If you’ve always been interested in cars and want to turn your passions into a profitable business venture, starting a car repair garage could be the career move for you. In this article, we provide a rundown of the steps you need to take.
So long as we continue to drive cars, the demand for car repair services will remain. The British public is prepared to part with £21 billion a year to keep their vehicles running to perfection. And, there are currently around 45,800 businesses collectively employing over 212,580 people, helping make sure our vehicles stay in tip top shape. So, if you fancy starting the next, read on to find out the steps you need to take to open a car repair garage in the UK.
1. Decide what type of car repair garage you want to open
When you think of a standard auto repair garage, they tend to offer all general services and repairs. But you could choose to take your offering one step further and provide niche repairs that your local competition might not, for instance repainting.
With there now being an increased focus on businesses being sustainable and doing their bit to protect the environment, you could choose to specialise in servicing hybrid or electric vehicles.
Your specialisations, as well as how many customers you plan on serving in a day, the scale of your garage, how many staff members you’ll take on, whether you’ll take the franchise route and your financial projections will need to be included in your business plan.
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2. Find the perfect location
The location of your car repair garage can have a serious impact on how successful your business will become. City centre locations, industrial estates and alongside motorways are popular choices. If your shop is too isolated and can’t provide more value than local competition, customers won’t be prepared to travel further to you.
However, if a small town is lacking a car repair shop and residents are traveling further afield for services, this could be a fantastic opportunity for your new business. There should be a high demand as a large number of people will be willing to try your services in order to save them time and money on increased travel time.
You’ll need to decide whether you want to start from scratch or buy a property that used to be a garage but has been stripped down or is completely good to go.
3. Buy equipment
Purchasing equipment will probably be your most substantial cost after securing a location. Renting equipment is one option you could explore. At the very least, you’ll need have a specialised set of mechanic’s tools, a diagnostic machine and a lift installed.
4. Get qualified (if you want)
The law doesn’t require automotive technicians to have any particular qualifications, but building up a base of trusting customers will be much easier if you can demonstrate your credentials.
Even if they don’t see your certificates hanging up on the wall, your expertise and confidence will be apparent in your actions and, ultimately, you’ll provide a higher level of service. This will not only boost your own sense of achievement and self-worth, but your revenue too.
You need to have the right know-how to confidently offer vehicle repair services. This includes being able to manage your finances, launch marketing campaigns and retain loyal customers. Ideally, you’ll also have experience working in a garage or in the automotive sector.
- The best way to kick off a career in vehicle repair is by doing a relevant apprenticeship, such as the BTEC National Certificate and Diploma in Vehicle Technology. There is a range of different courses that would provide you with the skills you need.
- Alternatively, you could opt to study the BTEC National Certificate and Diploma in Engineering (Automotive) or the IMI Awards Certificate in Vehicle Maintenance and Repair. To qualify for these, you’ll need to have good GCSEs in Maths, English and Science.
- For this reason, consider supplementing your base of knowledge with additional training courses. You could take an Auto
motive NVQ (Level 1, 2 or 3) in Vehicle Fitting Operations (tyres and general fitting) or Vehicle Body and Paint Operations (body repair and refinishing).
- Other options include Roadside Assistance and Recovery, and Vehicle Maintenance and Repair (for light or heavy vehicles, lift trucks, motorcycles, auto electrics, motor sport or electronics and security).
- Once you’ve completed this, you could continue onto advanced study to take your knowledge even further. Try the City & Guilds Certificate in Advanced Automotive Diagnostic Techniques (Level 4) or the IMI Award Level 4 Diploma for Automotive Master Technicians.
5. Get the necessary licences
Next, you should think about sourcing the licences you’ll need before you open for business. These will vary, depending on the type of car repair garage you launch and the services you intend to offer, but what follows is a quick rundown of some of the ones you may need.
- Motor Vehicle Repair Business Licence (MVRB)
- Trade licence plates – this eliminates the need to register and tax every vehicle that is temporarily under your roof
- Motor salvage operators registration – important if you want to reuse or sell old parts from vehicles you repair, as it allows you to buy, sell and transport scrap metal
- MOT testing authorisation
- Permit for the discharge of trade effluent – you’ll need this if your activities could potentially contaminate freshwaters, estuaries or coastal waters
- Permits issued by your local authority
- Permits and exemptions issued by the Environment Agency
- Public space surveillance licence – this will enable you to install CCTV on your premises
- A premises licence from your local council – particularly if you plan on selling alcohol or late-night food and drink, or showing entertainment
- Licence to play background music
- Pavement or street display licence – this allows you to put advertising signs outside your garage
You may also need to:
- Register with the DVLA as a number plate supplier
- Notify the Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO) if you plan on processing personal data
- Report to the pollution inventory on your yearly emissions of harmful substances into the air, waters and land as waste
- Get Employers’ Liability insurance – in case any accidents happen
- Get Motor Trade Insurance
6. Keep up to date with technology
It’s important to bear in mind that technology is evolving all the time. By keeping abreast of industry changes and adapting your working practices, you can ensure you always offer your customers the best possible service. This will put you ahead of competitors that don’t do the same.
7. Hire a talented team of employees
Finding the right employees for your auto repair shop can take time. You can start looking at nearby colleges that offer mechanic courses for any fresh talent that’s recently finished training. However, you want to strike a balance between hiring recent grads and experienced mechanics, so your car garage has a mix of novices and experts.
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8. Market your business
To entice customers to choose your car repair garage over the next, you need to have an effective marketing campaign in place. Offering customer guarantees, such as free repairs if brakes wear in a specified time period, can work in your favour. Using guarantees helps your customers to trust your brand, and as a new business on the scene, this is very important.
In order to keep your customers loyal to your business year on year, you need to make sure you fulfil the promises made in your advertisements.
Start a car repair garage
Whether you’re completely new to auto repair or an experienced mechanic, if you’ve got enough entrepreneurial spirit and follow these steps, you should be well on your way to opening a successful car repair garage.
If you’d like a simpler, less risky route to business ownership, you can consider starting a car repair franchise. Being an established brand with an existing customer base and providing training every step of the way makes setting up a franchise much less stressful. If you need a little more reassurance, we recommend reading about the five benefits of being an auto repair shop owner.
Becky Martin, Point Franchise ©