Car Repair Auction gains traction with service shops
Zane Sims, an independent automotive mechanical inspector, often is hired by consumers to verify that hefty repair estimates from Reno-Sparks repair shops are in line with what’s actually needed to fix a car or truck.
The work led Sims to found Car Repair Auction, a Web site that allows automotive shops in northern Nevada to bid on repair jobs. Since founding the site in August of 2012, Sims has signed on 52 Automotive Service Excellence-certified repair shops in the region. Shops pay a flat monthly fee for the right to bid on jobs posted by consumers.
Car Repair Auction (carrepairauction.com) had posted about 50 jobs for bid over the past year, but business has been picking up as Sims gears up for a media and advertising campaign. The day a feature about the service appeared on a local television show, Sims had 18 people call about posting their jobs. One-third had repair jobs that qualified for the service.
“Cars have to be of a certain standard — they can’t be too old, and the repair can’t be greater than the car is worth,” Sims says. “It also can’t be less than $300; there just is not enough money there.”
For jobs under $300, such as a simple brake pad replacement, Car Repair Auction offers an automotive placement service where it shops the job to several repair firms via telephone and negotiates a best rate for the customer.
The service isn’t limited to individuals, either. Sims says companies with large fleets or rental car firms could benefit from the site. Residents with strong ties to a local mechanic also could benefit, he adds.
“There are a lot of people out there that have a mechanic that they have been established with for many years and have great relationships. They actually get less breaks because the shop knows they aren’t going to shop anywhere else. They can go to the auction board, put their mechanical failure on there, and shop the local market to make sure they are paying a fair price in the local market.”
Another challenge: Creating a level playing field for competing repair shops. Those with lower overhead and smaller facilities often can underbid the larger shops, Sims says.
Car Repair Auction is a self-funded venture, and Sims, who is putting his two children through college, hasn’t committed any money on advertising. Instead, he’s relied on satisfied customers and word of mouth to generate participation in the site.
“Once a customer saves a bunch of money, they start telling a bunch of people about it,” Sims says. “But I think it will go absolutely gangbusters and I will have to hire service advisers to help me keep up with the flow.”
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