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Project Cars

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I'm interested in your feedback on what I term 'project cars', ie, vehicles that are in need of significant overhaul involving multiple car systems. In other words, these jobs represent more than the daily bread-and-butter maintenance turn...


For example, we have a client who has asked us to work on a '99 Mercedes owned by his mother, who is now too old to drive. It is not a bad car as such; however, it has a cracked head among other multiple issues that will require hours of diagnosis, an extensive outlay for parts and potentially weeks of work.


I'd like to know if others have established a policy of handling these situations in a way that is fair to both us and the customer. Obviously, the total cost is not yet known. How would you handle the upfront diagnostic time required for assessing the total job? Once you assess the the scope of work, do we require an upfront deposit for the cost of parts? What about labor charges? Projects like this can take up plenty of time. I don't like the idea of being exposed to the parts cost.


Obviously I prefer that our business gravitate to 'normal' service issues because it's more profitable. But this is a longtime client. I see multiple opportunities for mis-communication here because of the disconnect between the client's expectations, ie, a fully repaired vehicle, and the reality of the amount of work involved. How do you handle unforeseen issues that arise after the primary diagnosis?

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ChecK the car bumper to bumper. Phase one is to get it to run, drive,stop in a safe manner. Create estimate for phase one. Collect phase one funds before starting. Explain that on cars over a decade old you can not let the project go unfunded and you will call with updates in cost and progess. B)

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You may have a car that the total repair bill could exceed the value of the car. I would have an honest conversation with the customer as to if this car is worth putting the kind of money involved in it before I ever started. Sometimes the best repair job we have done is talked a customer out of fixing a car. We avoid a headache, we save the customer from unrealistic expectations, we avoid losing a customer, and we earn the customers respect for our honesty and desire to truly look out for them.

I agree. B)

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I agree with xrac.


Also, if the customer decides to fix the car anyway, I have a policy that we do not finance a customers build or project. You need to get money up front and partial payments along the way such that the final bill will be $1000 or less. If you are not familiar with the Benz you may not be able to get a close estimate, but do the best you can.


Sometimes a customer may have you start a project and decide that this is too costly and never comes back. You then have a project car that you may

have thousands of dollars in and maybe over the cost of the car.

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Been there-done that!....... 10 years ago we had an '85 Benz 380 come in with a bad engine.72k original miles,pristine condition. bad engine(2nd one). cost for factory rebuilt $8500,core $2500, time to wait for core credit(if approved) - 4 months. Total estimate was nearly $12,000. Kelly blue book $8000....After tearing down engine to find cylinders scored badly and many phone calls he abandoned the car with us-had paid for nothing- we got stuck. After a year getting a title we finally fixed it the more sensible way. Installed a used EFI 302 Ford & C4 trans. sold it for $6500. Best thing to ever happen to a 380 Mercedes. It fit nice with minimal fabrication, gets better fuel mileage(21 highway) than before (17 highway), cost to maintain is lower and most of the money spent repairing since has been on the car-not the drivetrain.

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