Auto Repair Shops Can't Rely on Free Car Repair Estimators

Free car repair estimators look enticing at first but can cause problems down the road. A full-fledged shop management system is well worth the upgrade.

Auto Repair Shops Can't Rely on Free Car Repair Estimators
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When customers come to your shop for repair work, they’re expecting a standardized process with an estimate for all the work your shop will be completing.

Repair estimates are the foundation for your shop’s revenue.

How you estimate work and send those findings and estimates over to your customers will shape your shop’s profitability, your customer relationships, and how professional you come across to your customers.

Some shop owners might be tempted to use the free online car repair estimator tools to run their own estimates. But will this shortcut actually help your shop get to where you want it to be?

What Is an Auto Repair Estimate?

When customers come to your shop for repair work, they’re expecting a standardized process with an estimate for all the work your shop will be completing. Typically, as you'll know, this meant paper printouts or even manually, hand-written checklists.

But paper leaves a lot to be desired. As shop management systems have shifted from pen and paper to digital, and more recently from older digital software to modern cloud-based solutions, shops have access to way better tools than ever before.

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Free Estimates Versus Paid Software

If you’re relying on free estimate tools for your customers’ estimates, you might run into some issues. Maybe the online estimator tool isn’t updated with the most recent info on a customer’s vehicle.

Or, if your local tax laws changed, the estimate might not reflect that.

So, how accurate are car repair estimates? They aren’t very accurate and aren’t as reliable as paid shop management software. They simply can’t tie into the rest of your shop’s system and processes.

Shop management software not only provides estimates to your customers but can also further explain vehicle repairs via digital vehicle inspections. A shop management system will give your shop:

Free car repair estimator tools might seem like they help you in the moment, but over the course of your career, they can limit your ability to grow.

Modern platforms with digital vehicle inspections make it easier to show customers exactly what your shop will be fixing, how much it will cost, and how long it’ll take. And we actually mean show them!

Digital vehicle inspection estimates will include everything you expect: an estimate of the repairs including necessary parts and associated costs, labor requirements including time and cost, and an overall breakdown of the total charge, but because everything is digital, shops can even include pictures or videos to really help drive home the need for repair.

And because everything is digital, results can be sent directly to the customer’s email address or even texted right to their phone for instant approval.

What a Free Car Repair Estimator Won’t Tell You

While free auto repair estimate tools help drivers gain a sense of what the repairs could cost, they simply base that on the limited information that you provide.

If you scroll down on most of the auto repair cost estimators, you’ll see a “Repair Cost Estimator Legal Disclaimer” that will likely include the following statements:

  • Estimated price is customized for your vehicle make, model, year, and trim, but does not include diagnostic charges, taxes, disposal or environmental fees, oil or other fluid costs, or other ancillary parts that may be needed for the repair.
  • Vehicle repair costs may vary from vehicle to vehicle.
  • Actual repair costs will vary based on labor rates, time required for repairs, actual parts used, your vehicle’s condition, and any other circumstances pertinent to your particular repair job.
  • This estimate is to be used for informational purposes only and is intended to serve as a general guide.
  • Always consult a certified automotive technician before making important auto repair and service decisions.

The last two disclaimers are big ones. As you can tell by the language, estimators are for customers, and they’re only rough estimates. Any time a customer receives an estimate from an auto repair shop, they want to know exactly what they’re about to spend on the repairs.

Using a free auto repair estimator tool will not include the taxes, fees, and any specific vehicle information that might affect the price, or any potential underlying issues that might increase your customer’s total.

The best way to earn your customer’s trust is by giving them accurate car repair estimates that clearly show the details and the reasoning behind your estimate.

Upgrade from a Free Car Repair Estimator

A free car repair estimator might seem like it saves your shop time and money, but will likely lead to more mistakes and inefficiencies that end up costing you time and money down the road. And if you get into the habit of only using free online estimators, you are limiting yourself.

If you find that you’re struggling to move on from free car repair estimator tools, find a way to remove them completely. One option? Replace them with a shop management system and never look back.

We’ve said it before, and we’ll say it again. Digital vehicle inspections are the best way to show your customer exactly what’s wrong with their vehicle, and why your shop’s repair work is necessary.

Because modern tools like digital vehicle inspections and car repair estimators, shops send pictures or videos, customers can feel more comfortable that they’re making the right decisions in approving repairs they may have otherwise put off.

Give Your Customers Accurate Estimates With Tekmetric

When you use Tekmetric to give your customers a clear, accurate picture of exactly how much repairs will cost, they’ll be able to make informed decisions—and will see your shop as professional, organized, and reliable.

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