Americans are dependent on their cars to get around: this is a basic fact. In the vast majority of America, public transit doesn’t exist to the point where people can forgo their cars for larger errands or any significant length of time – which is why for most car owners, a breakdown or significant repair is more than inconvenient – it throws a huge crimp in their lifestyle. How will they get to work without a car? How will they take their kids to school? How will they get anything done?
This is why many auto repair shops offer the option of rental cars for their customers. In terms of customer relations, it’s hard to beat being that knight in shining armor for a customer just when they most need assistance. Some auto repairs shops also offer this service free of charge and factor it into their operational budgets as a necessary cost of doing business.
If this is something you are considering doing at your auto repair shop, there are a number of things to consider first. These include:
Liability – Car accidents are a fact of life, something everyone involved in the car repair industry knows. So offering any sort of rental car to customers – free or not – must be backed up with both a signed standard rental agreement and sufficient insurance. Consult both a lawyer and an insurance underwriter to make sure that anything you put in place will keep your business’s liability for any customer’s actions at a minimum. You will also have to put policies in place for who will be allowed to rent a vehicle from you, what condition it must be returned in, whose insurance is primary in case of an accident, and what proof of insurance and identity you will accept. Make sure that you remain up to date on the valuation of your vehicles of well, as this will be a factor in reimbursement for your vehicles should something happen.
Vehicles offered – The vehicles you purchase and make available to your customers should be selected according to their needs. If your auto shop is in a rural area, you will need to consider adding trucks to your inventory. A more affluent clientele may be more appreciative of high end cars or hybrid vehicles. If your business is not flush with extra cash, start by offering the most versatile choice first. Add to that as it becomes possible.
Marketing – On your website and all of your social media, let your customers know that vehicles are available to them for rent now, on an as-needed basis. If you foresee scheduling problems because your fleet of rental vehicles is limited, make sure to create a policy for this as well, as you don’t want to advertise this service and not be able to provide it.
If offering rental vehicles to your customers is not something that your business can currently implement as a service, keep it in mind for the future as an added-value offering. This is something your customers will thank you for doing.