Starting up as a mobile mechanic, advice please. - Jonathan

A couple of friends of mine (who do not have access or know how to use a computer) are seriously thinking of setting up a mobile mechanics service in the Manchester area.

They would also be offering bodywork and valet services (at least initially to pay the bills).

Does anyone have any advice that I can pass onto them. They are both very experienced in bodywork, mechanicals, paint shop etc.

Is this idea a goer, or do most fail, they already have a great deal of contacts in the area and a god reputation, but are obviously concerned that they should be realistic.

Any advice (good or bad) will be greatly appreciated.

Feel free to email me.


Re: Starting up as a mobile mechanic, advice pleas - David W

Are these guys self-employed at the moment? If not it's a huge jump. Their own trade insurance, liability insurance, accounts, records, tools, tech books (I have over £1000 in books and not everything I would like) equipped vans...the list is endless.

The guys to really tell you are Adam and Andrew (Tune-Up). I wonder if that sort of group or franchise might not be easier. In our area similar firms are crying out for mobile guys.

Personally I find it hard to work away from a workshop but perahps that's just me.

Nothing wrong with car valeting but it's a different area and a waste of time and van space, if they are well known in the area they will be too busy servicing/repairing.

They don't yet use a PC. Well they need to because it is *the* way forward for invoicing, customer record database, letters and quotes. Also the on-line information sharing like here exists in the same way for trade only so that is another huge advantage of the tech age.

If your mates have any specific queries about self employment in this area (work not geographical) please mail me direct, franchise or group queries will be best answered by others.

Re: Starting up as a mobile mechanic, advice pleas - Jeff M
If they have a god reputation.then it shouldn't be a problem.....

Re: Starting up as a mobile mechanic, advice pleas - Tom Shaw
I know nothing about the practical side of things re a mobile mechanics business as thats not my field, but I fully agree with David on the points he made about the jump to self-employment. The ability to do your job well is only 50% of what is needed to succeed under your own power. In addition to what David advised, I would get your friends to seriously consider enroling at the local college for a basic book-keeping course. Failure to keep proper finacial records is probably the biggest single reason most businesses fail, because no matter how good someone is at what they do, slack accounting will get you in all sorts of trouble. The Inland Revenue and the Customs and Excise are without mercy when they want their cut, and if a businesse's financial records are not what they consider proper to show the full financial picture serious trouble can ensue.
Re: Starting up as a mobile mechanic, advice pleas - Andrew Hamilton
With limited business experience the biggest stumbling block will be cashflow problems. The Prince of Wales trust emphasize the importance of a positive cash flow over profits. You can still go bust even though you are profitable. I despair at the number of local firms that go bust despite having a good customer base because of poor financial controls.

I would strongly suggest start small. Keep your day job and try providing a service in your spare time. Offer to do the simpler jobs that garages charge the earth for. Do not try to cover everything! The most successful businesses tend to specialise so they become more efficient in that area than competitors. How many times do you see garages sending out cars to quickfit type merchants for tyre changes than doing it themselves!

There are excellent franchises for all aspects of vehicle servicing. However you need to pay an upfront fee and have to follow their way of doing the work ie you follow the system. I suggest, if you are still interested, go to WHSmiths and get the Franchise magazine out. Email me if you want any franchise advice websites. Franchises do have a much higher success rate but you have to conform!

Whatever business you run, you will have to get familiar with computers. Starting your own business is hard work, long hours and you cannot blaim anyone else when there are problems. The local Enterprise body usually provide free starter course for aspirant businessmen.
Re: Starting up as a mobile mechanic, advice pleas - Alwyn
A friend of mine was once in partnership with another gent. They operated as mobile mechanics and recently my chum had to re-mortgage his house to pay off debts run up by his partner.

Your chums must realise that, in a partnership both are equally liable ( jointly asn severally) for debts run up by the other. Much care needed in selecting a partner; legal advice needed.
Re: Starting up as a mobile mechanic, advice pleas - Dave N
I do most of my a/c mobile, but there are a couple of issues they need to bear in mind. Firstly, you don't get paid for travelling, and people seem to expect a cheaper labour rate for some reason. I spend a lot of my time going to look at jobs, for which I don't charge, then going home to sort the quote, then chasing the customer, then they say they don't want to spend the money to have the a/c repaired. Nett result, a couple hours running around for zero gain. I know this applies more to a/c than general repairs as people can run their cars with no a/c. The good thing with a workshop is that customers come to you, but then the overheads are enormous, but then you can keep cars in when you need to get spares next day as no dealers stock anything anymore, but then insurance is more expensive. Oh...I'm getting myself all in a tizzy again!!!
Re: Starting up as a mobile mechanic, advice pleas - Adam Going (Tune-Up Ltd)

Lots of very sound advice coming at you from these replies. Lots of care and thought needed.

I only carry out engine diagnostic / tuning and light repair work, and although there are guys doing a lot more on a mobile basis I have always had reservations about more serious repairs in a roadside / driveway / car park situation. With a bonnet open and under the tailgate of a decent sized van we have some protection, but can you really valet a car (all doors open etc.) in the rain at the kerbside? How easy are paint jobs in the everage English climate ?

Mobile is great if you like being out and about and having different scenery, different faces, different cars Etc, and provides a "convenience" angle to the customer, but the bottom line is still doing a good job at a fair (to you AND the customer) price. How much competition is there locally ?

Franchising provides a proven (hopefully !) business method, but can be very expensive. You need to speak to existing franchisees (of your chosing) before comitting. Franchising does not always provide customers/leads, but will help with the business side and training / purchasing etc. Your chums will certainly be well advised to get used to using a computer / the net.

I have been tuning mobile for over 25 years, so it can't be too bad, but does anyone want to buy a nice little business on the South Coast ?!!

Could go on for some time, but hope this helps. Adam.
Re: Starting up as a mobile mechanic, advice pleas - steve paterson
Most points have been well covered, but I'd like to add my tuppence worth.
Like your friends I had a good 'private customer' base that I fitted in around my day job. Was booked up for weeks in advance. I decided that advertising in the local papers would 'top up' my regular customers and provide a decent wage as a mobile mechanic. No franchise, just a one man band. It turned out that costs amounted to over £100pw. (advertising, insurance, mobile phone, fuel etc) I tried to concentrate on low profit quick turnover work, but as has always been the case a set of pads can lead to a seized caliper, a twisted off pipe and maybe a new master cylinder. Sods law operates 24hrs a day, and one bad job will bugger the rest of the day up. Many phone calls were from people wanting a quick diagnosis so they could fix it themselves, others had been quoted £1000 by the local garage and expected me to do it for a tenner. Non starters often turned out to have half the engine missing. A couple of times I had to take or follow customers to the local cashpoint to get my money.
I could go on forever about the downside, but as Adam Going says, you do get a change of scenery, at least one good laugh a day, and you meet some very 'unusual' folk. Finally, when I was advertising in the local papers, there were four other mobile mechanics advertising as well. Now there are none.
Re: Starting up as a mobile mechanic, advice pleas - Moosh
My advice is don't even consider it.
Re: Starting up as a mobile mechanic, advice pleas - Andrew Moorey (Tune-Up Ltd.)
I'll add my sixpen'orth to Adams advice. The upsides are as already mentioned and the rewards can be great if you are GOOD at what you do. Providing you have a conscience and dont EVER rip people off, give good VFM people will beat a path to your door.
One other thing, some words to eradicate from your vocabulary if you do go self employed; Holiday, weekend, sleep, sickpay, holiday pay!

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