A lot of people contact me for advice about buying and selling cars, some personally and some professionally. There is a toolkit that every good Pre-owned or Used Car Manager needs to do their job well, uncover value, save time, sell more cars, and make more money. These tools are inexpensive and will pay for themselves typically in the first week, but still, so few managers have their own tools or know how to use them. These also make a great gift for any car enthusiast, at any time of the year. Think of the investment your technicians make in their tools and then realize the opportunity to invest in yourself and your career.
Tire Tread Depth Gauge $10
The benefits of this tool are 3 fold beyond using it to measure tread depth. The first is that it establishes to the customer that you know what you’re looking at. Two, it can save you making a bad decision on appraisal on something with borderline wear, either for Certified Pre Owned standards or local safety standards. Three, it forces you to actually look at each of the four tires, and while you’re down there, you can take a look for cuts to the side wall, feathering, or dry aged, weather cracking.
Screw Gun with popular fittings $49
There are some cheap ones out there that still used NICAD batteries that won’t stand up to the demands of bolting and unbolting license plates 2 or 3 times a day. Lithium Ion has gotten so good and so cheap its nuts not to choose one with this long-lasting battery tech. Having something with enough torque and impact to loosen even the most rusted on bolts, with enough variability not to snap the heads off can be a big time saver for changing plates, saving embarrassing trips to the service department to borrow a technicians tools and 10mm sockets.
Lithium-Ion Battery Booster Jump Starter Pack $99
Cheap ones out there are still cheap and will mainly do that job if kept charged up. They do double duty as a backup cell phone charger to stay in touch with clients, your business, and your family. Simplify and add lightness with Lithium Ion, where carrying around a 30lb lead-acid battery is impractical. Jumper cables are a thing of the past by keeping your hands clean, avoid needing a second person and a second car to jump, not carrying bulky jumper cables that get dirty from dragging in the snow, or rub up against the bumpers of the cars you’re working on. Finally, the social capital you can earn for yourself and your brand by having one of these handy when you see someone with their hood up on the side of the road or at the shopping mall this winter will go a long way to paying off the minor cost of upfront purchase.
OBD Code Scanner Reader $49
This is a no-brainer. Costs run from $29 to $10,000, but this open standard for On-Board Diagnostics and vehicle troubleshooting is a godsend for the salesperson for a few reasons. If you’re appraising a trade with a check engine light on and the customer doesn’t know why you can save them the $50 minimum diagnostic computer time. Use the scanner to identify the code associated with their Check Engine Light or Malfunction Indicator Lamp. This builds incredible value and credibility in front of the customer who had no commitment to deal. You might even reset it if it’s something innocuous like a loose gas cap. Next, for the customer that tells you its “just a loose gas cap”. Verify the honesty and trustworthiness of the customer in their other statements. Finally, you can quickly reset a light on a used car that came on for low battery voltage or set readiness for a quick test drive, allowing your shop adequate time to effect a proper repair when needed, without losing face to a customer about to test drive a used car for the first time. By using this tool over and over again as the months’ progress, you’ll learn a lot about the types of things that go wrong in a modern vehicle’s onboard computers.
Every staff member and manager should have a small microfiber cloth in their pocket like a handkerchief, to wipe an offending spot off a touch screen, steering wheel, or otherwise, that would ruin the perfect aesthetic of a vehicle that was just detailed when a spot is missed. This is a most gentlemanly ideal but one that carries into today’s busy world.
Paint Depth Gauge $99
These clever devices measure the paint thickness to the metal on body panels that are steel or aluminum. Typically reserved for luxury and sports car dealers where a repainted panel can have a bigger impact on the vehicle’s value, it’s important on any car to establish the history and cross-reference a few data points to be sure. While a vehicle History report such as a CarProof or carfax might tell you there was an accident, it might not show you what side of the car or how many panels were involved. Proper disclosure is important but people are old and forgetful and sometimes less than honest. This will also catch paintwork where no claim was filed or in jurisdictions where the claim is not reported to the vehicle history report provider. While a trained eye with great vision can spot most repaints that’s a big assumption. There can be really great paint jobs that would fool even a hawkeye sales manager. This risk is magnified when if it’s cold outside, the vehicle is dirty, or there are other priorities on a sales managers plate.
Tire Pressure Gauge $10
Lower profile tires make it harder to guess when a tire is showing a little sag. This can save a few minutes to check if a new car has been through a full Pre-delivery inspection.