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Repair shop

just curious how many if any of the regulars on here own a repair shop? I am considering buying one and go into business for myself. I have one in mind that comes with a ton of tools which are still useable but somewhat outdated oh they wouldnt have to be replaced right away but soon if a guy wants to stay in touch with todays cars. i guess im just looking for any suggestions any of you may have(the do’s and dont’s).and just FYI i dont think it is very responsible for some of you to lump all “DEALERSHIPS” in one pile as rip-offs. I happen to be a tech at a chevrolet dealership in a small town and can tell you we do not rip people off, I dont have a boat paymet and even if i did i wouldnt pay for it by ripping people off. and i can tell you from experience i see the vehicles people bring to us after they have been somewhere else trying to save a few bucks, they would have gotten off cheaper bringing it to us the first time around. any way i know there are good independent shops too. just had to get that off my chest.

If you have your own repair shop, never stock up on anything that isn’t an everyday necessity. Learn to love pressure because there will be a ton of it. Don’t try to run off the nuts who want to waste your time: When you need some work to come in, one of the nuts you were nice to will show up and bail you out. Make sure the staff knows the price of everything or you could lose a lot. Don’t have ten people using the same cash drawer. Have safe equipment: one rickety ladder can cost you $100,000 in a hurry. Don’t take anything in trade for a job unless you need it immediately or can unload it right away; make the arrangements before you accept “stuff”. No smoking anywhere near the place; a fire can cost everybody in the place their jobs. Don’t buy a place that needs outside renovations or you may have to bring the whole property up to present codes. Talk to other business owners and see what their prime complaint is.

I concur on your statements of dealership = rip off should not be a blanket statement. The labor rate at my local Honda dealer was about $10-20 lower than other decent independent shops. And they were great about recommending using quality aftermarket parts on a higher mileage Honda (150k+) like radiator at 1/3 to 1/2 price of Honda OEM. Another example was calling three independents for timing belt change and finding Honda dealer $100 cheaper and they performed an ignored valve clearance check.

I have to say though people get a bad taste at dealers. My sister called two equidistant Toyota dealers for 30k service on 2007 Rav 4. First quote was just about $250. The 2nd quote was $200 more!!! She asked about discount or anything and they got cold and especially when she mentioned the other price quote rude.

I would suggest you spend a couple of days at a shop and find out what is involved in running one.

I was interested in owning a shop at one time but after being a service manager in a 10 bay shop I saw what it took to own one and I decided it was not for me. The amount of time the owners put into their shop was unbelievable. They were there before we opened to well after we closed.

Almost ALL small businesses fail because they don’t know how to run a business. I can’t tell you how many GOOD MECHANICS I’ve seen fail because they had no idea how to run their business. They did EXCELLENT repairs and were ALWAYS busy…but they had no business sense what-so-ever.

First thing to do is figure out how much it costs you ever day just to open the door. You need to include EVERYTHING…Rent, Electricity, Heat/AC, Insurance, Rental of equipment, payroll, taxes…EVERYTHING…This may take a while to figure out. But it’s well worth it. Once you know this number then you can start figuring out how much business you need every day to stay in business. Obviously you’ll have some days that won’t meet that number and other days that will exceed that number.

The second biggest thing that KILLS a small business like this is OVER SPENDING. If it ain’t broke then don’t fix it. Do you really NEED that new lift…or is it just NICE to have. Seriously look at your expenses.

One business that I know of that has done very very well is a husband and wife team. He’s a GREAT mechanic…she’s pretty good with the books.

With the Economy the way it is right now…this may be a good test. If you can survive the next 2-3 years before we get out of this recession then you’ll probably make it.

Good Luck.

It’s not the shop rate that turns people off; it’s incompetence, doing unnecessary work, screwing things up and billing the client for mistakes, that turns people off. There are more incompetent than dishonest mechanics; some are just parts hangers (maybe this will work).

My mechanic charges nearly $100 per hour but for that I get expert workmanship, correct diagnoses of the problem, and a custom fix to avoid changing out expensive parts. Last year my wife’s Nissan’s dash lights did not work; the corner shop wanted to replace the whole headlight switch with one from the dealer for $300. My mechanic rewired the dimmer (somehting the dealer would never do) which was defective, for $50 and we are happy campers. Similarly he remachined the front crankshaft seal to stop an oil leak and saved a me a bundle.

While I couldn’t (and wouldn’t) attempt to tell someone how to run their shop, I do know from friends that do, it’s not a cakewalk.

If you’re married with a family, get them all involved at one stage or another. That will help hold the family together and create incentives.

My independent tech has his whole family (including the 4 year old German Shepard) involved in running the business.

They have the house close to (but not attached for fire safety) the 7 bay shop and own the land everything sits on.

They have been in business for 22 years now and I’ve been dealing with them for almost 17 of them.

One thing I can’t stress often enough though is: THINK SAFETY.