Lights out: The term can mean different things for many different situations. For example, to a child—bedtime; or based on recent weather—the power is out again; or to a prize fighter—the end of a fight. To those of us who repair cars, it means potential for additional profits.
I can only suppose that with all the recent snow and subsequent thaw/freeze cycles, and of course potholes, the weather is taking its toll on lights, particularly headlights. The question is, is your shop finding and selling these opportunities?
Think about how much time and effort is required for the average oil change. Maybe you are collecting $25 or $30 and you may have $10 in material costs, so your net might be $15 to $20, minus your tech's time of 15 to 30 minutes. You could make that and more with one headlight sale. It would probably take the average technician less than 5 minutes on many cars.
Selling lights is easy. I can't think of the last time when I told a customer they needed a headlight and they said, “I think I'll wait and fix that later.” I think we all realize that having a light out, such as a brake light, turn signal, license plate light, or headlight, could be a reason for getting pulled over and maybe even a ticket.
The challenge is always getting the techs who are working on the vehicle to do a light check as part of any other service the vehicle may be in for.
I have never been a proponent of taking wheels off of cars to do courtesy brake checks without prior customer approval. But when my shop does find lights burned out on vehicles that are in for service, it is generally appreciated by the customer and not perceived as a way of running up their bill.
The other nice thing about add-on light sales is that they are definitive, unlike many other vehicle wear issues. With lights, they typically work or they don't. There is no “almost worn out” or “recommended.”
Let's also remember that with light repairs, like many other car repairs, the days of dollar bulbs and a couple of bucks to install are days gone by. With aerodynamic designs and brighter-than-ever bulbs (HID headlights and LED taillights) you must look up each individual bulb by application for the correct part number and selling price of the bulb. You also have to check flat rate guides for correct installation fees.
While there may be some common pricing for many headlamps and installations, the exceptions could burn you badly.
We recently had a customer ask if we could install his headlight in a 2006 Nissan Titan, which we agreed to do after quoting the flat-rate installation fee of 6/10 of an hour. The customer agreed without argument. I am certain that he could not figure out how to do it himself.
The net result is that checking lights on customers' vehicles coming in for unrelated repairs provides both you and your customers a great service.
In those few instances where the bulb is not the problem, additional wiring or repairs can be sold and will only add to your bottom line. If you are looking for additional revenues, particularly to enhance small ticket items, selling and servicing lights can be very profitable. It certainly sounds like a bright idea to me.
Bob Richey is owner-operator of Richey Inc./Goodyear Tire Center in Bellevue, Pa., and is past president of the Tire Dealers Association of Western Pennsylvania. This article, which first appeared in the association's newsletter, has been edited for length and clarity and is used by permission.