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Using Cost Justification to Sell Automotive Maintenance

Young couple after a car breakdownEvery auto shop owner relies on his employees’ ability to convince customers to spend more money on their cars in order to keep them on the road for longer. So many expensive repairs could easily be avoided by more regular attention to what is going on under the hood. However, while some customers will be extremely familiar with the recommendations for fluid and parts replacements in their vehicles’ owners manuals, most of them will not. This means that it is the duty of your auto shop staff to keep them informed about the condition of their cars for their own safety and well being.

Many car owners are wary of spending money on inessentials, and they shy away from upselling, but they are not the ones who see the grim and expensive consequences of auto maintenance neglect. They will own a handful of cars in their lifetimes and, with luck, will never have a car crash that could have been avoided or have to replace an engine because the oil was not changed often enough or ran out entirely. This is why it’s important for your staff to not only be aware of cost justification but able to explain it in ways that customers will understand.

What is cost justification? The Business Dictionary defines it as “Explanation of the need for an item of expenditure, supported by documentation to show that expected returns exceed expected costs.” What does this mean in layman’s terms? It means explaining to people how making this repair or changing this fluid will save them money in the long run compared to the money they would spend if they do not have the service done. Essentially, cost justification is explaining to customers the need for investment in their cars.

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It’s hard to persuade someone to give you $700 a year in maintenance if he feels he is getting nothing for it, so your staff will need to know how to break that down to a daily cost of under $2 and then explain why that daily cost is worth it. The customer understands why buying a $2 chocolate croissant is worth it. It will taste great and be immediately satisfying. But $2 a day for oil, coolant, and spark plugs? It doesn’t sound very exciting until you explain that regular maintenance will prevent:

  • Highway breakdown
  • Car accidents
  • Towing fees
  • Rental car charges
  • Missed work
  • Warranty expiration

All of the above are not only unpleasant but expensive. Much more than $2 a day or $700 a year. The same maintenance will also increase the efficiency of his engine and therefore reduce the amount of gasoline he’ll need to purchase, saving him money.

Some people will never respond to a plea for longer-term thinking and some customers will not be able to afford anything but emergency maintenance, but if you get to know the people your auto shop serves and develop relationships with them, they will be more likely to listen to you when you tell them routine maintenance saves both cars and lives.