Running A Business

How to Start an Auto Repair Shop: A Comprehensive Guide

Dec 12, 2023 • 10+ min read
Small business owner starting an auto repair shop
Table of Contents

      Are you a skilled mechanic looking to open your own auto repair shop? Or, maybe you’re passionate about cars and interested in starting a business in the automotive industry. Whatever your motivation may be, opening an auto repair shop can be both rewarding and challenging.

      To help you get started on the right foot, we’ve put together a comprehensive guide on how to start an auto repair shop. From creating a business plan to hiring mechanics and building your brand, we’ll cover all the essential steps you need to take to make your dream of owning an auto repair shop a reality.

      1. Choose the type of mechanic shop to open.

      Before you delve further into the process, it’s imperative to decide on the type of auto repair shop you wish to open. This choice should reflect your personal skills, interests, and the market demand in your area. You could opt for a general mechanic shop that caters to a wide range of vehicle issues or specialize in certain services like engine repair, bodywork, or oil changes. Alternatively, you may want to focus on a specific type of vehicle, such as luxury cars, trucks, or electric vehicles.

      Consider the competition in your area and identify any gaps in the market that your shop could fill. For instance, if there aren’t many shops offering specialized services for hybrid or electric cars, you might consider tapping into this niche market. Research potential customer needs, review competitor offerings, and then decide on the type of services your shop will provide. This decision will play a key role when you secure financing for your business and determine what equipment you’ll need to purchase.

      2. Create a business plan.

      Like any other business, starting an auto repair shop requires careful planning. A well-structured and detailed business plan will serve as the roadmap for your business and help you make informed decisions along the way. Include the following items in your auto repair shop business plan.

      • Target market – Clearly define your target market and provide detailed information about their demographics, needs, and preferences.
      • Competition – Analyze your competitors and highlight their strengths and weaknesses. Identify your unique selling points and how you differentiate yourself from the competition.
      • Services offered – Describe the range of services you offer and explain how they address the needs of your target market. Highlight any unique features or benefits of your services.
      • Marketing strategies – Outline your marketing strategies—including online and offline tactics—to reach and attract your target market. Include details on advertising, social media, content marketing, and any other promotional activities.
      • Financial projections – Provide detailed financial projections, including revenue forecasts, expense estimates, and projected profitability. Include any assumptions or factors that may impact your financial projections.
      • LocationChoosing a location for your auto repair shop is a crucial step in your business plan. Consider factors like accessibility, visibility, competition in the area, and the proximity to your target market. If possible, choose a location on a heavily trafficked road to increase visibility and attract more customers. The premises should be large enough to accommodate multiple vehicles at a time, have a comfortable waiting area for customers, and space for storage. Ensure the location complies with zoning laws for auto repair businesses. Check the local city or county government’s website or office for more information.

      If you’re not sure where to start with creating a business plan, there are plenty of resources available online to guide you through the process. Additionally, you can seek professional help from business consultants or attend workshops and seminars to gain a better understanding of creating a business plan.

      3. Plan for upfront costs.

      Starting an auto repair shop comes with significant upfront costs. These costs can be broadly categorized into startup costs, ongoing expenses, and unexpected costs. Understanding these expenses is crucial as it will influence your budgeting decisions, your pricing strategy, and the amount of financing you need to secure.

      • Startup costs – These are the one-time costs associated with setting up your auto repair shop. They include the cost of acquiring or leasing a business premises, purchasing necessary equipment and tools, construction or modification costs to make your premises suitable for auto repair work, and initial inventory of parts and supplies. Additionally, you need to factor in costs for business registration, permits, and licenses.
      • Ongoing expenses – These are the recurring costs of running your auto repair shop. They include rent or mortgage payments, utilities, salaries of employees, cost of auto parts and supplies, marketing and advertising, insurance, and maintenance costs.
      • Unexpected costs – It’s crucial to have a buffer for unforeseen expenses. Equipment may break down, there might be unanticipated repair works, or you may face slow business periods. Having a contingency fund can help cover these unexpected costs and keep your business running smoothly.

      Some common costs for starting a mechanic shop include:

      • Premises – The cost of premises for your auto repair shop can vary widely depending on location and if you decide to purchase, lease, or rent your property. If you choose to rent or lease a property, you can expect to pay between $1,500 and $15,000 per month, depending on the location and size of the property.
      • Equipment – The cost of equipment can vary greatly depending on the services you offer. Basic equipment like car lifts, air compressors, wheel balancers, and diagnostic machines can cost between $5,000 to $10,000 each.
      • Business registration, permits, and licenses – The fees for business registration, permits, and licenses can range from a few hundred to a few thousand dollars, depending on your location and the specific requirements of your city or state.
      • Insurance – The cost of business insurance can range from $1,000 to $3,000 per year, depending on factors such as the size of your business, number of employees, and risk factors.

      Keep in mind that these are average costs and actual costs may vary. It’s important to do your own research and get quotes based on your specific needs and circumstances.

      4. Choose a business structure.

      Before officially starting your auto repair shop, you’ll need to decide on the business structure that best suits your needs.

      Sole proprietorship

      This is the simplest and most common form of business ownership. You are the sole owner, responsible for all profits and losses, and personally liable for all debts and legal obligations.

      • Advantages – Simplicity, full control, and direct profit.
      • Disadvantages – Unlimited personal liability, difficult to raise capital.


      A partnership is an arrangement in which two or more people own and run a business together.

      • Advantages – Shared responsibility, shared profits, potential for diverse skill sets.
      • Disadvantages – Joint liability and risk of conflicts among partners.


      A corporation is a separate legal entity from its owners. It offers limited liability protection to its shareholders, meaning they are not personally liable for the company’s debts and obligations.

      • Advantages – Limited liability, ability to raise capital through selling stocks, perpetual existence.
      • Disadvantages – Complex setup and management, double taxation.

      LLC (Limited Liability Company)

      An LLC combines the legal protection of a corporation with the flexibility and tax benefits of a partnership. It offers limited liability protection to its owners, known as members.

      • Advantages – Limited liability, flexible management structure, pass-through taxation.
      • Disadvantages – More paperwork, potential for self-employment taxes.

      5. Register your business.

      Registering your auto repair business is a crucial step in making your business official, compliant, and legally recognized. The process may differ slightly depending on the business structure you’ve chosen and the specific regulations of your state.

      • Business name – Start by deciding on a name for your auto repair shop. Make sure the name is unique, easy to remember, and resonates with your target market. Check with your state’s business registry to ensure the name is not already in use. You may also want to check if the domain name is available if you plan to create a website for your business. Once you’ve chosen a name, you can register it with your local government or state authorities.
      • Employer Identification Number (EIN) – Next, you will need to apply for an Employer Identification Number (EIN) from the IRS. This is a unique nine-digit number that identifies your business for federal tax purposes. You can apply for an EIN online for free on the IRS website.
      • State tax ID – In addition to the EIN, you may also need to apply for a state tax ID number, which is used to identify your business for state tax purposes. The process to apply for a state tax ID number varies by state.
      • DBA (Doing Business As) – If you plan to operate your business under a different name than the one you registered, you will need to file a DBA (Doing Business As) or assumed name with your state or county. This allows the public to know who is doing business under a particular name.

      Remember, it’s important to consult with a business attorney or a professional business formation service to ensure you are meeting all legal requirements in your area. Not properly registering your business could lead to fines and legal issues down the line.

      6. Secure financing.

      Starting an auto repair shop requires a significant amount of capital. From renting or buying a space to purchasing equipment and inventory, you’ll need enough funds to cover all the initial expenses. This is where securing financing comes into play.

      • Traditional bank loans – A common option for funding your new business. These loans are provided by banks and typically require collateral and a good credit history.
      • SBA loans – Small Business Administration loans that are guaranteed by the government. They offer favorable terms and lower interest rates but have stricter eligibility requirements.
      • Equipment financing – This type of loan specifically covers the purchase of equipment for your business. The equipment itself serves as collateral for the loan.
      • Business credit cards – A revolving line of credit that allows you to make purchases and access funds for your business. It’s important to manage credit card usage responsibly to avoid high-interest rates and fees.

      If you’re not sure which option is right for you, Lendio can help. As the nation’s largest small business loan marketplace, Lendio connects entrepreneurs with lenders and provides access to various loan options, including SBA loans, business lines of credit, and equipment financing. Learn more about auto repair business loans.

      7. Acquire necessary permits and licenses.

      Before opening your auto repair shop, you’ll need to obtain the necessary permits and licenses. The requirements may vary depending on your location, so it’s essential to research the local regulations and acquire all the necessary documents.

      Some common permits and licenses for auto repair shops include:

      • Business license – This is a general requirement for all businesses. It allows you to legally operate your business within a specific location.
      • Sales tax permit – If you plan on selling products or parts, you’ll need to obtain a sales tax permit from your state government.
      • Environmental permits – These are required if your auto repair shop will be generating hazardous waste, such as oil and coolant.
      • Occupational licenses – These are required for any technicians or mechanics working at your auto repair shop. The requirements may vary from state to state.
      • Occupancy permit – This permit certifies that the building or property you’re using for your auto repair shop meets the local building and fire codes. It’s crucial to ensure the safety of your employees and customers.
      • ASE certifications – The National Institute for Automotive Service Excellence (ASE) offers certifications for auto mechanics. While not always legally required, obtaining ASE certifications can greatly enhance your credibility and customer trust. These certifications demonstrate your knowledge and competency in different aspects of automotive repair and service. Consider encouraging your mechanics to get certified or hire those who already have ASE certifications.

      Make sure to stay up-to-date on all permit and license renewals to avoid any unnecessary interruptions to your business operations. It’s a good idea to consult with a business attorney or your local small business development center to ensure you’re covering all your legal bases.

      For a more comprehensive list of permits and licenses needed for an auto repair shop, check with your local government or consult with a business attorney.

      8. Set up bookkeeping and a business bank account.

      Proper bookkeeping is crucial for any business, and an auto repair shop is no exception. Keeping track of your income and expenses will help you make informed decisions and manage cash flow effectively. It’s also essential to have a separate bank account for your business transactions to maintain accurate records.

      You can choose to do bookkeeping yourself or hire a professional accountant. However, it’s recommended to have a basic understanding of bookkeeping to ensure the financial success of your business.

      9. Get business insurance.

      As with any business, it’s important to protect your auto repair shop from potential risks and liabilities. This is where insurance comes into play. Some key types of insurance that an auto repair shop should consider are:

      • General liability insurance – Protects against property damage, bodily injury, and advertising injury claims.
      • Property insurance – Covers damages to your business property due to theft, fire, or other disasters.
      • Business interruption insurance – Provides financial support in case your shop is unable to operate due to a covered event.
      • Workers’ compensation insurance – Covers employees for work-related injuries or illnesses.
      • Garagekeepers liability insurance – This type of insurance is particularly important for auto repair shops. It covers damages to a customer’s vehicle while it’s in your care, such as during a repair or maintenance service.

      It’s important to research different insurance options and consult with an insurance agent to determine the best coverage for your auto repair shop.

      10. Hire mechanics.

      Having a skilled and reliable team of mechanics is crucial for the success of your auto repair shop. When hiring mechanics, it’s important to consider their experience, skills, and qualifications. Additionally, conducting background checks and calling references can help you make informed hiring decisions.

      You should also have clear job descriptions and expectations for your mechanics, as well as provide ongoing training to keep their skills up-to-date.

      11. Build your brand.

      As with any business, building a strong brand is essential for attracting customers and standing out in the market. Some key aspects of building your auto repair shop’s brand include:

      • Creating a professional logo and visual identity – This will help customers recognize and remember your business.
      • Establishing an online presence – In today’s digital world, having a website and social media presence is crucial for promoting your auto repair shop and reaching potential customers.
      • Offering exceptional customer service – Satisfied customers can be the best form of advertising for your business. Provide quality services and prioritize customer satisfaction to build a positive reputation.

      Starting an auto repair shop requires careful planning and consideration of various factors. By creating a detailed business plan, choosing the right business structure, securing financing, obtaining necessary permits and licenses, managing bookkeeping and insurance, hiring skilled mechanics, and building your brand, you can set yourself up for success in this competitive industry.

      Lendio is here to help you secure the funding you need to turn your dream of owning an auto repair shop into a reality. Apply for a small business loan today.

      Quickly compare loan offers from multiple lenders.

      Applying is free and won’t impact your credit.

      About the author
      Grant Olsen

      Grant Olsen is a writer specializing in small business loans, leadership skills, and growth strategies. He is a contributing writer for KSL 5 TV, where his articles have generated more than 6 million page views, and has been featured on and Grant is also the author of the book "Rhino Trouble." He has a B.A. in English from Brigham Young University.

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