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The role of oil changes in your business plan?

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I question to question how oil change places make money on that business model. Oil changes, even at a full price, are generally low profit for the time of writing up new customer till they leave vs other repair work.


When i started our business plan I viewed oil changes as means to growing a customer base for future repairs. Of course we inspect cars and report legitimate maintenance and repair needs but we do not push hard unless its a serious issues. I believe the quick lube stores have put a bad impression for high pressure sales and ad ons. As we progress in business I may start to see some potential from the little profit made as long as it doesn't take away from repair work. We do not market ourselves as a quick lube business but its an easy way for future customers to test the water and an easy way for us to win them over.


How much of your model is from oil change profit and what is your attach or future sales rate on these customers.


also, these oil changes are messing up my per ticket average so I can get some solid sales numbers. Do you include them in your per ticket average or run them separate(if my software can separate them)?

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I've thought about this exact issue a bit as well. It's why I call oil changes a necessary evil of our industry.

For starters, you're on the right track with inspections and reporting to your customers. You can't feel bad about reporting everything, and I mean every single thing, that you find, because it is your professional duty.

Your customers are depending on you to find all the problems with their car, and inform and educate them as to what is necessary to fix now, soon and later.


From what I've read, doing all oil changes by appointment only is a good idea. This differentiates you from the bad quick lube mindset that you spoke of.

Take your time to do a full inspection, don't rush through it.

Also, take pictures of your findings and show them to your customers! This is the easiest way to sell repairs and maintenance! Let them see the problem with their own eyes, and educate them as to why it is a problem (safety issue - fix immediately etc)


Finally, I think that you need to include them in your per ticket average, because they are still a ticket.

However, you should also run them as a separate report, and make sure that you are still in fact making money or at least breaking even on your oil changes.

Also, maybe you should tally up all the performed recommendations that result from your oil change courtesy inspections. You may find that the number is in fact, quite large and profitable, and it may put your mind at ease about oil changes.

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They are a necessary evil but not only that. They are service to provide all of your customers to keep them coming to you for their every need. I don't make money on my oil changes but they certainly make up for it seeing as I can inspect my customers vehicles and keep them updated on any maintenance and repairs it needs. I educate my customers about the fact most quick lube places are not checking their car to make sure it is safe for the road and their families. I personally know people who work at various quick lubes and I have found it very scary what they check and what they don't. When customers and automotive professionals speak about the type of employees working at quick lubes, I still cannot understand why anyone goes there.


0% of my business model is profit from oil changes. Simply because it is not there. Not to say, there aren't sales that come from just a simple oil change. (Rotate, wipers, bulbs, filters, repair, maintenance)


We do a very in depth inspection on every vehicle and I explain every bit of it to my customers. We can't be afraid to scare our customers as to what is needed in repairs and maintenance. Too often are professionals spending the customers money. Tell them everything that is wrong and give them a plan in order to start fixing everything. You would be surprised how many people love that we do this. Yes you may scare a few people away, but the majority of customers will appreciate what you are doing.

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Well said, ATS. I agree that the inspection and total car care is far more important then the oil change itself. Keep your good customers coming back.


Do you lose money on your oil changes, or do you break even?

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Back in the early 80s when I started, an oil change was priced about the same price is it now at many repair shops. This is a controversy that is debated with many different opinions. We did not care back then about oil changes, we were making too much money on broken cars. Plus, you did not have the competition you do now. Truth is, cars don't breakdown like they used and everyone now is a Total Car Care Center: Just look at Transmission shops, Midas, Tire Centers, and even Body shops now do services and repairs.


Oil changes are still the one service that drives your customers back to you. So however you look at oil changes, with regard to price and profit, I don't think we can survive with them.

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Shouldn't we make on oil changes? I'm not saying I do, but dam, we offer a lot of value for a $35 oil change. I've been trying to change how my shop and my customers think about oil changes. It's not an oil change it's a "5k or 7.5k service". I wish I could say that I've been successful in implementing this but I haven't YET. We will continue to try and remove "Oil Change" from our service offerings and move toward maintenance services. I do see owners of European cars more receptive to this type of service(but we do very little Euro), Asian import car owners can be educated but Domestic car owners are very hard to get through too.

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Shouldn't we make on oil changes? I'm not saying I do, but dam, we offer a lot of value for a $35 oil change. I've been trying to change how my shop and my customers think about oil changes. It's not an oil change it's a "5k or 7.5k service". I wish I could say that I've been successful in implementing this but I haven't YET. We will continue to try and remove "Oil Change" from our service offerings and move toward maintenance services. I do see owners of European cars more receptive to this type of service(but we do very little Euro), Asian import car owners can be educated but Domestic car owners are very hard to get through too.


Yes, I agree. We need to sell more maintenance services. In addition, when someone comes in for an Oil Change and a laundry list of other issues, we need to be very careful not to include valuable diag time in a routine LOF. For example, a customers states that he is feeling a vibration on acceleration or as an oil leak. We charge separately for these concerns. I think this is an area where shops can improve on, in addition to selling Maintenance services, not just LOFs

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For new customers you could try to market your oil changes as a "minor service" where as you perform a vehicle inspection while performing the oil change. If this is sold right and the customer knows the entire process before you perform the oil change service, you can add dollars to the ticket by charging for the inspection service as well as preparing a customer for potential problems that need repairs.

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Oil changes is what brings a great deal of our new customers here at our shop. We always perform a complete vehicle inspection with all of our oil change services and always try to educate the customer on the value of preventative maintenance as well as any other repair related issues that we may come across. We find it difficult at times though because of the public perception that a FULL SERVICE oil change should be done in about 15 - 20 minutes based on quick lubes such as Jiffy Lube. It seems as though the general public does not have any distinction between getting a full service oil change done at a repair shop where the vehicle is inspected to a quick lube oil change at a place like Jiffy Lube. This makes it difficult as time is always against you and the customer has been trained in many ways to expect to leave as soon as they have come. What do you guys usually quote in term of time to a customer that comes in for a LOF?

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  • 2 weeks later...

I think total car care is the future and we will probably see places that are considered quick lubes start to do more than just oil. There are good quick lubes out there they aren't all bad and there is much to be learned from examining their business model. Have a look at the www.noln.net site or google noln news and see what they are up to. As someone mentioned prior cars are made better theses days and lube centers that include basic maintenance items as well as tire rotations and small or simple repairs may be on the horizon.

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  • 2 weeks later...

We burn waste oil for heat. The oil change itself is break even but it keeps the customers happy and my garage warm. We don't push anything extra on lof jobs unless it's literally an emergency safety issue. it's why people come back. State inspections are the same way, a loser on paper but it keeps the clients happy.

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  • Have you checked out Joe's Latest Blog?

      Most shop owners would agree that the independent auto repair industry has been too cheap for too long regarding its pricing and labor rates. However, can we keep raising our labor rates and prices until we achieve the profit we desire and need? Is it that simple?
      The first step in achieving your required gross and net profit is understanding your numbers and establishing the correct labor and part margins. The next step is to find your business's inefficiencies that impact high production levels.
      Here are a few things to consider. First, do you have the workflow processes in place that is conducive to high production? What about your shop layout? Do you have all the right tools and equipment? Do you have a continuous training program in place? Are technicians waiting to use a particular scanner or waiting to access information from the shop's workstation computer?
      And lastly, are all the estimates written correctly? Is the labor correct for each job? Are you allowing extra time for rust, older vehicles, labor jobs with no parts included, and the fact that many published labor times are wrong? Let's not forget that perhaps the most significant labor loss is not charging enough labor time for testing, electrical work, and other complicated repairs.  
      Once you have determined the correct labor rate and pricing, review your entire operation. Then, tighten up on all those labor leaks and inefficiencies. Improving production and paying close attention to the labor on each job will add much-needed dollars to your bottom line.
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