Car Volume vs. Ticket Average: The Battle Between Most Profitable vs. Most Requested Services

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In the automotive maintenance industry, there is always a tug-of-war being played when it comes to ticket average and car count. Some in the industry believe spending more time with each customer and recommending numerous services will make the business most profitable, while others believe getting as many cars as possible in and out as quickly as possible is the best way to go. It would seem finding a middle ground is a winning stance on the issue. As we all know, profits don’t simply come from the standard oil change. The pretty penny comes from all of the additional services like wiper blades, transmission services, additives, etc. Each year here at National Oil & Lube News, we conduct the Fast Lube Operator Survey, which is one of the most in-depth studies of the fast oil change industry. This article will discuss some of those findings and represent the changing market.

It’s important to note the large majority of customers will purchase the products that technicians recommend over any type of brand loyalty. While keeping this in mind, it is a good idea to refrain from judging your customers and predetermining what you think they can afford. Many techs in the industry have gotten into the habit of trying to get the “soccer mom” in and out as fast as possible without offering additional services she could really benefit from based on a preconceived judgment. The same thing goes for those customers who come in and appear that they can’t afford additional services. Don’t judge a book by it’s cover, as the old adage goes. Often, these individuals are the ones who desire to keep their vehicles performing at an optimal level to prevent down time and to keep their vehicles running for as many years as possible.

To make sure you aren’t missing opportunities or misinterpreting customers’ intentions, it’s a good idea to always recommend services that will benefit the customer. According to the 2016 Fast Lube Operator Survey, the industry’s ticket averages $71.36. Where does your shop fall in reference to this number?

In general, you aren’t going to increase your average bay time by much when recommending services, but you could increase your overall ticket average. If you see an air filter needs to be changed or the windshield wipers are torn, recommend the replacement.

Air filters are generally the most requested service due to the importance of air flow in today’s fuel injection engines. The air going into the combustion chamber and its quality is directly determined by the air filter. The average price shops are charging for air filters is $22.29, and 24.1 percent of customers are purchasing them. Let customers know replacing the air filter will typically pay for itself in fuel savings over its lifetime and will help keep their vehicles running properly. Considering nearly 25 percent of customers are currently paying for this service, imagine how much higher your ticket average would be if you mentioned this service to every customer that would benefit from it.

The second most requested service is engine flushes or fuel and oil additives. This is another great way to boost your ticket average, and it’s generally an easy sell because of the increased efficiency of the vehicle and its ability to burn fuel properly. Of the shops that do offer engine flush services, the average charge is $63.79, and 23.3 percent of customers are purchasing the service. Many customers are unaware of the benefits and overall savings regular maintenance can bring them, so speak up and educate your customers at the very least, especially those who drive vehicles with gasoline direct injection (GDI) engines. (To learn more about GDI issues and how to solve them, search for “GDI” on

This brings us to the third most requested service, tire rotations. Due to the design of newer vehicles, OEMs are recommending more frequent tire rotations than ever before. On average, shops are charging $21.88 for tire rotation service, and 14.2 percent of customers are purchasing. This is a quick service many customers want, but they frequently forget to ask for it once in the shop. Again, if you offer the service at your shop, this is just another great way to boost your ticket average, and customers will appreciate you reminding them about the need to have this quick service performed.

Headlight restoration and lightbulb replacement also made the list of most popular services with an average charge of $74.89 for headlight restoration and $19.15 for lightbulb replacement. Currently, only 17 percent of shops offer headlight restoration, which is a 7.1 percent increase. Maybe after seeing the revenue possibilities in this article, more shops will expand their service offerings without increasing bay times.

With The Corporate Average Fuel Economy (CAFE) standards constantly increasing, another frequently requested service is emissions testing and safety inspections. The requirements vary from state to state, but as standards continue to increase, the regulations will increase and more shops will offer regulation testing. Many of these regulations, like miles-per-gallon, echo the importance of some of the previously mentioned services like air filters and additives. All of these services, in addition to synthetic oils, help improve the fuel mileage of vehicles.

Synthetic oils are more profitable than conventional oils, and as time goes on, oil will continue to decrease in viscosity and become more efficient. As this steady shift occurs, oil will use more synthetic properties to increase this efficiency and the overall life of the vehicle. This also means an increased ticket average for shops, as the average price shops are charging for a full synthetic oil change is $75.45 compared to the standard conventional oil change price of $41.18.   

The 2016 Fast Lube Operator Survey is in, and the message is clear. There are numerous ways to raise your overall ticket average without adding too much time per transaction. Don’t miss out on those easy opportunities. Your customers will thank you when their cars last much longer than expected.

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