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rcutclif HalfDork
4/17/15 3:08 p.m.

What would you do?

Looks like a small shop just down the road from me is either out of business or close to. The guy who runs it is getting quite old. I'm going to try to talk to him about what his ask is if he were to sell. Its basically a 4 bay shop with 3 overhead doors, great visibility from a high traffic street.

I'd like to have a business, and making money would be ideal in the long run, but doesn't have to happen fast. There is a chain body shop right across the street, and I know the owners of the best parts shop in town.

Would you do regular mechanical repair? Marque/model specific shop? Restorations? Fix and flips? Race prep? Custom hot rods? Seasonal small engines? Motorcycles? Off road rigs? Something else?


Swank Force One
Swank Force One MegaDork
4/17/15 3:13 p.m.

I'd part out cars.

drummerfromdefleopard SuperDork
4/17/15 3:15 p.m.

regular mechanical repair, offering good tire options from a distributor that offers delivery in less then 2 hours if they have it in their warehouse, have an alignment tech who knows what they're doing and can do corner balancing when and if needed

RossD PowerDork
4/17/15 3:22 p.m.

I always thought there could be a good market for used vehicle glass. Like obscure old glass. I'm not sure if there's a good way to restore the glass, though. Find cars rotting away in a field, buy it for the glass. Half of the market base would be looking for the chrome trim the customer bent when getting the old glass out, so that could be something to think about.

fstbandit Reader
4/17/15 3:25 p.m.

I dont think there is one way to answer that. You could go the route of what you are passionate about be it off road, race prep, ect. Or go the route of what your market calls for. Such as i live near Chicago and an Off Road shop may not fair well in the city. They will both make you money hopefully. I would do market research in the area and probably start with fix and flip, and combine that with something else depending on the research i did.

oldeskewltoy SuperDork
4/17/15 3:36 p.m.

Buy a certain race shop... as the owner is in a very similar situation. My shop would need about 4000 square feet.

dean1484 MegaDork
4/17/15 3:49 p.m.

Take what ever work you can get. I would probably do fix and flip. Then mix in basic tire and oil service. Maybe do state inspections as well as they can net you nice small jobs but with high proffit. Wipers tires etc. The rub is the inspection equipment is some serious coin and you generally have to have a dedicated bay for it.

Duke MegaDork
4/17/15 3:49 p.m.

Any of the part-outs, specialty shops, glass salvage, etc. may be good business model, but they don't take advantage of the high-visibility location. Those could be handled just as well in a cheap sublet industrial building on the edge of town. Any business you open in this location should be aimed at the kind of walk-in, regular, Charlie Commuter-type work that everybody needs.

Swank Force One
Swank Force One MegaDork
4/17/15 3:59 p.m.

In reply to Duke:

2nd hand Miata parts and.... A full service bar.

drummerfromdefleopard SuperDork
4/17/15 4:00 p.m.

I change my answer... to "The Answer" auto repair, restoration, service, competition preparation, forced induction and V8 swaps. If your Miata has an issue, we have "The Answer".

drummerfromdefleopard SuperDork
4/17/15 4:00 p.m.

In reply to Swank Force One:

I was typing my new response out when you posted that...

Swank Force One
Swank Force One MegaDork
4/17/15 4:08 p.m.

My Miata is broken.

We have an Answer! It's a stiff drink!

914Driver MegaDork
4/17/15 4:40 p.m.

My friend has a similar shop, three bays and an office to the side. He's been doing European cars for about 20 years, nothing domestic, no Japanese. It once had gas pumps but with the EPA stuff, he had them taken out. He has a loyal, faithful clientele (I'm told a trustworthy mechanic is better than a good boyfriend) I can put you in touch with him if you'd like.


Ethnic Food-Wrap Aficionado
Ethnic Food-Wrap Aficionado HalfDork
4/17/15 4:45 p.m.

It would probably be something akin to what Jakeb is doing with Classic Daily.

Half-way modern engine swaps on classic European cars with a side order of small parts fabrication? Yeah, sign me up!

Kenny_McCormic PowerDork
4/17/15 5:15 p.m.

I'm with Duke, a generic tire/suspension/lube shop is probably the best use for the location. You could make it lean in a Motorsports type direction and offer a lot of performance tires, be a tirerack installer, carry lots of good oil and filters, custom alignments, etc. But not to a point of turning away plugging tires on Joe Blow's Corolla.

Don49 HalfDork
4/17/15 5:38 p.m.

Don't overlook detailing. It is relativity low tech, low investment. The biggest part is labor with minimal materials for each job. I had a body shop and used my racing to generate about half my business. Did a lot of specialty work, fabrication and some restorations. For restorations it was pay as you go and never let a customer get behind on pay. Major jobs, it was pay for the parts up front. I once realized I had $10k in my money laid out and no jobs to be completed for weeks. That was the end of that situation. Also, figure out what labor rate you need to cover expenses, your salary and a return on investment, then charge accordingly. Don't be afraid to charge more than other shops in the area if your work is top quality.

Driven5 Dork
4/17/15 5:52 p.m.

One bay for custom parts machining, one bay for fabrication and welding, and one bay for installation...Then take them across the street to get pretty. Ok, so it might not be the most economically viable answer, but my mind keeps going back to that as it's basically the first floor in my dream garage.

moparman76_69 UltraDork
4/17/15 5:56 p.m.

fix and flip both a mix of dull commuters and classic/enthusiast cars.

iceracer PowerDork
4/17/15 6:17 p.m.

Just make sure your customers can pay.

Cash only, no credit.

I speak from experience.

etifosi HalfDork
4/17/15 6:22 p.m.

I know that in PA it is hard to get garage insurance coverage for repair shops that do "outside-the-box" stuff. Welding and swapping things, performance mods, paint & body, etc...

It might take more than 15 minutes and isn't so simple a caveman could do.

The Jeeza
The Jeeza MegaDork
4/17/15 6:41 p.m.

Do mileage specials. 60k, 75k 100k services ect. Make silly things like rolling specials where you get 4 tires, brake pads/linings and alignment for 20% off normal price.

Make it quick. The tire shop I used to work at could do a tune up, oil and filter, 4 tires and brakes on all 4 corners (just sand the rotors nothing turned) in an hour. Now a days that seems like a half day job.

You could do a "Lube it Round" special. Oil and filter change and tire rotation for $5 more than your normal oil change. Balancing is an extra $10.

The issue is, this takes reasonably trained labor to get the volume. unless you just want to do all the work yourself.

then I got nothing

DrBoost UltimaDork
4/17/15 6:50 p.m.

I'd do fix and flip. I've made good money doing that out of an over-stuffed 2-car garage, I can't imagine if I'd have had a shop and a dealer's license to get me in to the good auctions.

ssswitch Reader
4/17/15 6:58 p.m.

Detailing shop would be neat. The high visibility location works for that too. Detail a nice new sports car with a hot paint colour, pop it out front.

Admittedly, my city is a bit weird since it's illegal to wash your own car here, so if you have a nice car, it's using the pay and spray or paying for a detailer.

Streetwiseguy PowerDork
4/17/15 10:13 p.m.

I started to type something, but quit because I find these threads to be absurd, and feeling would be hurt.

Yours Truly,

a 28 year shop owner.

Donebrokeit Dork
4/17/15 11:14 p.m.


iceracer wrote: Just make sure your customers can pay. Cash only, no credit. I speak from experience.

As a former shop owner I will tell you it is a LOT of work, bitching and E36 M3ting customers who cannot/ will not pay their bill and a HUGE $$$$ technology gap that you the owner will have to cover (more $$$$$$$$$$$$) with little to no support. If you want a lot of "life experience" in a really short time open your own shop and hang on.

If I were to do it again. Buy and fix cars with mechanical issue, skip the smash jobs as the assclowns will bust you chops if the car has been bummed but will pay top dollar for a check engine nightmare.

Good luck

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