How to Help Your Customers Pay for Their Auto Repairs

Oct. 10, 2019

Payment plans for automotive repairs are turning new customers into repeat customers for Mac Wheels and Tires LLC in Salt Lake City, Utah. “It’s something you want to offer your clients when they don’t have the money,” says Jenny Moran, who handles the auto service payment plans for the tire dealership.

Mac Wheels and Tires has offered its customers loan products from Snap Finance LLC since 2014. The payment plans for auto repairs are 12-month term installment loans with early buyout options. Snap Vice President Ryan Slobodian says his company’s goal is to set a consumer up for success. “We approve an amount that is enough to complete the transaction, but gets them into a payment that will allow them to succeed.”

Slobodian says a payment option that breaks the cost of an auto repair into smaller amounts may lead to higher tickets as the consumer has more cash to move from crisis management to proactively servicing their vehicle. That’s the way it often plays out for Mac Wheels and Tires.

“When clients don’t have the money, we offer Snap Finance to them,” says Moran. “Snap makes them want to buy even more knowing they can do the hundred days and not have to pay everything at once.”

Slobodian notes that an installment loan option engages a whole new consumer market, bringing them into a store where they have a good experience.

“Their loyalty is going to stay with that store because it offers a finance product that works for them,” says Slobodian. “We focus on treating them with trust, respect and dignity, whereas a lot of times the credit-challenged consumer may not have that experience.”

About a third of American consumers do not qualify for traditional financing based on their FICO scores, according to Slobodian. “In order to effectively serve 35% of people in their tire stores, tire dealers need a tertiary or additional finance option that serves people with credit challenges.”

Window or street signage with no-credit-needed messaging draws credit-challenged consumers into a tire store. “These are payment buyers. They are focused on the payment and how much it will cost them per paycheck,” says Slobodian.

Mac Wheels and Tires’ customers finance 20 to 30 auto repair tickets a month with Snap. Many customers who finance an auto repair with Snap return to buy tires, according to Moran.  “A lot of clients come back. They say, ‘I want to get tires, and I want to use Snap Finance.’”

The six-bay dealership has been owned by Marco Cruz and his father, Antonio, for 10 years. The service side of their business generates 40% of revenue, with 60% coming from sales of tires and wheels. Daily car count is about 30 vehicles ranging from luxury cars and imports to family sedans.

Snap’s installment loan products are nonrecourse debt, meaning Snap takes all the risk, not the tire dealer. Says Slobodian, “It works a lot like a credit card transaction in that we settle in two business days, and a store has the money in its account. The risk to a tire dealer is not offering a product like this and allowing a consumer to go to a competitor who may have it.”

Moran suggests dealers who are looking for a way to boost service and tire sales to consider offering their customers a way to finance auto repairs. “It will get you more customers because you are giving them an option to finance a repair if they don’t have the money. It’s cool because they get approved based off their bank account, not a credit check.”

A new type of customer

Customers who want to finance their purchases at Plaza Tire Service Inc. have two choices: the dealership’s private label credit card or payment plans from West Creek Financial Inc.

President Mark Rhodes says the Plaza Tire credit card, which the dealership has offered for many years, has always been a huge success for the company “and still is, without question.”

A second financing option was added in the fall of 2018. The Cape Girardeau, Mo.-based dealership now offers loan products from West Creek at its 67 tire stores in Missouri, Illinois, Arkansas and Kentucky.

The West Creek payment plans brought a new type of customer into Plaza Tire Service stores. “We found out there is a customer base out there looking for the verbiage that says no credit needed,” says Rhodes.

“You see that wording at furniture stores and other businesses. Those customers follow that terminology around and buy everything that way. And it’s not necessarily the customer you think it would be.”

Plaza Tire discovered that people who pay for auto repairs with installment loans do not always have poor credit or low incomes. “I think we had a vision that it was a real low-cost customer, but it’s become a way people buy larger purchases,” says Rhodes.

“For a long time, we were not attracting that customer. And just by offering West Creek payment plans we are getting a customer in our stores that we would not have had previously. So that’s the key to it. The payment plans opened up a clientele that we weren’t attracting before.”

The Plaza Tire credit card is the first option offered to customers who want to finance auto repairs or tire purchases. The second option is West Creek. Rhodes says the application process for a West Creek payment plan is very easy as customers apply online on their own device. “Just send them a link.”

To promote the payment plans, Plaza Tire places signage in its stores and mentions the financing option in its advertising. “No credit needed is all we say everywhere,” says Rhodes. He and his brother Scott are second-generation owners of Plaza Tire. The brothers were winners of Modern Tire Dealer’s 2017 Tire Dealer of the Year award.

Q&A with providers of auto service payment plans

Car repair financing enables shops to close more sales with customers who may not have upfront cash or access to traditional forms of credit. Modern Tire Dealer asked companies for details on products designed to help consumers pay for auto repairs. Six responded: American First Finance Inc. (AFF), FlexShopper LLC, EasyPay Inc., Snap Finance LLC, West Creek Financial Inc., and Confident Financial Solutions Inc., which goes to market as DigniFi. (Scroll down to see our handy charts.)

MTD: What services and products do you offer to tire dealers who provide auto repair services?

AFF: We help auto repair shops meet the needs of more customers with payment plans they can afford through loans or financing plans that approve more customers, including those without a FICO score. By including a nonprime financing solution, your shop can provide an alternative payment option to a credit-challenged customer who would otherwise go to a competitor or simply never walk in your door. It’s like providing instant buying power for your customers to pay for parts, service, warranties, tax and labor. 

DigniFi: We offer closed-end installment loans to consumers for the primary purpose of financing auto-repair related expenses. Loans range from 12 to 36 months with APRs from 9.99% to 36%. Customers will have their interest waived if they make all their scheduled payments on time and pay off their loan in full within 60 days. There are no prepayment fees. DigniFi also offers cash advance loans deposited directly into the consumer’s bank account, vehicle protection plans, and roadside assistance programs.

EasyPay: We provide a non-lease credit solution at the point of sale, with a unique approach that offers customized approvals for customers with good credit to no credit. Unlike leasing options, EasyPay Finance doesn’t give every customer the same rate: they get the rate that is right for them. Our program features an interest rebate if customers pay off the balance in 90 days; financing up to $5,000; $0 down required; the ability to prequalify customers in as little as two minutes without affecting their credit score; electronic signatures and mobile applications; fully transparent contracts and fees; and the shop is paid the same day if the transaction is received by 4 p.m. EST.

FlexShopper: When consumers are short on cash and do not qualify for credit, FlexShopper offers the flexibility of lease-to-own to consumers, allowing them to get the repairs they need while saving the sale for providers of auto repair services. Our product requires zero integration with the retailer, and the retailer is immediately paid at the point of sale.

Snap: Snap provides rent-to-own and installment products depending upon the need of the shop and their consumers.

West Creek: We offer easy-to-use no-credit-needed financing for your customers. We approve over 80% of customers, with an average approval of $1,850 and a max approval of $5,000. 

MTD: What sets you apart from other finance companies?

AFF: We are rated an A+ with the BBB, have a 4.5-star Google rating and always want to do the right thing and then do even more.

Approvals are available up to $5,000, offering up to 24-months terms. We have text-to-apply solutions that streamline the application process for customers, so shops don’t become application takers. And because we use a loan solution, all products, services, labor, warranties and taxes are included, making this financing highly compliant.

DigniFi: DigniFi is not a finance company. We are a tech platform that provides our customers access to financing options through our financing partners. We designed our consumer experience from the ground up, so it’s easy to use, paperless, and delivers quick credit decisions.

EasyPay: EasyPay is not a lease, but a traditional installment finance contract. Unlike leases, EasyPay has no restrictions on financing repair services: customers can finance any ratio of parts and labor, assuring the repair shop stays compliant with local and national regulations. EasyPay gives customers the rate that’s best for them based on their credit history and other determining factors. EasyPay transactions are completely transparent, with fully disclosed APRs. Leasing companies do not disclose an APR rate, leading to customer confusion and after-the-sale customer service issues. EasyPay reports consumer transactions to credit bureaus, giving customers a chance to build positive credit.

FlexShopper: Our product requires zero integration with the retailer, and the retailer is immediately paid at the point of sale, not days later; there is no reconciliation of invoices needed. In addition, FlexShopper provides a mobile application experience that is user-friendly and keeps the customer engaged during the sales process. We understand that when stores are busy, store associates may not have time to babysit the customer. We also promote repeat sales with open-to-buy spending limits and require no money down. We can be operating in a store within 24 hours.

Snap: Snap’s high approval rates and amounts result in industry-leading take rates, our Snap Edge program drives additional customers to our retail partners. This means customers are approved and ready to spend.

Finally, Snap will treat their customers well. Our internal metrics reveal that 82% of Snap’s customers would recommend Snap to a close friend or family member. In addition we have 4.8/5 stars for our Google reviews with over 1,000 reviews to date.

West Creek: Our focus on superior underwriting technology allows us to approve more customers for higher amounts.

Our technology outperforms our competitors and maximizes our impact on our dealers’ business.

MTD: How do your offerings benefit a tire store?

AFF: First and foremost, more sales! By approving more customers who need payments to get their repairs done.  Second, more assurance and compliance for shops. With American First Finance, the loan solutions you’re offering to customers are legal and can be used for everything you sell. And third, higher tickets with higher approvals and terms up to 24 months so payments are affordable, and your customer can get everything they need.

DigniFi: DigniFi helps drive sales. According to our latest case study, DigniFi drove three times average growth in same-store sales and a 20% increase in average sales year over year. The case study also found overall sales increased while average discounts were lower.

EasyPay: EasyPay will help approve up to 80% of a shop’s customers. We have shops that have increased their revenue up to $30,000 per month when used as their all-in-one customer payment plan solution. Unlike leases, EasyPay has no restrictions on financing repair services — customers can finance any ratio of parts and labor. EasyPay is also a helpful marketing tool. EasyPay will get shops more loyal customers with EasyLead and EasyRepeat. EasyLead is a new national consumer direct marketing strategy designed to deliver new customers with pre-approved credit to the EasyPay shop. EasyPay finds the customer online, pre-approves them, and sends them directly to the shop. EasyRepeat is designed to drive additional traffic to shops by pre-approving customers that have successfully paid off their EasyPay contract at that location.

FlexShopper: FlexShopper helps turn a significant portion of credit card declines into incremental sales with an easy to use mobile app and the option to cascade from the shop’s primary credit provider. There are zero startup or upfront costs and FlexShopper provides training and covers the cost of all marketing materials. 

Snap: Thirty-five percent of consumers do not qualify for traditional financing. Our offering is an opportunity for auto repair shops to serve these customers, creating a new clientele and revenue stream.

West Creek: Offering West Creek to your customers means a higher conversion rate, and more customers driving home happily and safely. We give your customers the financial flexibility to get what they need without compromising on quality.  

MTD: How do you evaluate customers beyond FICO scores?

AFF: The majority of Americans are actually nonprime, according to research done by the Corporation for Economic Development. And because consumers who have subpar or nonexistent credit histories have more limited access to financial solutions, American First Finance doesn’t fully rely on FICO credit scores as the determining factor of creditworthiness. Our proprietary underwriting process of using both conventional and alternative data sources allows us to calculate an internal risk score for those applicants with little to no traditional credit history.

DigniFi: Our underwriting covers the credit spectrum. Proprietary scoring algorithms utilize machine learning techniques along with credit and alternative data sources to produce a custom credit risk score that we believe significantly outperforms standard models like FICO.

EasyPay: EasyPay understands that there are a number of reasons a customer may not have a favorable credit score, and goes well beyond this when evaluating a consumer’s creditworthiness. EasyPay’s proprietary algorithm evaluates how a customer handles their bank accounts, as well as several behavioral patterns that are not credit related. Many customers are also approved with a zero credit score.

FlexShopper: We use various sources of data that do not impact a customer’s FICO score. Unlike our competitors, we inform denied applicants the reasons for their denial.

Snap: We do not use FICO in our decision. Snap uses over 9,000 data points that are more predictive than FICO, especially for the underbanked or thin file consumer.

West Creek: We use over 6,000 data points to paint a more accurate picture of your customers. This allows us to approve more customers for higher amounts.    ?

About the Author

Ann Neal

Ann Neal is a former senior editor at Modern Tire Dealer.