented proof of a small ding, dent, or scratch. However, in the unlikely event that there is transportation damage during shipping pictures and video are a perfect tool. If your vehicle is delivered with damage that was not noted on the original condition report, first be sure to note and describe the damage in detail on the Bill of Lading. Then it’s time to get out your camera and phone. Take pictures or video to submit as supporting documentation.