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How to set up a car mechanic business

Starting your own business is a natural step after years working for someone else. You have the skills, you’ve got some money saved to get you started and you’re pretty sure you can make it work.

Almost half of businesses don’t last more than two years. It might look like it’s easy, but running a business is hard work and most people can’t do it. To make sure you have a better chance of survival, there are a few things you need to do.

Know your start-up costs

Do loads of research to make sure you have enough money to get your business up and running- and can sustain operational expenses for the first few months while you won’t be busy all the time. You probably have a bunch of tools already, you can buy consumables like oil as you go, but you need:

  • Some big items of machinery. Depending on what you are wanting to do, do you need a hoist? What else? Put things in a ‘must have’ and ‘want to have’ list.
  • Building and alterations. If you lease a whole new place, that comes with big expenses, and the fit out could cost a bit if you’re converting your home garage.
  • Are you hiring staff? If it’s an apprentice or a senior mechanic, they will need full time wages.
  • Do you need a loan car?

Is your business viable?

Research everything. While all your family and friends promise to support you, that isn’t enough to sustain a successful business. Are you planning to open in a place that’s easy to access? Is there enough off-street parking? How will people get to work after dropping off their car—or do you have a waiting room? Are you close to offices or do you have a lot of competition in the area?

Do you specialise?

Working with cars pretty much your whole life, you probably have something that you’re more interested in, whether it’s trucks, modifications, classic cars, motorbikes or something else altogether. Maybe you like repairing PT Cruisers or Skodas. Whatever it is, do some research and see if there’s enough of a market to sustain specialisation. While specialising doesn’t mean you can’t take on other projects and jobs, it will make you slightly less attractive to vehicles outside that scope.

Paperwork

It’s probably not your favourite thing, but you need to be prepared for paperwork. And lots of it.

Hire the professionals. While they charge a lot, they will save you a lot of money and stress. This way you know it’s right, you know you’re doing everything by the book, and they will be able to suggest to you ways to structure your business and income for the best returns.

Marketing

Now you’ve done all that hard work and set everything up, you’re qualified and certified and have everything ready to go. But running a business isn’t as easy as just opening the doors and people knowing you’re there. You have to advertise. There are so many different forms of advertising, it can be totally overwhelming.

You want to do things that give maximum results for minimum spend. This probably isn’t radio ads either, so you need to think about your customers. Who are they? Where do they hang out? How will they hear about you?

Google My Business is the very first stop. It’s free and IMPORTANT. When people search for your business, GMB is the Google result that shows up and has your details on it. Create an account and enter your address, phone number, link to your website if you have one, and opening hours. You can write about what you offer too. Get existing customers to write reviews for you too.

A website isn’t vital but even a simple one page site lets customers know you’re trustworthy. Have a photo of you looking clean and tidy in your overalls (if that’s possible) and briefly explain what services you offer and provide contact information.

Other options include a mail drop, if you’re trying to target a specific area. Facebook or Instagram ads might work for some (car enthusiasts or those who modify their vehicles). Also, join local car groups but don’t just start advertising your business. Talk to people, provide them free, helpful advice and focus on building trust and value.

Go out there and do it

Now, you’ve done the work, the research, and you’re ready to go. Enjoy the freedom that your own business provides and know there will be good weeks, and bad weeks. As long as there are more good weeks than bad ones, you’re doing OK.