Tips for Opening Your Own Auto Body Shop

a car parked on a table

Cars are an important part of society. So many people use their own automobiles to get around, whether that means going to and from work or making your way to social obligations. Having a vehicle gives you a sense of freedom. You can go anywhere you want and explore without care. However, cars are ultimately machines that can break down or require touch-ups to continue looking their best. You should take pride in the vehicle you’re driving around, so you don’t want to be driving anything with dents or that looks too beat up. Make sure your car is looking good no matter where you drive it.

Because people are so invested in making their vehicles look and behave in the best, healthiest way, there is a high demand for automotive body shops. This is a place customers can bring their damaged or beat-up car and get bumpers replaced, scratches painted over, or dents smoothed out. If you have expertise in these areas and love working with cars, opening your own automotive body shop may be a great career move for you. Opening a shop isn’t just a walk in the park, however. You need to be ready for hard work, longer hours, and a lot of business logistics to deal with. But if you have what it takes, you can make a big, positive impact on your community with your own shop. Here are just a few tips and tricks to make that dream a reality.

Define your range of services.

For people who aren’t familiar with the automotive industry, all car repair shops probably seem the same. That is not the case. In fact, there is a difference between an automotive body shop and a repair shop. If you plan to open your own place, you need to be specific about the services you offer. A repair shop will handle more of the maintenance and mechanical issues. Replacing the brakes, getting an oil change, or repairing an engine are all jobs for the repair shop. This can include work with diesel engines, automotive technology, and preventive maintenance.

However, you are looking to open a body shop specifically. This will deal with more of the outside appearance of the vehicle. You’ll get the vehicle after minor accidents to help smooth dents, replace broken glass, or touch up a paint job. It’s almost as if the repair shop is a doctor who takes care of your insides while the body shop is a spa that makes the outside look pretty. Make sure you publicize all the services you offer, so people know exactly what they’re getting if they come into your shop.

Find the perfect location.

Location matters when it comes to opening a body shop. Start by deciding what community you want to serve. Do you want to be in the center of town so you are easily accessible to the locals, or would you prefer to be of a highway to get any travelers with touch-up needs? Esteemed real estate companies like Venterra Realty emphasize the importance of customer needs and finding a location that works well for everyone. Add that extra wow factor by finding a great location and shop to start your company within.

Make your customers feel comfortable.

When people are dealing with a car issue, chances are they aren’t too happy about it. You want to make their time getting it repaired as easy and painless as possible. Work to make your customers as comfortable as possible as they wait for you to work on their car. Partner with a beverage provider like Labrador Source water that will help you bring coffee, snacks, and water bottles to your clients. By providing these extra little comforts in your waiting room, customers will feel completely taken care of. This will bring people back and help foster customer loyalty.

Pile up your experience.

Working on cars requires a certain level of expertise. These are complicated machines, so you can’t hope to understand everything about them after only studying for a few days. You want to have years of experience on your resume before you open your own shop. That can be anything from spending time working at another auto body shop, enrolling in an Automotive and Diesel Technology program, or shadowing experts to see their point of view. The more experience you accumulate, the better you can promote yourself and the more confidence you’ll feel working on other people’s cars.

Set up your business plan and handle legalities.

You may be used to being the muscle of the operation and doing the dirty work of repairs and fixes. However, if you plan to open your own shop, you also have to become a businessperson. As with starting any company, you want to get a strong business plan in place before opening your doors. This should include things like your services and mission statement as well as an overall financial plan. Do your research and figure out who your competitors are so you can stay on par with what they are offering. Your business plan acts as your road map for success for your shop, so you don’t want to take that job lightly.

You’ll also need to handle some official legalities before you can officially open. Register your business for tax purposes and make sure you have a business license. Since you’re dealing with heavy equipment that can sometimes be dangerous, you’ll also need liability insurance for your entire shop. Consult an attorney or someone in the legal area that can help make sure you’re completely set up for success.

Finance your startup costs.

Opening a business can be an expensive affair, especially in the automotive industry. You need a great location, lots of new equipment, and an experienced staff, none of which comes cheap. You may need to seek a business loan or other financing options to pay for your startup costs. Just be sure you don’t borrow any more money than you are prepared to pay back. Again, this is where a detailed business plan will help you identify how and when you’ll be able to break even and start turning a profit at your body shop.

Invest in the right equipment.

You know the phrase “a workman is only as good as his tools?” Well, nowhere is that truer than at your auto body shop. Car repairs are no joke and will need specialized, advanced equipment to do the job well. Having the best tools will encourage customers to chose your shop over others. Start with the basics you need for the services you are providing, then as you grow, you can increase your stock of equipment. Because all of the pieces can be expensive, this is the best way to invest in the right tools at the right time so you can continue to grow your company and your capital.

Hire an experienced team.

Once you’ve got everything in place, it’s time to expand your team. When you’re hiring your mechanics, you want to look for experience and a positive attitude. Hiring the best of the best will ultimately guarantee your products are exceptional and that your customer service is incredible. Who you work with matters, so find people that will work well on a team and bring added expertise to the shop. Even though you’re primarily working with machines, you need to work well with people and your community at large.

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