Free Oil Changes

Eden Wood
Anyone out there giving free oil changes as an incentive to sell cars and gain/retail service customers? If so, how is it going? Is it working, are you having success? -thx
Mark Miller
In my time as a service writer/manager, I was involved in several of these programs. What I found was the oil change interval we held the customer to was paramount in what we were able to sell on the visit. New cars offered only maintenance offerings, and now those intervals are farther between so you'll only see the customer for the free oil change. On used cars it was a great way to give us a chance to see and inspect the car, the only downside was the expectation was set that the customer was there for an oil change (short time and waited) and was spending no money. Overall I'd say I saw mixed results, nothing to say it worked or didn't.
Dave Leger
Now there is a question with 100's of potential different answers ! :-)... Lol... I'm kidding... Kinda sorta. Eden, I've worked with clients all across Canada who have used free oil changes very well, and some who have not. A free oil change can be a good incentive for many things. The service department can use them to win back clients or conquest clients. It can be costly, but the key is in how you use it. I've found many dealers to use it as a lure, and then upsell as much as they can during the visit... The results are usually good short term, but long term they don't look so great, and the dealership is back to square one trying to figure out what to do next. As I'm sure you can figure out, clients in this situation don't leave with a great experience and go back to their previous service provider. Or they just use the freebie and go back to their normal routine. Consumers often feel there is going to be a catch when something of value is offered for free and are often on guard from the get go. Now, the dealers who use the freebie as an incentive to bring them in, find out why they haven't been coming back and address those concerns, are usually the ones who see positive results, in the short and long term. Same for conquest. Some honest one on one conversation with a client can yield some good intel on how you can retain them over the long term. Some you're going to win and keep, some are going to take advantage of you. Nature of the best. The key is to track it and measure the results to see if it is worthwhile. Every market is different. On the new/used car side, same rules apply. You can offer free oil changes for 3 years, but if they didn't feel the dealership was of good value / positive experience during that time, you will likely quickly lose them when it come time for them to pay. It can also be confusing for consumers. Alignments, other fluids, maintenance items and "inspections" at an additional cost on most visits can cause clients to feel like they aren't getting the value they thought they were. And in many dealerships, I've seen the cost of those items go up to cover the free oil change... Then they weren't competitive anymore. I think if you have competitive maintenance schedule pricing, follow the manufacturer schedule, keep the "upsells" like "hot oil flushes" etc to a minimum and keep the experience positive, and most importantly have a solid retention / service reminder program in place, you will see the benefits long term without having to give away free oil changes. I've seen it and implemented it several times. That said, keeping it in your back pocket when someone slips thru the cracks can be powerful as well. Make the offer, address reasons they stopped coming in and start the retention cycle again. I could go on for hours about this... But These are the key thoughts that come to mind. Happy to elaborate if you wish.
Eden Wood
Thanks for your feedback Mark and Dave, there are many moving parts to consider...
R Lamb
we give our customer free oil changes, free state inspections, free towing and a free lifetime engine warranty and we are the largest auto group in the state (and growing!) so i would say it's not a bad idea..
Janice Petersen
Hi Eden! We have an "Oil Change Club" at our dealership. We give each customer a key tab and each time they get their oil changed we punch it. They pay for 6 and we give them the 7th one free. We have had this program for at least 10 years and it has been highly successful. We allow families to combine cards to get a free oil change, we give an extra punch if they have to wait too long or if they didn't have a good experience that day. We also offer the 1st oil change at 1/2 price for anyone who purchases a vehicle and they do get a punch for that first one. We are a small rural dealership in Central Illinois.

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