This wasn't the article published, but a draft. It should serve the purpose anyway. :)
As a service writer, I am continually asked, when should I get rid of my car. Or I am faced with a distressed customer whom has spent $600.00 on a car that they think they could buy for $500.00, clamoring that it is time to get rid of this thing and buy a new one. There were times of internal stress that was felt because our customer was possibly putting money into a vehicle that they thought they shouldn t be, giving the illusion of ripping of the customer . While we never have a crystal ball to know what will happen in the future, giving the best advice possible is paramount.
We had a customer named Neil that had an old Pontiac 6000 that looked like it was on it s last legs. Visually as well as mechanically. I told him to lose the car before it nickled and dimed him to death any worse. Even though it was cutting my own throat, I owe him my honest opinion. We talked about other options that were out there and he looked around but couldn t quite find what he wanted, besides he liked his old jalopy. It served his needs and was paid for. Faithfully, I would see him every couple months for a few hundred-dollar repair bill. This went on for 5 years. He eventually moved to New England, driving the old ricketty but dependable Pontiac wagon. It made me analyze my recommendations a little closer and re-think about when is the time to replace. He had reminded me how I told him that he should have changed vehicles. Meanwhile, I had watched technicians over the years driving some real rust buckets or buying them from a customer because the owner didn t want to spend $500.00 to repair a car, because the car was only worth $1000.00. The technician looked at it differently setting aside the repairs for him would be much less expensive. The shop owner I work for had always presented the answer to the question: is it worth fixing? Into a logical light. He would reply to the owner do you like the car? And then follow up with, Can you buy a car that you know is the exact same condition as your present car for the same cost as what your repair bill will be? Many times customers repaired their car with this logic. But living in this disposable society, I still had trouble quoting a repair that rivaled the expected market value of the car itself.
For years I fought with doing the right thing for my customer as well as the right thing for my employer. There had to be a better way of answering these questions based on more than what I would do if it was mine or what I felt was right for them. After all, what is their financial obligation compared to mine? That is part of the equation for whoever s car it is. What I needed to know was how it could be answered with a common denomonator. We had a customer thaat came in and needed $600.00 worth of work on their 1994 Hyundai. They were customers that kept up on the maintenance we recommended and did repairs as required. Being a loyal customer, it seemed reasonable that they would be a good customer to use for number crunching. I added all of their invoices from 36000 miles to the present miliage. I used these numbers because this is the miliage that the majority of the manufacturer s warranties expire. The currant miliage is subtracted from the 36,000-mile warranty expiration point. I then divided the dollars spents by this to get a dollars per mile figure. It came out to about $.08/mile. Which didn t mean much at this point. So to get a better comparison to what new car is going to be costing the customer; the puchase price is divided by the first 36,000 miles that it is under warranty. Since a new car owner is getting problem free driving for 36,000 miles the purchase price should not be extended beyond this. Using a purchase price of $15,500 plus the sales tax, tags, title brings it to about $17,000 yeilding about $.47/mile. This figure does not include oil changes, tire rotation, interest on a loan or an insurance premium increase. Now that means something! I went back to other loyal customers in our database and found they generally pay $.07 to $.13 per mile to run their vehicles. So they save a minimum of $5,100.00 more annually if they drive 15,000 miles.
The question of moving into a new car can now be answered much more confidently. It is in a way that a customer can relate to making the difference to repair or not. It seems to give them incentive to keep a car and maintain it to get the miliage that is obtainable with today s vehicles when it is taken care of.
Thursday, December 28th, 2006 AT 6:40 PM