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Information Is Profit: How Investing in Consumer Credit Reports Can Improve F&I Performance

Article Highlights:

  • Utilizing more credit bureaus can result in better customer financing.
  • Two reasons to pull credit reports from all three credit bureaus.

“Scientia potentia est.” When translated from its Latin origins, this phrase takes the more familiar meaning, “knowledge is power.” Your customers have capitalized on that phrase, coming into the dealership more prepared and knowledgeable than ever before. 88% of car buyers research online before coming into the dealership. They can find everything from safety ratings and actual sales prices of vehicles to reviews of nearby dealerships. In other words, your customers are using their available resources to get the best deal possible. Are you?

In the sales world, a more meaningful take on this phrase is, “information is profit.” That is, the more information you acquire about your customers, the better you can understand what and how to sell to them. Whether a customer is on the service lane, or in the F&I office, information can be useful. One very simple way is by pulling credit reports from all three national credit bureaus. However, in many dealerships, these resources are frequently left untouched. Research shows of deals where consumer credit reports are pulled, over 57% utilize only a single bureau.

Here are two reasons why not utilizing all three credit bureaus is costing your dealership:

  1. Consumer credit scores differ, sometimes drastically. Each credit report can have different information. The information available to each of the three national credit bureaus is not identical and often results in a large disparity between a consumer’s credit scores. The average spread between the highest and lowest of all three credit bureau FICO scores for a consumer is over 38 points. This spread can mean a difference in credit tiers, or worse yet, not being able to finance the consumer at all. With three available scores and no evidence that one bureau’s score tends to be higher than others, dealers pulling just a single credit bureau report are attempting to finance over 66% of their customers with a lower credit score than their potential.
  2. Different lenders favor different credit bureaus. If your dealership partners with several different lenders, you may notice they do not all favor information from the same credit bureau. While some lenders may have no preference, others will request information from a specific bureau and base their financing decision on it. Not getting a comprehensive picture of the consumer’s credit can lead to not picking the optional lender for each particular deal.

Consider the following scenarios:

  • John Q. Public walks into your dealership and because you only run one credit bureau report, you find he has a 560 credit score. None of your banks are willing to fund a consumer with such a low credit score, so you are forced to turn him away. Frustrated at this decision, John goes across town to your competitor, where they run all three of his credit bureau reports. They find one of his scores is a 600. This dealership has banks that are willing to fund a consumer with a 600 credit score, so they win his business.
  • Jane Doe walks into your dealership and because you only run one credit bureau report, you find she has a 720 credit score. Satisfied with this score, you are able to get her financed at 5% APR. Pretty good, right? The deal is completed, but she is unable to purchase any F&I products since the interest has cut into her budget. What if she had a score of over 750 from another bureau? You could have funded at a lower buy rate, either increasing your reserve, or lowering her APR such that, with the extra amount left in her budget, Jane could have also purchased F&I products.

In the first scenario, your dealership lost a potential customer, and in the second, you lost out on potential profit because you didn’t use all available information. In fact, retail deals using three credit bureau reports averaged lower APRs and higher finance reserves than deals using just a single credit bureau report. The average finance reserve for retail deals using three bureaus was over $80 more than their single bureau counterparts, far more than the cost of running additional bureau reports.

Conclusion 

The right information truly does translate to profit. Having and utilizing more of the right kind of information will equip you to make better business decisions.

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Product Planning, Reynolds and Reynolds

Anne Ravensbeck is a Product Planning manager for Sales and F&I applications at Reynolds and Reynolds.