Every automobile with a reciprocating engine needs an oil change to remain in good running order. So it stands to good reason that an oil change business might be a good one to start. Of course opening up a business with a location on a busy street and going through the planning process can be a real bear, no to mention set you back half a million dollars.
For this reason many have considered starting a Mobile Oil and Lube Business instead of operating out of a fixed site location. As the Founder of The Oil Change Guys; a mobile oil change franchise business, folks looking to get started often ask me for advice. One recent notable inquiry of this type came from Virginia, a state which our firm has chosen not to register in to sell franchises, asks some very good questions which you might wish to consider for yourself if indeed you are thinking of starting a mobile oil change business.
"Dear Sir, I have been thinking for the past 2 weeks about doing mobile oil changes. This seems like a very good business, as well because everyone must do it and if you can do it for less than stationary businesses, it is a no brainer for the customer. And if I must charge more, then many wealthier people will still go for it because they don't have to worry about forgetting or taking time out of their day to go do it."
Indeed the gentleman has observed the need and desire of the local consumer base near him. He rightfully noticed that there is costs savings in going mobile for this type of auto service business and has already found a target market or segment of the local demographics he wishes to provide these services too. Furthermore this entrepreneur has a plan already formulating in his head, much the same as you might if you were to consider such things;
"The plan that I have in my head is this: 1) Put out flyers in wealthier demographics to start with, charge more to start out with to cover the inefficiency and cost of learning and development."
This makes sense, yet we must remember that oil changing is an every 3-month deal and you need to follow up day before to remind the customers that it is time for their scheduled oil change and get oil filters too and be ready when they ask to do their boats, back up generators, garden tractors, etc., as these can be good side business add-ons.
"2.) Put customers on a 3-4 month schedule, offer discounts for a year pre-pay."
Yes, this is smart thinking as all small businesses must be cognizant of cash flow, as cash is king and to that point here are some other thoughts perhaps you can use in tailoring your Business Plan and Strategic Thinking for your own Mobile Oil Change Business.
The gentleman continues with his questions, as well he should and considers issues regarding traffic congestion in Virginia outside the Beltway and the "Mixing Bowl" Freeway Interchange, which is more like a parking lot during rush our than anything which resembles a modern freeway. He asks:
"3) Change oil at night to avoid traffic and improve efficiency. a. Is this possible?"
It is possible and you will need proper lighting and try to have tools, which have glow in the dark coatings on the handles or actually glow in the dark. You will also need adequate flood lighting on the vehicle and these lights need to be mounted on your mobile oil change truck or trailer and they must be Industrial Quality, not the $9.95 Home Depot models. If you go to a local hardware store, flag a Snap-on Tool guy down or go into Home Depot and ask for their industrial lighting catalog you will find the grade of lighting necessary to do the job.
"b. How do I get under the hood at night when cars might be locked and in the garage?"
Too much trouble if folks are not home or forget to pre-shut off the alarm system, so it is best if they leave the garage door open for you. If the cars are under a carport or outside, it might be wise to put a fender key lock box. Ask your customers if you can make and extra key and put it in a hide a key location that they know about. Some more expensive Jags, Mercedes, Corvettes, Bentleys, etc. have very expensive keys to make some up to $500.00 so this may not be feasible. If you do use a lock key box then Make sure it is secure they can fall off.
"4.) Keep routes that minimize driving time between changes."
Yes. This is crucial to your efficiency, perhaps you may wish to look into some routing and scheduling software as well to help you as you add customers. Also when you do sales, remember to concentrate on specific areas simultaneously rather than doing blast willy nilly widespread blanketed money mailers. You need to target by tract, not necessarily all at once per zip code, if you use direct mailers.
"The primary questions that I have about this are: 1) How do you change the oil? Do you suck it out of the dip stick opening?"
Our company is a proponent of dip stick siphoning for used oil removal, some disagree, yet after doing many studies on this we have found that the customer and the efficiency of your oil change technicians are better served using these techniques. Perhaps this might explain more:
"2) How long does this take to do an average oil change?"
This is a very good question because it all depends on how you are running your business. We recommend 60% fleet business and up to but no more than 40% residential services. You see it takes only on average about 10 minutes each for rent a cars, post office jeeps, work trucks, which lined up and similar motors and types. But it takes a lot longer for cars on a onsey-twosee basis. Our company is not completely sold on the idea of a valet type concierge mobile oil change for personal cars only. But if this is your intention then you should figure 15-minutes minimum, generally 20 min on average for each oil change, not including travel and that is without screwing around and shoot the breeze with customers (in and out).
It is okay to talk with customers, I know starting out that I always did, because I liked to learn about their businesses and market sectors for insight and knowledge, but that knowledge comes with a price. Remember that efficiency = profits. A mixture of commercial residential is recommended. But not solely residential, I think it is not a good idea due to problems in efficiency. But I agree with your nighttime theories.
"3) Can I sell the used motor oil, or do I have to pay to dispose of it?"
Generally there are rules about this, but you could use it to heat the shops of the other businesses, which have the same address if you have a shop in an Automotive Complex.The EPA has specific rules for used oil and you need to follow those to stay legitimate and remain an ecologically friendly business. By doing so you will be doing the right thing and able to advertise this fact, thus you will get more referrals and a stronger customer base. Please be thinking on these issues if you plan on starting a mobile oil change business.