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How to Run an Auto Repair Shop in the US

Learn how to successfully run an auto repair business when navigating the ultra competitive repair shop landscape.

Are you looking to start a repair shop, or do you already own one and want to learn ways to improve your business and stay ahead of the competition? From customer relations to marketing and more, read on for the information you’ll need to find success running an auto repair shop.

Guarantee Quality

Trust is the foundation of building customer loyalty which is hugely important in the competitive auto repair industry. All customers — old and new — will appreciate it when you show you’re dedicated to quality. For example, a little customer service goes a long way  —  consider offering free repairs or replacements on parts that have fewer than 15,000 miles.

This will show that you’re a mechanic who runs a shop that’s truly invested in customer service and satisfaction. Of course, only provide guarantees that you’re able and willing to honor.

Reward Loyalty with Loyalty

With 258,416 auto repair shops operating in 2018, customers have no shortage of options when it comes to getting their cars fixed. A bad, or even average experience, could lead to a customer bringing their patronage to another shop for future work.

Show your customers that you value them as much as you value their business. You can display this in many ways, but small gestures of gratitude and appreciation can have lasting effects that could bring years of income from one customer to your shop.  

This could include contacting customers every few months to let them know their next check-up is due, or even forgoing a little income to match a competitor if it means regulars will come back next time.

Additionally, loyal customers are more likely to leave (positive) reviews for your business on places like Yelp, Google Reviews, or Angie’s List. Reviews are extremely important for prospects who are considering bringing their cars to you for repairs.  

You could consider incentivizing customers to leave reviews for you by offering a variety of discounted or free low-end services. For example, you could give a 10 percent discount, or give a free performance assessment or tire rotation in exchange for their review.  

A large percentage of US car owners prefer to bring their business to an auto repair shop over a dealership, which means there is a huge market for auto repair shops in this country if you can establish a consistent customer base. Fostering customer loyalty helps to promote ongoing shop success and can boost your revenue.  

Make Technology Your Friend  

Consider investing in software or a service that provides scheduling/appointment services. This will save you and your administration staff lots of time organizing schedules, guarantee appointments are manageable, and will make you and your business look more professional.

Some of these services almost take care of scheduling altogether. You can set parameters (for instance, the hours that you’re open), and customers can schedule a time to drop off their car. The service may even be able to block out times that are taken by other customers — automating the tricky process of timing drop offs and pickups out correctly.  

There are many options out there at varying price points and service offerings, so make sure to research the prices and capabilities to find the right software for your company. To get started, here are some services that Capterra recommends.

Show Expertise with Specialization Certifications

Specializing your auto repair shop is not a decision to take lightly, however it can increase your earning potential. Whether you want to specialize in foreign cars (or, possibly even more specifically, a niche such as German cars) a specific brand of vehicles, or even a specific repair, you want to make sure you can commit fully to specialization.

That does not mean you, at any point, need to turn away more general business, but the expectations for work within your field will be heightened.  

With these increased expectations comes a great deal of opportunity. A customer may be loyal to another mechanic’s shop, but have heard your shop is the place to go for body repair, or for Audis, or for windshield replacement.

Striking a good balance between specialization and general repair can improve your bottom line by getting repeat customers who value all the work you do, and one-time customers seeking your specialty services.

Invest Heavily in Your Greatest Asset

Even if you have everything else figured out such as your specialization, administration processes, location, marketing, you can’t forget about the most important part of your business: your employees. As the lifeblood of any organization, employees are the ones who make the day-to-day difference, and it’s paramount to treat them well.  

Maintaining a high retention rate is usually a sign of positive morale and will ensure your customers receive a consistent level of quality. Paying a competitive (or, if viable, superior) wage is an important factor in keeping your employees happy.

But, it is only one of multiple factors. Treating them well, and making them feel valued and respected is also important in retaining your employees.

Keep a Friendly Eye on the Competition

Being aware of the competition (based on location, specialized servicing, or both), will help you with both marketing your company, as well as determining pricing based on what your customers are

being offered.

This can help ensure your services are not only competitively priced, but that you are also delivering optimal value to customers.  Finding the sweet spot among competitors will help you price services that will help bring in the revenue you need and ensure your rates are appealing to existing customers and new prospects.

Despite the vast amount of competitors in the space, you can run a highly successful auto repair shop. Remember, your employees are your greatest competitive asset and investment, and your customer’s loyalty can be highly beneficial to your bottom line.

Another great way to improve your revenue potential is specializing in certain cars or services. Keeping up with your competition can guarantee you’re fairly and competitively priced, making it hard for any customer to take their car somewhere else!

Bruce Hakutizwi

About the author

USA and International Manager for, a global online marketplace for buying and selling small medium size businesses. The website has over 60,000 business listings and attracts over 1.5 million buyers to the site every month.