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Payment Processing For The Automotive Industry

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Alivia Massimillo | April 23, 2024

“In the automotive world, where speed and convenience are key, how you handle payments can make or break the customer experience.”
8 min read
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    Did you know that roughly 80% of car buyers in 2023 used financing options? That’s a lot of customers who didn’t pay in cash! And this goes beyond just acquiring new cars — most customers in the automotive industry now prefer alternative payment methods.

    In the automotive world, where speed and convenience are key, how you handle payments can make or break the customer experience. Think about it: A customer walks in needing work done but faces a hefty bill. Offering flexible payment options can be the difference between them driving away happy or going elsewhere.

    Whether you’re a parts supplier, a car dealer, or a repair shop, the right payment tools help drive your business forward. Not sure how or where to start choosing the right solution? Keep reading for the breakdown!

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    Why offer credit cards at auto shops?

    Let’s be honest: no one enjoys surprise car trouble. Offering credit card payments gives them much-needed breathing room and has major benefits for your shop, too:

    Big payments are more manageable:

    Auto repairs aren’t cheap. Instead of insisting on a lump sum that may send customers scrambling, credit lets them spread out payments, making it easier to say ‘yes’ to the work their car needs.

    You get paid faster:

    Sure, you could offer in-house payment plans, but that’s extra paperwork and potential late payments for you to chase. Credit card companies take on the risk, letting you get the money quickly and hassle-free.

    It builds credibility:

    Accepting major credit cards sends a message that you’re an established, trustworthy business, not some fly-by-night operation. This builds confidence, especially for first-time customers.

    Boosts average order size:

    When the payment process is smooth, customers are more likely to greenlight those optional but beneficial services.

    Offering credit cards isn’t just a ‘nice to have’ anymore, it’s what people expect. They pay for groceries, gas, and even their coffee with a tap or swipe. Make your auto shop convenient, and you’ve removed one reason for them to go elsewhere.

    The types of payment processors available for the automotive industry:

    The technology behind accepting payments has evolved significantly, giving automotive businesses more choices than ever before. Let’s break down the key types of payment processors and their benefits for your shop:

    Countertop terminals:

    These are the traditional credit card readers, ideal for shops with a designated front desk. Since customers often expect to see this type of terminal, it reinforces the image of your shop as an established business.

    Pros: Familiarity with customers, secure, and often bundle with inventory management features. Cons: Limited mobility if you need to process payment away from the counter.

    Virtual terminals:

    This software turns your computer or mobile device into a payment portal. Ideal for taking phone payments, sending invoices with online payment links, or if your shop lacks a fixed transaction area.

    Pros: Highly flexible and often web-based with no specific hardware needed. Cons: Requires a strong internet connection to function smoothly.

    Mobile payments:

    Small, portable card readers attach to smartphones or tablets. Perfect for roadside calls, off-site work, or customer events.

    Pros: It lets you accept payments wherever your work takes you. Cons: This may incur added costs for the card reader attachments.

    Wireless terminals:

    Like countertop terminals, but with the range to move around your workspace. Perfect for multi-bay garages or shops with mobile workstations.

    Pros: Expanded range without sacrificing reliability. Cons: Still limited by the signal range of their base station.


    ACH (Automated Clearing House) facilitates direct bank-to-bank transfers. Useful for recurring plans, subscriptions, or large transactions where customers want to avoid card fees.

    Pros: Potentially lower costs for high-volume payments. Cons: Set-up takes a bit longer than card processing.

    Why you should consider digital payment processing for your automotive shop:

    Go beyond the countertop terminal

    Countertop card readers are fine, but they chain you to one spot. Get a system that lets your techs take payments anywhere — whether it's during a roadside repair, or even while picking up a customer's car for them. Many mobile solutions also integrate with photo and document capture features, eliminating the need for separate paperwork during the repair process.

    Cater to customer preferences

    Today's consumer expects a variety of payment options. Ensure your system accepts all major credit cards, debit cards, and contactless payment solutions (Apple Pay, Google Pay, etc.). Offering a wide range of options demonstrates your commitment to customer convenience and avoids the awkward situation of turning someone away because they prefer a specific card brand.

    Effortless invoice creation

    Simplify the billing process with a system that allows you to quickly generate estimates, send emailed invoices, and offer online payment options directly to customers. This streamlines your workflow, reduces paperwork, and gets you paid faster. Additionally, online pre-payment options can be helpful for larger repairs, allowing customers to manage costs upfront and secure their service slot.

    Integration with shop management software

    Ensure your chosen payment processing solution integrates seamlessly with any existing shop management software you utilize. This eliminates the need for manual data entry, reduces errors, and saves your team valuable time. Look for a system offering pre-built integrations or a robust API (Application Programming Interface) to facilitate a smooth connection.

    Gain valuable business intelligence

    Modern payment processing solutions offer robust reporting tools. These can give valuable insights into your business performance, helping you identify trends, track revenue streams, and make informed decisions. For instance, you might analyze which services generate the highest profit margins, which technicians have the highest customer satisfaction ratings based on payment comments, or even identify opportunities for targeted marketing campaigns based on customer spending habits.

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    How to choose a payment processor for your automotive shop?

    The right payment processor can streamline operations, safeguard your revenue, and enhance the customer experience. Here’s how to make an informed decision that supports your shop’s long-term success:

    Prioritize reliability and support

    While competitive rates are important, the true cost of a processor is measured in its service quality. Consider their responsiveness during peak hours, technical expertise, and track record in helping businesses like yours. Downtime directly translates to lost revenue.

    Fraud prevention & chargeback mitigation

    Proactively inquire about your processor’s fraud detection tools, chargeback dispute procedures, and the level of support they provide if issues arise. These are crucial for protecting your shop from financial losses.

    Transparent pricing structures

    Don't just compare the per-transaction fee! Percentage rates on the total sale amount have a bigger impact on your bottom line. Look for a processor that uses "interchange plus" pricing — where the fees you pay are based on the wholesale cost set by card networks plus a fixed markup added by your processor. This approach offers transparency, as the base cost fluctuates with the card type used, but your processor's markup remains clear.

    Key fees & costs to keep in mind with payment processors

    Per-transaction fees:

    These are the most common. You'll pay either a flat rate or a percentage of each sale any time a customer uses a card.

    Interchange fees:

    Card networks (Visa, Mastercard, etc.) set these. They fluctuate based on the card type, how it's processed (swiped vs. keyed-in), and even whether the card has rewards programs. You have NO control over these. Processor Markup: This is what your payment processing company charges on top of the interchange fees. It's often a percentage of the transaction, but can also be a flat monthly fee.

    Monthly minimums:

    Some processors charge a fee if you don't process a certain amount of money through them each month. This matters more for smaller shops or those with seasonal fluctuations.

    Setup costs:

    Ask about any initial setup or onboarding fees. These might include things like training your staff on the new system.

    Equipment costs:

    Will you need to buy terminals, mobile card readers, etc. outright? Are they leased, which adds a monthly expense? Or does the processor provide them?

    Incidental fees:

    Don't forget to factor in smaller, but still important, charges like:

    Choose Helcim for your auto shop

    Don't let clunky payment systems put the brakes on your success. Helcim keeps your business running at top speed.

    Whether you're a repair shop, car dealer, or anything in between, we have the tools to streamline your transactions and keep customers happy:

    • Transparent Pricing, Always: No hidden fees, no confusing rate structures. You'll always know exactly what you're paying.
    • Industry Expertise: We know the unique needs of automotive businesses, from handling partial payments to integrating with your shop management software.
    • Top-Tier Support: When things go wrong (and we all know they sometimes do!), you get real help, fast.
    • A Focus on Your Success: We're not just a payment processor, we're a partner invested in helping your auto shop thrive.

    Ready to upgrade your payment system? Get a taste of the Helcim advantage.

    Frequently asked questions

    Can I store customer payment information securely for repeat business?

    Yes, many processors offer tokenization and secure card-on-file functionality. This allows you to safely store customer card details with their consent, making future transactions (like recurring charges for a service plan) quick and seamless. Ensure your processor uses strong encryption to protect this sensitive data.

    Can I set up different user permissions for my employees?

    Controlling access based on employee roles enhances security. Look for a processor that allows you to create granular permissions (e.g., techs can process payments, but only managers can issue refunds or view full reports). This helps prevent errors and potential fraud.

    What resources are available to help me get set up and onboard my staff?

    Switching payment systems can be overwhelming. Choose a processor that invests in making the transition smooth with comprehensive setup guides, personalized onboarding support, and ongoing training resources for your team. This minimizes downtime and ensures everyone is comfortable using the new system.

    It's time to feel good about your payments.

    Sign up instantly with no paperwork or commitments.

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