Automotive Invoice Programs: What Garages & Auto Shops Must Know
Posted on May 10th 2020 in Best Practices
Efficient auto repair shops invest in automotive invoice programs.
Why? Because invoices are a crucial part of any business’s billing process. Also, well-run automotive repair shops are always looking for ways to increase productivity.
Better productivity and faster invoices are why auto shop invoice programs are gaining popularity today.
So, What is an Automotive Invoice Program Anyways?
An automotive invoice program is software designed to allow automotive repair shops to generate electronic invoices.
They come in many forms and variations, discussed below.
Automotive Invoice Programs and their variations
If you’ve worked in the auto repair industry for awhile, perhaps you’ve heard of the following phrases related to invoicing:
- Auto Repair Excel templates
- Garage Invoice Software
- Auto Shop Management Software
Each of these methods provide slightly different solutions for the same task: generating electronic invoices.
Let’s go into more depth on the strengths and weaknesses of each one.
Auto Repair Excel templates
Some auto repair shops choose to use Excel as a tool to help build invoices. Because of this, some automotive businesses confuse Excel for being an automotive invoice program.
To be clear, Excel is not an automotive invoice program. Excel is a spreadsheet tool that can be used for data calculation.
Since Excel is a widely adopted business tool, you may already have it installed on your auto shop’s computers. Thus one potential benefit of using it for invoicing is familiarity.
However, ultimately building an invoice using an Excel invoice template does not fit our definition for automotive invoice programs, since the software was not specifically designed for invoice building.
Garage Invoice Software
If you’ve heard the term Garage Invoice Software, this is simply another term for Automotive Invoice Software.
You may be asking, why are you talking about automotive invoice software or garage invoice software if this article is about automotive invoice programs? What’s the difference between software and programs anyways?
For practical purposes, there is no difference. For example, if you Google “garage invoice software”, you’ll see similar results come up for “garage invoice programs”.
For the remainder of the article, we’ll use the terms “program” and “software” interchangeably.
Both of these terms mean essentially the same thing: software written to help build electronic automotive invoices.
If you really want to understand the difference between software and programs, here are the technical details:
Programs are specific sets of instructions to tell your computer what to do.
On the other hand, software is a collection of programs and other operating information that’s been bundled together.
So you can think of programs as one of the building blocks of software. Or to put it another way, software can be made of programs but not vice versa.
Auto Shop Management Software
Nowadays, it is hard to find standalone automotive invoice programs.
Some companies may advertise automotive invoice software, although they are actually a general billing and estimating software. Quickbooks is an example of this type of general invoicing and billing software.
Alternatively, you’ll see automotive invoice programs bundled with additional features and functionality. When this happens, the collection of features is called Auto Shop Management Software.
Auto repair shop management software is software designed to allow auto repair shops to efficiently run the day-to-day operations of their automotive business.
Since shop management software is more common than standalone auto shop invoice programs, we’ll spend some time breaking down a few of the common features of shop management software.
Shop Management Software Feature 1: Auto Shop Invoice
Auto Shop Management Software will generally include an invoice building feature.
As we’ve discussed, this can go by many names: auto shop invoice software, automotive invoice programs, and garage invoice programs. All of these effectively provide the same functionality: they let automotive workers create electronic invoices.
Shop Management Software Feature 2: Auto Repair Estimates
Estimates provide a way for garages and auto repair shops to give potential customers a general idea of a repair’s cost before committing to the repair work.
Similar to automotive invoices, the ability to create automotive estimates is a key feature that most auto repair shop management tools provide.
Shop Management Software Feature 3: Auto Repair Work Orders
Another one of the most important features provided by shop management software is the ability to generate electronic work orders.
By creating and consolidating work orders, shop management software ensures that auto repair shops keep work organized. Auto repair techs are able to stay on task, while service writers can efficiently delegate repair work.
Shop Management Software Feature 4: Customer relationship management (CRM)
Think of Customer relationship management (AKA CRM) as an electronic rolodex of customers. It’s a way to manage customer data such as name, phone, email, etc.
In order to build effective automotive invoice software, you’ll need customers to include on the invoice. That’s where CRM can be valuable; it allows you to quickly include repeat customers’ information when building electronic invoices.
Shop Management Software Feature 5: Accounting and Quickbooks integration
You’ll see several auto shop management solutions on the market that offer integrations with third-party accounting software like Quickbooks. This allows you to tap into the power of an efficiency and organizational tool like shop management software while also being able to use some of your data in your bookkeeping software.
What is the Best Auto Shop Management Software?
No surprise here: every software has its strengths and weaknesses.
Different sets of features, different pricing models, and different ways of using or downloading software mean that there’s no one-size-fits-all solution for every auto shop.
To say that one particular software brand is the “best” would be too broad to be helpful. So instead, it’s helpful to think through the logic on how to best choose the software that’s right for you.
If you’d like our detailed take on how to select the best shop management software, read our ultimate guide for auto shop management software.
Cloud Software, On-Premise Software, and Open Source Software
No matter what kind of software you choose to use for your automotive business, one crucial decision you’ll need to make is on how your software is deployed.
There are three main ways software is delivered for use in your computer.
Software can be deployed over the internet without requiring that you download or install anything at all. This is cloud software. Cloud software lets you use a web browser and an internet connection to login and access your software.
This is separate from on-premise software, in which both your data and the software is hosted directly on your personal computer. The cloud allows for data to be hosted on remote servers, which is then simply made easily accessible through the internet.
Downloaded software (Also known as on-premise software)
This is how automotive software was exclusively delivered to your computer in the past. It would require that you download the software using a CD or floppy disk. After the software was downloaded, any data saved by the software was then hosted on your personal computer.
With faster internet speeds today, software can be downloaded via the internet without the need for physical storage devices.
Open Source Software
The last delivery method is the most expensive and resource-heavy. If you’re willing to pay a coder or developer, it’s possible to find open source software online and customize it for your shop. Nowadays there are many free online resources that make this a possibility. Just remember that development work isn’t for those looking for a shop management solution in the near future; coding takes time.
Additionally, keep in mind that this option requires you to find a server to host your software and its data. This is different from cloud software, in which the data and software are hosted on your behalf.
Depending on your desired amount of customization, budget, and ease of installation and use, you’ll want to assess which of the three options is the best for your auto shop.
Who Benefits from Auto Shop Invoice Software?
Once you’ve selected your delivery method, who are the key stakeholders that are impacted by your final choice of software? Who is most impacted by garage invoice software?
Any managers at a garage can benefit from having a single, electronic tool to keep track of auto shop’s invoices. For those who are still using paper or carbon copy invoices, consider the following:
Electronic invoices are easier to edit. There is no “erase” feature when it comes to writing on carbon copy or paper. Think of the countless times you’ve made a minor mistake writing on carbon copy paper and had to start over with a new invoice.
Electronic invoices are faster. If you have a large fleet of vehicles to repair, a single electronic invoice can be duplicated very easily and then disseminated to multiple customers using email.
Also, most automotive invoicing software includes built-in reporting and metrics. You’ll be able to quickly view how much specific customers have spent at your shop without needing to manually calculate totals. This helps management make faster decisions and save time in their day.
Mechanics, Service Writers, Auto Repair Techs
Repetitive tasks can be automated with automotive invoicing features like canned jobs. Canned jobs allow employees at an auto repair shop to work more efficiently.
Rather than needing to manually write or enter in information for every new job, pre-saved information can be reused and recycled in new invoices for existing customers and work orders.
These types of features help streamline an auto shop’s invoicing process, which equates to less time for employees building invoices and more time doing repair work.
Your Auto Shop’s Customers
Customers are the big winners when it comes to auto shop invoice software. Why? Imagine customers in the past who had to spend a long time waiting at the shop as their mechanic hand wrote their invoice. After they received the invoice and left their shop, they’d have to keep track of paper invoices. If they lost their invoice, they were out of luck.
Nowadays, auto repair shop management software provides benefits such as sending invoices in an electronic, email or PDF format, meaning one less piece of paper to keep track of. The same time savings experienced by mechanics and auto techs are also passed on to customers, who have less wait times overall.
Next Steps and Resources
If you’re in the market for an automotive invoice program, hopefully this guide provides a helpful guide as you begin your search for a solution.
If you’d like more information about us here at Autoshopinvoice, you can start by visiting our homepage.
If you’re ready for next steps and would like to further assess Autoshopinvoice’s software solutions, we also offer a free trial.
Key Terms [Glossary]
Automotive invoice program - software designed to allow automotive repair shops to generate electronic invoices.
Auto repair shop management software - Software designed to allow auto repair shops to run the operations of their automotive business.
Cloud Software - On-demand software delivered via the internet. In the case of invoicing software, cloud software is hosted on remote servers and is traditionally accessible across a bevy of devices and operating systems, i.e. Mac, PC, mobile, etc.
Customer Relationship Management (CRM) - Software that helps businesses manage customer data and interactions with their customers.
Downloaded Software (On-premise software) - Software installed on your auto repair business’s computer or device.
Estimate - An approximate bill created by an automotive business for their customers prior to any payments being made.
Open Source software - Software for which the source code is made accessible by the creator in order to allow others to modify and build upon the existing code.
Portable Document Format file (PDF) - A standard that allows you to view documents consistently across different devices and operating systems. With PDFs, the same file should look the same regardless of whether the person viewing is on Mac, PC, etc.
Programs - specific sets of instructions to tell your computer what to do. One of the building blocks of software.
Service Writer - In the automotive industry, a customer-facing employee that assists in managing repairs and communicating customer needs to mechanics and automotive technicians.
Software - A scripted set of instructions that tells your computer what to do and how to do it. Can be a collection of programs and other operating information that’s been bundled together.