vAutoStock Blog

Tips to improve your used vehicle preparation time

I recently read an article by Manheim which is very close to my heart regarding preparation time.

It had some interesting statistics but did not go on to give any tips on how to deal with the issues it raised.


  • “85% of dealers surveyed reported completing preparation work on newly acquired stock was the biggest issue.”
  • “42% said it would take 3-4 days to get a vehicle listed.”
  • “Just under 25% said it would take 5-6 days.”

Firstly, if I ask most businesses how long it takes to get a vehicle listed I would expect them to say similar to the above.  In reality I often find it can be a lot more.  Also, getting photos on the web is only half the issue.

The other interesting statistic from the article was the research CAP HPI had conducted that concluded an average priced Ford Focus depreciates £7 per day in stock.  This means that every day counts.

Tips to speeding up the process:

  • Vehicle arrival
    – I am amazed at how many businesses expect their Sales Managers to receive the vehicle paperwork, push lines to the Workshop, book SMART repair and valet. The problem here is inherently they have a lot to do. Most other tasks trump the vehicle preparation task throughout the day. Our research shows with this set up it often takes on average 2 days to push any preparation instruction for the vehicle. You have already lost £14.

TIP – Have a robust process for checking the vehicle in and posting job instructions. Do not tie your Sales Managers up with what is an administration task.

  • Workshop
    – Probably the biggest issue but one that does not effect getting the vehicle to market.  But it does cost you sales.  Often sales preparation work is fitted in around retail work, which I do understand.  What most businesses do not see is the knock on effect of selling a vehicle that has not been through the Workshop.  It causes a number of issues.
    The vehicle becomes a priority and the workshop must find time to do it before the agreed delivery date.  This adds pressure on the Workshop and Sales Department.
    Sales Consultants agree a time of 5 days for delivery to allow for the work.  This adds to cashflow constraints, risks the customer changing their mind and increases a potential drop in customer satisfaction.
    The preparation of that vehicle becomes the Salesperson’s responsibility and they end up focusing on that and not selling vehicles.
    That vehicle has probably been test driven by a customer and no one knows if that vehicle is road worthy.  If there was an accident there is a lot of liability to the business owner.
    There is a big bill for unseen work once a sale has been agreed.  You either let a customer down or the margin you were working with has now been eroded.

TIP – Reward your workshop for a 48-hour turnaround time.  What you spend as an incentive will be earned back once the vehicle is sold and delivered quickly. 

  • SMART Repairs
    – Often most dealerships use an outside company for SMART repair and they turn up on site once or twice a week.  They are handed a list of jobs which often includes sold vehicles which take priority.  5 days can be added easily in this process.  You are now up to 5-7 days or £35-£49.

TIP – Keep your SMART repairer up to date each day of the work outstanding.  If they can’t keep up then look to use two suppliers.  You are their customer and it is costing you money. 

  • Bodyshop 
    – Very similar issues to SMART but often the work is more complex and does take longer.

TIP – If your current supplier can’t keep up with the volume add additional suppliers.  Let them both/all know the work outstanding and let them bid for the work using promised speed of completion.

  • Valet
    – Usually this is provided by a supplier to the business and when there are delays extra resource can be called upon.  What is not seen is a knock on effect of a valeting team that is working in silo to the rest of the process.  A vehicle arrives in stock and is added to a valet system.  As it is stock the valet team will work on the vehicle as soon as possible.  Often this is before it has been through the workshop or SMART/Bodyshop.  At best the vehicle requires a re-clean, at worse, it is sitting on your forecourt in not the best condition.

TIP – If you get the other bits right it will be heading into valet immediately after SMART/Bodyshop.  Automate the instruction at the right time to the valet system if possible.

  • Photos/Videos
    – The best time to take vehicle photos and videos is immediately after they have been cleaned.  Not once they have sat overnight or on a forecourt.

TIP – Have dedicated people that are responsible for photographs.  Set up a robust process whereby the valet team notify or hand the vehicle immediately to the people responsible for photos and videos.  Have daily reports updating the status of your photos.  Any vehicle over 3-5 days and not on your website needs to be sounding an alarm to everyone.

I spend hours on car dealerships website and come across so many bad photos and videos.  I know the business owner would not be happy with them.  Ensure every new vehicle added to the website is checked by another person for quality. 

From research, most answer anywhere between 3-6 days when asked how long it takes to prepare a vehicle.  I would say at best it is 5 days and at worst it is over 20 days. Somewhere in between is probably where most sit. That could be costing you £70 per vehicle.  If you sell 60 cars a month that is £50,400 a year.  Take into account stock charges, cash flow and site space you could easily double this.

Final tip – Consider paying your Workshop to manage the whole preparation process.  They are excellent at sticking to process and the best to fix your preparation issues. 


If you would like to discuss how vAutoStock can help you with systems or advice please contact me on: 07525 161414 or email

Chris Barrett

Managing Director

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