I want to offer prices that are fair and reasonable, but at the same time have limits within the 3-4 different car make categories. What would be an interesting way todo this?
You need to have an hourly rate and use flat rate time based on what the job is.
Find out what the hourly rates are at some of the local shops and dealers and have an hourly rate that is less than them.
Cars are not standardized so neither can your repair charges be standardized…It’s all about time and the skill level required to do the work…
I think you should stick to working for other people until you can figure out these type of questions on your own, really you have to be sharp and on the ball to make it in the line you are taking up. Writing to CarTalk for business advice means you are not yet sharp and on the ball.
There are other sticky issues that you will likely run across. Say you spend 3 hours on-site working on someone’s car and this person then:
Wants to start adding half a dozen other things into that one price fits all repair.
Decides their husband/wife has the checkbook and is out of town, along with the debit and credit cards.
Gives you a bad check.
Discovers all of a sudden they only have half the money on hand they thought.
Decides to play hardball negotiations AFTER the repair is done.
Since the car is at a neutral site or their home you can’t seize the car for a debt owed, etc.
There are other things too but I’m sure you my point. Anything that someone can do to you, they will do to you and that includes suing you; justified or not.
What on earth are you talking about with “the 3-4 different car make categories”?
Jump starting dead batteries, opening locked doors without a key, changing a tire… There is little that can be done profitably in such a business. If you open the hood on an overheating car and see a burst hose and think you can make a quick $50 you may get the hose on and find the head gasket is blown because the water pump failed. You remove the hose and leave with nothing for your wasted time and the car owner is mad for wasting their time. Plus all the scenarios that ok4450 mentioned.
Also, what about the rain? and the heat? and the cold?
What brings you to consider such an undertaking?
It’s probably not that bad an idea. People spend so much time commuting in modern America and live so far from work that bringing routine repair work to their home or (if you can get away with it) place of work, makes some sense Getting the car to a shop then getting to work, and repeating the operation in reverse after the repair is done is major aggravation for many customers. Windshield repair operations make the concept work pretty well.
But I think oldschool is right, if you don’t even know how shops price work, you should not be going off on your own yet unless you are doing something extremely specialized e.g. installing audio systems.
Also, there aren’t that many repair jobs that can be done without slithering under the car. Even with ramps and jackstands, undercar work without a lift day after day is going to be a drag.
I worked in a shop here in Tucson that was so old it used to be a Packard Dealer. Along with being old is the ceilings were so low we did not have lifts, good thing it had turned into a VW shop by the time I showed up.
My old boss Al Linhoss (I am sure he has since passed away) would tell the most fantastic stories about the war in the Pacific and jumping out of an airplane with just a M1 jump carbine to keep you warm.Bless you Al.