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Buyer's Guideby Andrew Friedenthal,
Market Research Associate
What are the key factors of success for any auto repair shop? Shop owners and managers can tell you: visibility, efficient service and good customer relations are what matter most, regardless of shop size or the number of locations you manage.
Auto shop management software can help you achieve these goals by automating tasks, tracking customer and vehicle histories, connecting you to major parts dealers and maintenance databases and more.
If you think your auto shop’s operations could be improved with an automotive software solution, but you’re not sure how to sort through the options, this guide is for you.
(Click on a link below to jump to that section.)
What Is Auto Repair Software?
Auto shop management software platforms include features commonly used by small and midsize businesses (SMBs) in general, such as accounting, scheduling and inventory management. They also often offer functionality that specifically serves auto repair shops, such as:
- Auto parts sales and inventory management
- Estimating and service writing
- VIN decoding
- Vehicle tracking and history
- Point of sale (POS)
Other than auto repair shops, this type of software is also used by motorcycle shops, small engine repair shops, boat shops etc.
Common Features of Auto Shop Software
Auto repair shop software solutions may include one or more of the following features:
|Estimating and service writing||Access parts and labor databases for accurate pricing and reliable labor times. Create multiple quotes per customer. Quickly view the necessary parts for common repair procedures.|
|VIN Decoder||Extract information encoded in the vehicle identification number (VIN) and may even provide additional information about the vehicle, such as the original equipment manufacturer (OEM) model number and vehicle history.|
|Integrations with key parts, service and data partners||Access CARFAX for vehicle histories and ALLDATA for OEM service and repair information. Integrate with auto parts suppliers such as NAPA and CARQUEST to find pricing and order parts directly through the software application.|
|Work order management||Create, manage and archive work orders, which are a bridge for communication between service writers and mechanics. They can also be used for reporting and analytics or by the front office to generate quotes and invoices.|
|Sales and inventory management||Access inventory management for parts and track them among shops with multiple locations or warehouses. Integrate with credit card processors and point of sale (POS) systems.|
|Accounting and invoicing||Most systems offer integrations with accounting software, such as QuickBooks, Sage Peachtree and Simply Accounting. Streamline data entry for invoicing, accounts payable, accounts receivable and payroll, and manage your checkbook.|
|Customer relationship management (CRM)||Manage customer data and track past interactions. Search customers via phone number, customer ID number or vehicle specific information, such as VIN or license plate number.|
|Reporting||Generate profit analysis reports and sort by type of service, work order, service writer or technician. Analyze marketing efforts. Compare location performance.|
|Marketing||Connect with data from CRM applications for vehicle repair and maintenance marketing campaigns. Maintain a line of communications with existing customers. Also, maintain lead nurturing, social media campaigns and website design.|
|Scheduling||Enable online booking through your website, Yelp, Facebook or other sites. Reduce the number of missed appointments with automatic reminders via text or email. Create staff logins to view and manage technician schedules.|
The Vendor Landscape
Auto repair software products offer a variety of options, with some vendors offering more holistic, fully featured platforms and others targeting just one niche of the market. There are two main types of solutions offered:
- Integrated suite solutions. Software platforms that offer a suite of applications that perform many or all the features listed above are known as integrated suite software solutions.
Below are some examples of auto shop software vendors offering full-featured integrated suites:
Winworks AutoShop is installed on-premise on the user’s own server. There are three versions of the program, with capabilities scaling with price. Each option offers the same core functionality, including:
- Appointment scheduling
- Work order creation
- Task automation
- Customer and vehicle search
Winworks offers native apps for Android and iOS, which handle VIN decoding and work order creation.
AutoFluentis an on-premise integrated suite platform, which also offers cloud database hosting for global data access. This is especially useful for auto repair shops with multiple locations or a separate warehouse.
AutoFluent offers applications for sales, inventory management, CRM, reporting and more.
Main menu in AutoFluent's platform (Source: autorepairsoftware.com)
- Best-of-breed solutions. Stand-alone software applications that serve a specific need in a market are known as best-of-breed software applications.
Here are some examples of best-of-breed automotive software solutions:
Web-Est is cloud-based estimating software built for independent auto body shops. It offers estimating tools such as:
- Integrations with databases for quick labor estimates
- Graphical representations and imaging capabilities
- Estimate creation and emailing capabilities
- Customization of documents with company logo
Marketing 360 is a cloud-based software solution which provides a range of marketing and web design services to personal and business service providers, including automotive repair professionals.
Social profile monitoring dashboard in Marketing 360
Automotive software platforms are typically priced one of two ways: through a perpetual license or a subscription license. The best choice for you depends on your organization’s size, budget and IT capabilities.
Perpetual License Vs. Subscription License Software
The best auto shop management software solution for you is the one that will meet your needs without requiring you to pay for features you won’t use. Consider your current needs, as well as short and long-term goals, to decide which platform will best serve you.
For example, if you have existing server hardware, and want to pay less over time, an on-premise deployment with a perpetual license would likely be the best solution for you, as opposed to cloud-based options.
Alternatively, if you’re satisfied with your current solutions for scheduling, accounting, payroll and CRM, but want to ramp up your online and social presence, consider a best-of-breed marketing tool targeted to auto repair shops.
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