Starting a small engine repair business now?

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I was thinking of starting a small engine repair business, but it is winter time so I wonder if I should wait. I live in the south so it's not like we have snow blowers and that kind of thing to fix. Starting off in the off season imo seems like a good way to start off slow and just kind of get a feel for things. Guys, what do you think? I would like to just do this on the side and see where it goes. Part of me wonders if I would look like a fool putting signs out in the middle of winter when the grass is barely growing. Then again I've gone into lawn mower repair shops this time of year and they're still 2 weeks behind in the middle of December. Just wondering what your thoughts are.
 
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If you're good at what you do that's the best investment you can possibly make.
 
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I do not think it is bad to start a small business anytime. Keep in mind that you can do tune ups, sharpen, replace parts, rebuild carbs, etc anytime of the year. And most people want this done while they do NOT need the piece of equipment. And this gives you time to break down and evaluate and get the parts before the growing season. Because when the growing season gets here, we want our stuff to work NOW. Not is 2 or 3 weeks. Now. My grass will look ragged in a couple weeks. And when you do take in a job, get it done in a timely, efficient and reasonably priced manner and you will get referral business. Do not underprice you time or parts. You need to make a dollar. People understand that. Just do a good and reasonable job in a timely manner. Good luck to you.. I hope your business prospers tremendously.
 
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There use to be a small engine repair shop a couple of blocks from where I live. The man that ran that shop lost all of the fingers from one hand when a mower that he was working on fired. Remember to remove the sparkplug(s) before doing ANY work on the bottom of any mower or snowblower.
 
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I suspect there are many more people who will buy used running equipment than ones who will pay for the repair of small engines. Try to find a source for junk mowers that you can fix and resell. You might consider offering an auto-rebilling (paypal or credit card) annual maintenance package where you'll have generators and lawn equipment ready to go at the start of the season.
 
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<span style="font-family: 'Verdana'">If you decide to go into the business, let me know. I got all the B&S illustrated parts lists and all the service manuals. I also got Tecumseh service manuals and Honda parts lists. I could e-mail all that stuff to you. </span>
 
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Originally Posted By: toneydoc
And most people want this done while they do NOT need the piece of equipment. And when you do take in a job, get it done in a timely, efficient and reasonably priced manner and you will get referral business.
These are IMHO the best pieces of advice. I run a small engine repair business on the side. I work and go to college so it is kind of a hobby more than a business. My busiest times are right before the season. People want their snow blowers tuned before the first storm, and they want their mowers ready to go before spring. Anything you can do to get the word out about your business before the idea starts popping in people's heads to service their equipment is a sound investment. With a small business, reputation is EVERYTHING. I've actually never done any real advertising. All of my business is through word of mouth. I'm thorough, I explain to the customers what needs to be done, and I do small things like wash their equipment. Just doing equipment washes has probably gained me business. It makes the equipment easier for me to work on, and customers are amazed when their stuff looks brand new when they go to pick it up. I type all my service bills on the computer and it comes out very organized explaining each charge. Customers feel more comfortable paying for stuff when they know what they are paying for. The timely manner thing is also very important. I can usually turn around equipment pretty quickly, and that makes customers happy. Especially when the shop down the road told them it will sit in their building for 3 weeks before it is even looked at, then charge insane amounts of money to fix it. It is also important to be transparent. If you screw up, TELL THE CUSTOMER. It is better to let them know you messed up (and will cover the damages) than to try and hide it and have them find out later. That will only give you a bad reputation and have them questioning your work. A solid reputation is your best investment, period. A lot of the machines I work on are from other people screwing up, and the customer doesn't trust anyone else to fix it.
 
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Originally Posted By: BubbaFL
I suspect there are many more people who will buy used running equipment than ones who will pay for the repair of small engines.
While this is true in some cases, there is still a market for small engine repair. In fact, the cheaper quality of newer machines has gained me more business in two ways. The first way is that newer machines break easier. I've had mowers come in that were two years old. The customer paid a couple hundred bucks for it a few years ago, they don't feel like buying a new one AGAIN, so they choose to get it fixed. The second is I've noticed a lot more people doing major repairs to older, better made machines. They figure it is better to put money into something that will last than something that is cheap garbage. I notice this particularly with snow blowers. I just put a newer engine on a 1970s Ariens snow blower for a guy last week. The blower was in great shape, but the engine was getting worn. He figured it was a better idea to put a new engine on it and have it last another 40 years than spend $600 minimum on a piece of junk from Home Depot. I actually have another old Ariens in my garage right now that will also be getting a replacement engine. Times are tough, and equipment is expensive. Most of the business I do is service related, not so much repair. People hate spending money, especially when they can avoid it. If you let them know that servicing their equipment will make it last longer so they don't have to keep buying it every two years, they often will return next season.
 
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What ever you do, built trust. A lot of people throw away equipment rather than risk a repair. It's because they've been burned in the past. The one overwhelming advantage a small business has is the personality of the people directly involved with the customer and the work, and the trust that they are honest and doing a good job. One way is to do periodic service work and with some equipment have an exchange program so your customer can keep working.
 

motor_oil_madman

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They have really went up in price on lawn mowers. Just taking a quick look online. The cheapest mower is around 300 dollars now. That's good cause people will be less likely to just junk the mower and have it fixed instead.
 
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A buddy of mine runs a small engine repair shop. What he does in the off months is search Craigslist for mowers for sale. Often times he gets them cheap because they are in need of repair. He fixes them up and then sells them in the spring and summer. Sometimes he is even able to use one as a "parts" mower to repair several other mowers, thus keeping his cost down.
 

motor_oil_madman

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Originally Posted By: JamesBond
Can you fix outboard boat engines? People with boats have money to spend .
Not really other than basic maintenance. Most outboards you need a computer to figure out what's wrong with it. Plus their is a boat hooked to the outboard.
 
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Owning a business has some expectations to go along with it. You're no longer a tinkerer or a 'shade tree' mechanic. When you charge for your services you're expected to be competent and professional. Are you formally trained in any of the OPE brands or types? Do you have a franchise to offer factory parts and access to factory technical support? Do you have a full complement of factory required specialty tools to perform all required warranty work on specific brands? Are you fully insured to cover your damages and that which may occur to a customers equipment in the event of a fire, theft, vandalism, etc? Do you have lawyer and tax advisor to assist with the dealings of the government? Do you have a business location that is zoned for such a business? And lastly, do you have enough operating capital to get you through until the spring rush? Just a few items to ponder.
 

motor_oil_madman

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Originally Posted By: motor_oil_madman
Originally Posted By: JamesBond
Can you fix outboard boat engines? People with boats have money to spend .
Not really other than basic maintenance. Most outboards you need a computer to figure out what's wrong with it. Plus their is a boat hooked to the outboard. I don't really want to mess with that.
 
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My tractor dealer started repairing small engines as a side job and now has a couple guys full time. He likes OPE of all sorts and it shows in his attitude and his shop. His shop was also the most clean and organized which helped sell me on them as well.
 
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Originally Posted By: GreeCguy
A buddy of mine runs a small engine repair shop. What he does in the off months is search Craigslist for mowers for sale. Often times he gets them cheap because they are in need of repair. He fixes them up and then sells them in the spring and summer. Sometimes he is even able to use one as a "parts" mower to repair several other mowers, thus keeping his cost down.
This sounds like a good idea. I recall when I was a college student (~20 years ago) in Minneapolis I needed a cheap lawnmower. I got one at a Goodwill store for $6! It didn't run very well, but after replacing the points/spark plug and cleaning the air filter it ran great for a year and then I sold it for $30.
 
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I took a small engine course at my local community college 4 years ago. I bought quite a few mowers off of CL and repaired them and cleaned them up and then sold them right back on CL and made some decent money on them. Watch out doing repairs for family and friends as they inevitably want the family and friends discount. I bought a Snapper rear engine rider for $150.00 and tuned it and changed the oil and filters, cleaned it up and sold it for $450.00. I also started buying higher end mowers like the JD jx/sb models and made some good money on them as well. It's hard to make money off of trimmers and blowers because a new one can be bought at HD for $150.00. I was just doing it part time kind of as a hobby but if you want to open a business I would start off small and establish a customer base and grow from there. Good luck.
 
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<span style="font-family: 'Verdana'">I'm glad the OP is not interested because it would've been alotta work sending all that information over the wire.</span>
 
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