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No more complimentary vehicle inspection? Charge for inspections? Opinions

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Just read another interesting article from ratchet and wrench. This particular one was about a shop in Denver that so happens to be a German Specialty shop.


In the article the General Manager states that they do not perform a complimentary vehicle inspection like other shops, but rather they charge for them ($90-$120 depending on the age of the vehicle). It is in the opinion of this shop that this "pre-qualifies" the customer as someone who is willing to spend money as well as softens the blow when they get hit with an estimate since they are already expecting to spend money. He also says it gives the technician added incentive since now they are actually getting paid for their inspection time. To add value, all technicians write out their recommendations as if they were telling a story. Instead of write up that the strut mount of broken, they write about their test drive and when they heard the noise and their whole inspection process of that particular problem.


I understand that shop's clientele may be different that some of us on the forum however I'd love to hear some opinions.



Here is the whole article if you'd care to read it:





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First, I think as a industry we give too much away in regard to inspections and diagnostic testing. While I do agree with the approach of charging for inspections, I think the first step for any shop is to define what is routine and what requires extra time and should be charged for.


Let me give you an example. If you go to the doctor for a check up, there are routine basic tests he will do; check blood pressure, heart rate, listen to your lungs, etc. That's part of the doctor's basic inspection. But, if the doctor sees the your blood pressure is high, he will order other tests that you will be billed for. We need to take this same approach.


So, for an oil change service, you typically check the lights, wipers, tire pressure, fluid levels, etc. That's routine. But, if during the road test the tech finds that the car pulls to one side while braking, then there needs to be an inspection done to find the problem, and that needs to be billed to the customer. (This is what we do in our shop)


And lastly, I also agree that if the customer has not been in for service in a while, there is nothing wrong with selling an inspection up front.


Will it prequalify your customers. Probably, but many companies do. Take a look at Starbucks.

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Maybe in the Eurocar world, but not in my soccer-mom commuter car world. It's all about good will. The courtesy check gives the SW a tool to establish a relationship with the customer. If properly presented, it lets them know you have their best interests at heart. We typically perform free CCs on 80% of our car count.


On check engine lights, we scan for free, give the customer a quick briefing on the implications i.e. safe to drive, might damage cat, and we turn the light off if appropriate. ANYTHING beyond that, the diagnostic clock is ticking, usually in half hour increments. My experience is that folks are really alienated when you tell them you are going to charge them to just hook up your scanner.

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I'll do a little "let me lookie see" for customers, but I draw the line at free code checks. Because every time you do a free code check they always want to pick your brain for what the code means and what the most likely cause of the code is. AND, of course, they say, "Thank you... you've been so kind to help me." ... ... ... then drive off never to be seen again. That is until they need the next "freebie - lookie - see"

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We do free code checks and complimentary inspections. I agree flacvabeach, doing a 'free inspection' builds a sense of value and starts a good relationship with the customer. My labor rate, insisting on using factory oem parts, and loaner car program is usually a good 'pre qualifier'.


Our free code check is just that, we tell them what the code is. If they want to know what it probably is, we tell them we will GUESS. Guesses come with no warranty, no guarantee, exactly what they get at the parts store with their free code check.


Free courtesy checks have sold me too many steering racks, brake jobs, timing belts, and fluid flushes... You'll see how this works with the 'mobil manager' inspection process

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I agree also with Joe. Spending 10 minutes or so on a preliminary inspection in all areas, general maintenance, diagnostics, leaks, AC work etc. helps to build rapport with the customer and allows us to see what needs to be sold. I also strongly agree that we give way too much away in comparison to our investment in what it takes deliver outstanding service.


Tablets are great. It will take time to implement, be patient and try to show your techs the value it provides in the sale at the counter and the trust that it builds with the customer.


How many are paying their techs for the inspection? I think the tech should be paid for his time regardless of whether or not you charge the customer.

Edited by Gary A
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I do not pay my tech specifically for the inspection, however I pay well enough for oil changes and tire rotations (I probably pay the best in town), so it makes up for a 5 minute inspection.


Plus, when you can look and see that RO's are increasing 35% after inspections are performed, that usually translates to a 35% increase in tech hours. Beats sitting around, waiting for the next car.

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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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