Does Your Auto Shop Allow Customer Supplied Parts?

customer supplied parts

Does your auto shop use customer supplied parts to complete their repairs? This topic can raise some eyebrows and tempers between customers and shop owners or techs, but there are good reasons for shops refusing to use aftermarket parts customers purchase elsewhere. Here we will go through those reasons and how to explain your shop’s policy to your customers.

The Parts Are Right There – Why Not Use Them? 

In an earlier blog we talked about how waiting for auto parts is a large contributor to inefficiency in the repair process. Given this fact, on its face it might seem to customers that a shop is being uncooperative when they refuse to use the parts that customers have already acquired on their own. They are already there and paid for, after all. What’s the problem?

While the economy is much better than it has been, many people are still struggling to pay off debts or loans or bills for their families. Wages, stagnant for many years, have been much slower to rise than inflation. It’s easy for customers to price parts online, and they have an incentive to pay for labor costs only. Why can’t they just pay the shop to install the parts? 

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Too many customers don’t understand that there are good reasons for shops to maintain control over the parts they use and not allow customer input (or interference). The first reason is that the shop has to stay in business. Between labor, overhead, and the price of parts, there’s a thin line of profitability that the shop must maintain to keep the doors open. A closed shop can’t take customer parts and install them either. It’s in everyone’s interest to keep auto shops open.

The second reason is that most customers are not experts when it comes to parts. The quality of aftermarket parts available online ranges from complete garbage to significantly better than OEM parts. In most cases, customers who supply their own parts are attempting to save money, so they won’t be investing in very high quality aftermarket parts. This desire to cut costs coupled with a lack of experience about parts means it’s likely they will purchase parts that are inferior to the parts the shop would buy. They are more likely to fail. 

The auto shop has a vested interest in using good quality parts because they’re liable for part failure and anything else that comes with it. This would include resultant labor costs, potential additional damage to the vehicle, towing costs, and reimbursement for a rental car. A profitable shop can cover the costs of an occasional part failure or mistake, but not if it happens regularly. Its reputation also takes a ding every time a part fails. 

How to Explain a “No Customer Supplied Parts” Policy

Even if your shop has great reasons to refuse to install customer supplied parts, no one wants to deal with dissatisfied, angry, or defensive customers. You can’t tell them they don’t know what they’re doing buying parts or just being cheap. You won’t have customers if you do that. 

It’s better to approach this type of conflict by focusing on the strength and expertise of your shop and how that benefits your customers. Explain to the customer that your shop takes full responsibility for its work and guarantees its repairs. That’s the reason that it has the customer base it has – because customers know that their cars will be repaired correctly and will be safe to drive afterwards. In order to guarantee that will happen then, your shop has to have full control over the parts that are installed in the cars it fixes. If there is a problem, the shop will fix it if the shop supplied the part. If the customer supplied it, the shop cannot guarantee those results. 

Once the customer understands this, your shop staff can repeat the terms of the warranty that the shop gives on repairs as well as the reassurance that the car will operate well and safely after the repair. If the customer can’t accept that, they are free to go to a different shop, of course.

These are the arguments against letting customers supply their own parts. Are there arguments for? Of course. In our next blog we will talk about the pros of allowing customers to bring in their own parts. 

Does your auto repair shop have a policy on using customer supplied parts? We would love to hear your experience, both with the parts themselves and explaining your policy to your customers. Please leave your comments either here or on our forums. 

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  1. The only truth from the previous comments are that repair shops are for-profit business. However, this does not fully equate to the inability to install customer purchase parts. Again, its only half truth that liability and insurance can prevent this but this is easily rectified by having an exclusion clause in the documents about having no liability on customer installed parts. The bottom line is that most shops only want 100% profitability from parts and labor or nothing; which shows their lack of profitability understanding; some profit is better than no profit. For example, I went to a local so-called honest repair shop and I wanted to install better performing brake rotors and pads. The shop owner tells me a song and dance that he is liable and only uses genuine parts. My car being an 2011 Audi – would mean he would have to order the parts from the dealer or from Germany which would cost $4k+ and then goes on about having to use a $10k machine to manage the electrical brake system. What most likely will happen is that he will just order some aftermarket OEM compatible parts from CarQuest and use a vice and call it a day. So going back to profitability, the average up charge on parts is 20-40% and labor 40-60% would net him a hefty change on the job. Without laughing, I declined and said I can do it myself with my own vacomm; and he was out of his 40-60% profit. Bottom line is, the customer can always find another shop or do it themselves with a quick how-to manual (fixing normal things on a car is not rocket science), but if you want to stay in business and grow; adapt or die out.

    Yes I have my own shop and yes my shop is always booked full every week. Net yearly profit $500k+.

  2. In Texas, liability cannot be transferred. So, if I install a customer’s part that then fails, I’m just as liable as if I had used a part from my own source and had knowledge of quality base. Who saved the money in the first place? The customer…. then he had you accept liability by installing his part. Win-win for him, lose-lose for us shop owners. I generally tell a customer that I’m a for profit business, not a charity. I explain all the dynamics of my 44+ years of experience, etc.

    Typically, I lose the customer regardless…. I figure “good riddance”. I got sued back in the 80’s over this very scenario…. and lost in spite of the part’s crappy quality being the root problem. I haven’t installed their parts since.

  3. I have a policy to not install customer supplied parts.
    I offer 2 year 24000 km warranty as part of a program.
    There are some exceptions though. Such as hard to get items old car, classic car,
    very expensive otherwise dealer only items etc.
    I prefer the customer ask me first rather than walking in hand with the part.
    Most of the time they are people who have bought the part without thinking and are stuck with
    finding someone who wants to install it.
    Some people just have a habit of going online and comparing prices, they enjoy it, much like a
    hobby. Its difficult to know if they will ever see the big picture.

    If its a bulb or a wiper blade or something like that I remind them I sell those too and they should ask. But install it if it is a known customer or referral to a good known customer.
    I get people bring new tires etc so those are an exception as well.

    I had an experience where a fleet manager customer brought me his own vehicle and supplied
    front wheel bearings. A few weeks later a get a call saying that the bearing failed and ruined his cv boot, the vehicle was in a shop a few hours away. I gave the shop a call and they were honest to report no mis-installation or damage from installing it, but the bearing failed allowing enough play for the cv boot to rub through. The owner did not ask for any compensation based on the honesty of the other shop.
    It taught me a lesson to think about possible liability if a supplied part fails even if it
    is technically not my responsibilty.

    The problem is unlikely to go away.
    Customers prefer to be given some reasonable options when it comes to repair costs but
    we also need to stand firm and not risk compromising our reputation or their safety just for the sake of having a labor sale or loss of a potential customer.