Opening your own business is a part of the American dream. One career that’s never going to go out of style is the automotive shop. Even if cars become fully automated in the next couple of decades, every driver will still need a qualified automotive technician to identify problems with your vehicle and perform car dent repair occasionally.
Unfortunately, opening your own automotive business can be harder than it seems. Not only do you need to have the right qualifications to diagnose and repair vehicles, but you also need to consider how to take care of your employees when your business starts to grow. A mom-and-pop repair shop is a great idea for the solo flyer but every business owner should dream of scaling up.
Are you interested to learn how to open your own automotive shop? Rely on these steps to start your journey off on the right foot.
Get the right certifications
A hobby garage monkey can’t hope to open an automotive business without the right certifications. Investing in a certification issued by the ASE (National Institute for Automotive Service Excellence) will let your customers know that you have the right qualifications to work on their vehicles. This certification is also key when it comes to getting the right business insurance and establishing a marketing campaign to drive new customers to your business.
You will also have to invest in a business license. This isn’t quite the same thing as a “certification” but a business license is vital to starting a reputable company. these typically cost between $50 and $100 depending on where you are in the United States. If you don’t get the proper license, you might run into a bunch of employment issues down the line.
Assess your startup costs
Every business needs capital to get started. However, capital can take many forms. Not only will you need money, but you’ll also need a space to perform your repairs and the right tools to get the job done.
As someone who is interested in learning how to open your own automotive shop, you likely have the last part covered. However, you will need to upgrade older pieces of equipment and invest in larger tools that you might not have had before in order to perform commercial work. The average hydraulic lift, for example, can cost upwards of $4,000 depending on where you get it.
Make a list of all the expenditures you should consider before opening your shop. This is one of the top tips for how to open your own automotive shop. This list might include factors like:
- Buying or renting a shop: As much as a small business owner would love to run their auto shop from their garage, this is unrealistic in terms of worker safety. After all, your business’ garage will need to be outfitted with safety features including a fire hydrant, an automatic fire sprinkler design that works for the space, and nonslip floors to account for oil spills and other hazardous fluids. Renting a shop can range from a couple of thousand dollars each month to over $10,000 depending on the size of the shop and your location. Before you rent a new shop, ensure that you’ve gathered enough funds to pay for the first six months. You can also take out a business loan to help with these startup costs.
You will also want to consider your shop’s location. Is it easy to get to? If there’s an accident in the garage, are you close to a 24 hour urgent care? These are just some of the factors you need to consider before you buy or rent a new space. A great deal might save you money, but its poor location might prevent business from walking through your door.
- Various forms of insurance: Business insurance alone can cost as much as $4,000 per year. On top of that, you will also want to consider worker’s compensation benefits and employee insurance in order to protect your staff from occupational health hazards. Should a hydraulic lift fail or a slip on the floor fail to be cleaned up, these accidents will rest on the shoulders of the owner: you.
- Hiring employees: If you want to start hiring employees right off the bat, you’ll need capital to pay these individuals. For example, you might want to hire a receptionist to take calls while you’re working in the garage. Other garages will look into hiring marketers to get their business off of the ground. You can always rely on an outside marketing company to outsource this work if you want to save a few bucks in-house. Regardless, the full-time employees you do hire will need the proper medical insurance that work with local doctors in your area.
- Furnishing the space: Some people might think that starting an autoshop business means simply buying a garage. But if you want your customers to keep coming back, you’ll need to invest in customer service strategies. Most auto repair shops include basic seating in their waiting room since most people tend to wait for their car while it’s getting a quick fix. Furnishing your garage’s reception area is easy as long as you look for reputable discount furniture or gently-used, clean options online.
Furnishing the space also includes telephones, rugs, and lighting to ensure the comfort and safety of the building’s occupants. As such, investing in audio visual technology to better serve your customers is essential. Many garages have started utilizing cloud technology to keep track of past services. Others are investing in video calls to explain the problems a customer is having with their car in person. Furnishing the space is a major factor you will have to consider as you learn how to open your own automotive shop.
Determine if you want a specialization
Now that you know the basics of how to open your own automotive shop, you will want to consider the services you’re offering. Are you going to be a jack-of-all-trades mechanic and work on every car that comes through your door? Or are you going to specialize in a certain type of automotive, like European or Japanese cars?
Did you know that there are 16 different types of specializations you can choose from with a Master Technician status from the ASE? On top of that, you might want to consider a specialization in the specific repairs that you offer. These factors will help you determine the scope of the type of services you wish to offer. If you specialize, this can give you an edge over competitors and fill a niche if there are few specialists in your area. However, you might lose out to the competition if a car needs more than one service performed at a time. Think of these options like the medical industry. You will visit a general practitioner for regular check-ups, but you would want to visit a gastroenterologist for dietary issues. Just like people need specialized individuals for their problems, so do cars. This is important to consider as you learn how to open your own automotive shop.
At the end of the day, there’s no right or wrong answer. If you’re passionate about a specification, talk to a marketer to see if there’s a desire for it in your area. Sometimes, the needs of your customers can help determine if you want to specialize or not. You can also change your decision later if you ever hope to rebrand or invest in new certifications.
Do you want to sell cars, too?
When a car finally kicks the bucket, the owner might not want to invest in repairs to fix it. But if you like to work on cars in your spare time, you can buy the car from the customer, fix it up, and try to sell it to someone else as a second-hand auto dealer. In some cases, you can even sell these cars to another auto dealer.
If this is something you’re interested in, you might want to consider partnering with an auto loan company. A second-hand car will still cost a couple of thousand dollars, making it a pricey purchase for someone to buy outright. By partnering with an auto loan company, you will offer great customer service with the backing of another organization to monitor the payments of the loan. There are many autoshops that choose to avoid this option, but it’s a good opportunity to consider if you want to learn how to open your own automotive shop and sell cars.
Work on branding
The above factors will all play into how you brand and market your business. With the help from a qualified marketing team, this challenge is made all the easier. They will tell you to invest in the proper signage for your company, establish a website online, and offer pointers for improving traffic to your site — and, in turn, business to your company.
Come up with a name for your company and a tagline that reflects the dream of your business. Do you want to help the average Joe stay on the road? Or do you work in luxury cars that can change the entire driving experience? After you have nailed down your “why,” you can start looking at the “how” of marketing: namely, driving traffic through your door.
You can start by establishing a grand opening date for your new garage. Partner with local businesses and the local paper in order to get the word out. This grand opening should give the community the chance to talk to you as the owner and assess if your business is worth patroning. Keep in mind that you typically won’t be able to work in the garage on the day of your grand opening. Rather, this is a great time to offer some free food and drinks along with any merchandise displaying the name of your company. It might be another big overhead cost to invest in hats and t-shirts for the public, but you can make a small profit by selling them and an even larger one when the free advertising by their wearers pays off.
From there, you will want to work on advertising your business in every way you can, from newspaper ads to online marketing techniques. Luckily, there are free forms of marketing you can engage in: this includes opening a social media page for your business and writing blogs on your site. It’s a long road to gaining more business, but these tips can help you learn how to open your own automotive shop with ease.
How to open your own automotive shop
There’s nothing better than owning your own business. There might be some hoops and hurdles to jump through on the way to becoming a business owner but it’s worth it in the end. Consider these health concerns of your employees, the necessary insurance costs, and marketing ideas before you go out and buy a new property. With these tips on how to open your own automotive shop, your business will surely become a success.