Creating Valuable Used Car Inspection Forms
As the fixed operations director for the 10-store Sons Auto Group in Georgia, Robert Fletcher has an appreciation for efficiency.
That love of an optimal workflow is apparent when Fletcher explains his preferences for used car inspection forms. Because he still recalls using handwritten forms while working as a technician in the 1980s, the industry veteran values the countless amenities made available these days via digital inspection documents.
And, as a dealership leader entrusted with protecting his employer’s bottom line, Fletcher knows the value of an inspection form that’s impeccable while also offering ease of use.
“Whether they’re digital or paper, you need documentation for a lot of reasons,” he says. “Some of it is liability. [And] we want to make sure that we can consistently inspect all used cars to the same standard, which a form will help with.
“If you have a digital system, then you have a better way to document and store [inspection information] now. … The presentation is much better, the history is much better, and you don’t have paper floating around the store, and you can reference that at any point.”
Over his 36 years in the industry, Fletcher has filled out countless used car inspection forms; here are some keys he feels dealers should keep in mind when creating such a document for their facility.
Design it With Efficiency in Mind.
In Fletcher’s opinion, a shop floor employee should be able to quickly scan a used car inspection form and get a feel for its basic requirements. After all, every second counts in a service department, especially at high-volume facilities.
“You want it easy for a technician to navigate through,” says Fletcher, whose locations work on roughly 400 pre-owned vehicles each month. “You want to have a place to assemble an estimate … you want to have a place to put the estimate next to the suggested repair.”
Avoid ‘Yes or No’ Entries.
While a used car inspection form should be designed with efficiency in mind, you don’t want technicians filling it out at a breakneck pace either. That’s why Fletcher makes sure to set up his inspection documents in a fashion that requires employees to write notes, regarding issues such as tire tread depth, or the measurement on a brake rotor, for example. On some portions of the document, he also makes sure to list multiple response options.
Otherwise, if an inspection form simply consists of yes/no options, Fletcher says dealership staffers tend to fill it out too hurriedly, without attention to detail.
Include Often-Overlooked Items.
In Fletcher’s experience, virtually no item is too small to note on a vehicle inspection form, since even afterthought items like wiper blades, fluids, and lights can cost a dealership dearly if a used vehicle is retailed while still requiring repair work. These days, even issues like cracks on a navigation system screen can leave customers upset.
“Something I’d put on a used car inspection form—to protect the store—is navigation work,” Fletcher says. “If the navigation has a concern and we didn’t check that in re-conditioning, and we find out after we made the sale, that gets into a very expensive repair that wasn’t calculated in the deal.”
Recognize Forms’ Multiple Uses.
A well designed used car inspection form offers value to a dealership well after it’s filled out. Case in point: Fletcher notes that, if an inspection form is filled out thoroughly, it can eventually be used as an estimate.
“If you’re going to sell a high-mileage car and you go to retail it,” he explains, “you can tell a customer they can purchase the vehicle and here are some of the additional items that are needed, that aren’t part of reconditioning, give them the option to go ahead and have those done, and have an estimate for that.”